Do High Heeled Shoes Define a Woman?

I still watch the TV show Grey’s Anatomy (can you believe it’s already the 14th season?). In this season’s opening episode, the Chief of Surgery, Dr. Miranda Bailey, struggled with high heeled shoes. More specifically, she didn’t just struggle with actually wearing them but also with what they mean to women. It was a well-written storyline, produced in good-humour, and it had an impact on me, as a woman, who is exploring the next steps I take in my career.

During my 15 plus year career I have never been a high heeled woman.  What is a high heeled woman you ask? She is a professional woman who is put together, dressed elegantly every day at work, and every piece of her outfit is carefully considered and matched, down to her high heeled shoes.

My first job was at an all-sports radio station, where I was the lone female among a few dozen men. Jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of running shoes was considered dressed up for work. I fit in with the guys, earned their respect and was more than happy to look like a hobo like the rest of them (especially when I produced the morning show and arrived at work at 4:00 am).

As I moved along my career path, into television then communications I made myself over and dressed accordingly based on my workplace. But I left the high heeled shoes at home.

Do many women feel the pressure to dress up, from head to toe, every day? Do they need to brush their hair just right, put on the right amount of make-up and slide on those high-heeled shoes? Have men put the pressure on us, or have we created this ourselves? Would a man ever consider putting on a pair of shoes in the morning that he knows are uncomfortable, that he knows he must squish his feet into?

Why do women feel compelled to wear high heeled shoes? I realize that for some people the answer is simple. You are an intelligent and successful woman, and you choose to look feminine and sophisticated, and that’s it.  Many women feel that the high heeled shoe is part of the required uniform for a female in the professional world. Her feet hurt and sometimes her toes and ankles will blister, but damn, she looks good.  No man would ever stand for that.

I did an experiment Thursday morning and wore a pair of sleek, black high-heeled shoes to work (I do own a couple of pairs). I put myself together nicely (I wouldn’t say I looked elegant or sophisticated but I looked okay!), with a light amount of make-up, casual yet professional outfit and my high heeled shoes.

My feet were already hurting as I walked from my car to the elevator. I had to take my shoes off at my desk, as I slowly began to feel my swelling feet doing all they could to escape their prison. By the time I walked back to my car hours later each of my baby toes had a red blister on them and my feet were really sore.

I did get a few compliments on my shoes and how shiny and nice they were. Sleek, high heeled shoes are often noticed and complimented at various offices I have visited. No matter how much agony they are in as they stand there, knowing their feet are enclosed in a space that really only has room for the big toe, these compliments reinforce the idea to other women that high heeled shoes are okay.

For me, they are not okay. I prefer to follow the lead of Dr. Miranda Bailey, a successful, intelligent woman at the top of her game. I am putting my high heeled shoes back in the drawer and pulling out the clogs (or flats) instead.

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