Fuck that shit. I’m not wearing no fucking high heeled shoes.

[EDIT: this is a post responding to a series of arguments provoked by Sarah's post. Some she makes herself, some have been made by other people.
EDIT no2: if you're just new here (and I'm suddenly getting a lot of traffic), you might be interested in reading about my general philosophy of following here. Might be.]

I began to think about writing this post back when I wrote Women talking about their own bodies and how this issue was trolled or women dancers wearing high heels and talking about it. I did write something longer and with cleverer arguments. Then I just gave up. So this is shorter and blunter and proper ranty.

Now, I’m going to make this very clear, right here in the introduction. I’m playing the ball, not the woman. Sarah Breck is a great dancer, in heels, out of them or doing her own genderbending action. I don’t question her dancing ability or knowledge about dancing. And I’m not telling her she shouldn’t wear heels. But I am, sure as shit, challenging the arguments about gender norms and fashion she makes in her recent blog post. Here, I’m going to respond to Sarah Breck‘s original comment that women should wear heels while lindy hopping. She opens her post with:

Growing up in the Lindy scene I have heard so many times how women should wear heels because that’s what women are suppose to do. We are women and women wear heels. Now I loved that traditional ideal but I never could get past the FEELING that being in heels gave me. Every attempt I had made to wear heels I felt off balanced; unstable; and constricted in my movement.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I should just stop there. Because that is some crazy, fucked up shit. Women supposed to do what? Love that traditional what? Yeah, I know. But you’d be surprised by just how influential this sort of attitude is in the lindy hop world.

So here it is. I’m delivering the smack down.

1. I am suspicious of any argument that I should look like this lady to the left while doing anything. But particularly dancing.

2. I am extra suspicious of any argument that begins ‘women (not men) should do X’. I am absolutely calling bullshit on any argument that then continues ‘because they look better’. I think we owe it to ourselves to immediately question this sort of bullshit gender essentialism. My first response to any suggestion that I should do something because a) I’m a woman and b) it looks better is to do the exact opposite.

3. I’m utterly disinterested in doing something simply because it is fashionable. And dancing in heels is, first and foremost, a fashion choice – choosing to wear something to look like everyone else (or to look like the ‘cool’ people). I like jazz because it fucks up shit. So I choose not to wear heels just because everyone else is doing it. I choose to argue against wearing heels because it is suggested that they will make men (or anyone else) like you more. That shit is wrongtown.

4. As Frankie Manning said, “Get in shape to do lindy hop, don’t do lindy hop to get in shape.” The argument here is that lindy is such a demanding dance it requires a high level of fitness and muscular strength and control to perform at an advanced level (and even at a moderate level, I’d argue). So I run and cycle and swim and do strength training so that I can dance at my best.
Sarah argues that women should learn to dance in high heels by dancing in high heels. This smells a) like bullshit and b) dangerous. If a dancer (male or female) wants to dance in heels, they should first develop mad core strength, excellent glutes, badass calf muscles and so on and so on before they step into a pair of heels.

5. If someone asks you to suffer so you can look a particular way, be just like everyone else, or otherwise conform with someone else’s ideas of how to be a desirable woman, you should immediately shout NO! Because that is also wrongtown.
Wearing heeled shoes is bad for your feet, for you body and for your badassery. There is no evidence to support the argument that wearing heels is anything other than bad for you unless you are actually incredibly fit and strong and capable of holding your perfect posture in all conditions. Most dancers are a) not incredibly fit, b) actually dancing on some sort of undiagnosed or untreated injury. Wearing heels is just plain bad news.

6. And finally, an historical argument. Women lindy hoppers today should wear high heeled shoes, because that’s what women lindy hoppers wore then? Hm. I call bullshit, again.
There’s ample evidence and many photos of women dancers from the 20s, 30s and 40s wearing all sorts of shoes. There are some correlations between race, class and gender and what dancers are wearing in footage from films (ie white women dancers tend to wear heels; black women dancers who tend to be presented as ‘servant’ type characters tend not to wear heels), but these are not consistent, and this is cinema – it’s not real life. We should also be suspicious of recreating fucked up gender/class/ethnic stereotypes. This is the 21st century. Let’s make good discourse, not reproduce fucked up shit from the past.
There’s actually quite a bit of anecdotal as well as primary source evidence to support the idea that while they wore heels sometimes (especially if they were west coast white girls), many lindy hoppers didn’t wear heels while dancing badass a) because it impeded their badassery and b) they were often all about rebellion and being unconventional.

SO

Wearing heels is all about boring reproduction of boring conventional gender roles. It stops you being totally badass (ie you can’t dance hardcore or do scary aerials or otherwise rock ON). And if you’re not going to be badass – if you’re not aiming to be the best you that you can be – what’s the point?

