I think it is safe to say that most women find a man in power to be sexy. A flawless black suit, sleek tie and a confident demeanor is all it takes to capture our attention. But what about his shoes? Unless he is sporting crocs or gym shoes around town, I don’t think anyone gives them much thought. On the other hand, if a woman in power were to wear anything less of a three-inch heel, it would surely not go unnoticed. While this may seem like a petty or extraneous point, I truly believe this is a huge contribution to the upper hand that men have over women in political settings.
In general, the attire of women in political positions is under constant scrutiny. Will they stick to neutral pantsuits and face the criticism of being “manly” or “butch,” or will they embrace pinks and blues, putting their respect and influence on the line for the media and voters? On top of these decisions, they are forced to run from meeting to meeting, make speeches and smile while their feet are ready to call it quits. Why should women in politics face this extra burden? Is it, as my fellow Considerer Lexie Tourek recently pointed out, all in the name of “erotic capital?”
The New York Times posted an article framed around women in politics’ shoe choices, which features a Kate Spade heel that apparently aids these women with comfort and style. During Susan Dominus’ interview with Reshma Saujani, she couldn’t help but take note of Saujani’s shoes and impressed that the long walk did not seem to affect her comfort. After reluctantly inquiring about the shoes, Dominus gathered:
“They seem to be the shoes of a circle of younger women aspiring to power or already in it, women directly and indirectly passing on to one another ways of navigating the particular challenges of being a woman in the public eye. A woman must look put-together, but not as if she is a slave to fashion; she must look groomed, but never be spotted grooming.”
This double standard cannot go unnoticed and the woman’s expectation to be constantly uncomfortable in order to gain respect is blatantly absurd. While heels in general are prone to causing feet, back and hip problems, my argument does not extend to all women who wear them. I do think it is fun to dress up for a night out with a pair of high heels, but I would never want the expectation to wear them everyday to fall on me, like it does on women in the political eye. Reshma (who explained she had $80,000 in student loans from Yale Law School and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard) should not have to pay $300 for a little relief and comfort. And for that matter, no woman should.
(Photo by beastandbean under a Creative Commons license)