10 thoughts on “Fuck that shit. I’m not wearing no fucking high heeled shoes.”

  1. Yeah, I don’t much like the gender essentialism either.

    By all means wear whatever footwear you want (I mean heck – I wear army boots sometimes), but be sure it’s a choice for effect and the changes both good and bad it makes to your dancing.

    I have seen some pretty badass dancing in heels, but the number of people I’m aware of that can pull that off, I can count on maybe one hand.

    That said, I actually do want a pair of high tango heels, just to see what the effects are (and more for Bal), but they’re way down the priority list for dance shoe shopping for lindyhop.

    Got me some converse recently, now they’re badass dancing shoes. :-) Changed my dancing for the better, I tell ya.

  2. Lindy Hop seems to occasionally have what I think are problems with how we treat historical context. The 30s and 40s were rife with some really messed up ideas about race, sex and socio-economic status. It’s in the fashion, it’s in the lyrics, it’s all over the place. Doing it because it /was done/ is a shaky. Especially when the Doing It Because It Was Done is taken out of context or inaccurately interpreted.

  3. As good as heels look, I’m really not a fan, overall. Forget the dance thing for a sec. I see some disturbing similarities between high heels on women and Chinese foot binding. Sometimes whole cultures adopt insane ideas, and it takes a long time for those ideas to fade.

  4. I can’t believe that this argument even needs to be made, that people are trying to tell other people that they “should” do something person A finds desirable. Weren’t we past that, like, forty years ago?

    But evidently, a response is called for, as the argument seems, sadly, to be going viral. And your response pretty much says it all. Bravo.

  5. High heels simply are not good for the feet. We have a fundraiser here called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” where businessmen raise money for cancer research by walking a mile downtown in high heeled shoes. They don’t like it much (the walking part) and wonder why women do it after they’ve had the experience. Happily, though, they opt into the opportunity to have fun and raise a lot of money year after year to find prevention and cures for the cancers that affect the women in their lives.
    I still have a lot of heels in my closet but they just gather dust.
    I’d rather dance than worry about what someone thinks of what is on my feet.
    Actually I don’t care if they think anything about what is on my feet: it is what I think that matters.

  6. Woah. Looks like someone with lots of followers/’friends’ has linked to this post on FB or the twitterz. imma gonna brace for spam impact.

    Remember, please: this is my blog. I’ll just delete your comment if you give me the shits. Hellz, even if you disagree with me! I encourage you to write your own blog posts or FB notes or whatevs if you’re cranky with that.

    Also: Hello! Welcome to intertubes! We have swearing here!

    @thorfi – We’ve talked about most of this on teh twitterz, so I don’t know what more to add, beyond ‘likeing’ your comment: “be sure it’s a choice for effect”, as it reminds me of that adage ‘don’t let your styling become your basic’ – choice, not habit.

    @Sarah C – Yes

    @Aidan – Lots of cultures are full of crazy body modification for the sake of physical appearance or fashion. I’m not keen on most of them, myself, what with not liking pain and with a general contrariness. So I’m with you on this.

    @Brody – I think this is how hoomans work: we like people to do things we like. Of course, a case can also be made for the idea that telling people not to wear heels (or whatever) is just as problematic.

    @Paula – I like this: “I’d rather dance than worry about what someone thinks of what is on my feet”

  7. Yay for this! I fear nearing the dance floor.. not because I feel inadequate because I wear flats (every time!) but because people are starting to get cocky in their high heels and it’s starting to get dangerous!
    I have been kicked and trodden on by women in heels who haven’t learned how to control their feet… and who haven’t learned how to say sorry because they simply don’t feel that they have just kicked the sh*t out of people’s ankles or shins. But I would say that this also goes for men who feel the pressure to wear fancy leather shoes with insanely sharp heels! Tip for the guys.. The heels can be sanded down so women like myself don’t need to be on crutches for a week after being kicked.
    Rant over.
    :)

  8. Cor blimey, this seems like a hot topic!

    I have lots of views and thoughts around gender and choice.

    However, as a complete beginner, the crux of the matter is practicality:

    I’m not even trying heels until I’m sure my dodgy footwork is up to scratch. I like my leads with both shins intact ;-)

  9. :standing ovation: :in my flats:

    THANKYOU. I only just read that post, and this one (my friend found them and passed them on) and I couldn’t believe that in all the comments no one said ‘So if wearing heels is so great for women’s dancing, why aren’t we suggesting men do it?’ I’ve done so many different styles of dancing, and one of the things I love about lindy is the acceptance of Not Wearing Heels.

    Wear heels if you want. Don’t try to tell me that I should because it will improve my dancing/that I just need to get used to it/it looks better. I have heard it all a million times before about my refusal to wear heels in my everyday life. My arguments stand.

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