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Blog post – Walking in Heels

I’ve never been able to walk in high heels. Rarely does the powerful click clack of sex and glamour resonate in my wake. I can’t even cope with a kitten.

Of course I tried that kind of femininity on for size for a period in my youth, as most of us do. There’s that right of passage, the first time we sneak into our mother’s wardrobe and trial our little feet in those giant, cartoonish courts. We realise right then how uncomfortable they are, but for some reason we persevere. I gave heels another go in my late teens – I’d managed to conquer a pair of sky-high bright white trainer-wedges, a la The Spice Girls, the previous year. So, I had high hopes. But of course, we all know wedges don’t count as a true heel, and my trainers were certainly not a true test of my walking ability. After wearing a pair of not-even-that-high sandals from Select for my 18th birthday jaunt to Pizza Hut, the next morning I vowed never to wear heels again.

I just can’t seem to physically master them. I read a hilarious piece in The Telegraph about a journalist – struck with the same affliction – who was sent to some terrifying woman’s class on how to walk in heels. I mean, there’s a class in everything isn’t there. This woman apparently wore high (high) heels all the time. Everywhere. Well, obviously she’s insane. And no doubt now riddled with back problems. Anyway, it made me wonder if a class of that ilk would have any impact on me. But I fear it would be futile.

In theory I should have the genetic equipment to walk in heels quite competently. My sister owns more than 200 pair of shoes. Yes, 200. They consumed our verandah in a slow painful suffocation, before spreading their chaos throughout the rest of the house. She used to go to work in them. The library. The dentist. She’d never consider going on a night out in a pair of flats. Heels are just in her psyche. And she didn’t need any pricey training sessions to show her how to walk. Here’s a flesh and blood relative who can function normally – glamorously – in a pair of stilettos. Surely I can follow in her footsteps?

But whenever I try I just look like Tina Turner gone wrong. And nothing works – plasters, gel cushions, only walking on carpets, being drunk – I’ve tried them all. Unfortunately I can’t afford to pay someone to walk around with a carpet in front of me all the time. So I have to ask myself, is it that I can’t walk in high heels? Or that I won’t?

I was reminded of this little failure of mine the other week, when I started reading a book said sister lent me: How to be Parisian. There was a line in it that touched a nerve, “What you won’t find in the Parisienne’s closet – three-inch heels. Why live life halfway?”

Well – what’s wrong with being comfortable? And not just in shoes – in your own skin?

It pains me to admit that I’m actually bothered that I can’t strut to the shops – how ridiculous, it’s just a pair of shoes after all. But that’s the thing, it’s not about the actual shoes – a heel represents much more. Sex! Power! Glamour! That’s what a pair of heels screams. Then there’s me, plodding along in my Clarkes boots and coming up short (literally). All in all it makes me feel rather inadequate, like I’m missing a major string in my bow. Killer heels are weaponry in a girl’s arsenal. -whether that’s power in attracting a mate (because that’s what heels are designed to do when it comes down to it – display your childbearing hips). Or whether it’s power in securing a high-flying job (assuming most high-flying jobs are male dominated and you’ve got to try and attract one with your childbearing hips…)

And then of course there are the rest of us, apparently not in high-flying jobs or a bearer of children, jealous spinsters unable to master the skill of walking. And we think, well actually it’s all very well looking especially lengthy-of-leg and being tall enough to look boardroom suits in the eye, but – aren’t you a bit of a slave to that shoe? That’s a friendly torture device you’re strapped into there. And you’re endorsing it. Suffering. You are in actual pain.

Of course, I’m being way too serious here (that’s flat heel wearers for you). I agree, I could accurately be accused of taking the fun right out of shoes. Because I can see that they are a bit of fun for a lot of people. They make us look good. They give us confidence, even if that confidence is based around men and hurts us in the process.

I’d much rather be comfortable. As long as I’m not getting too comfortable… Maybe I’ll sneak into my sister’s wardrobe the next time I see her, try walking in her shoes for a moment or two.

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We edit ourselves as we go about life, don’t we? Not in the wholly condemnable Photoshop way employed by magazines etc, but we do present ourselves differently depending on the situation. Sometimes we choose to. Other times, we have to.

Now with this in mind, I am about to tiptoe into semi-dangerous territory as I essentially attempt to dole out advice on what people – well, women – should and should not wear. To work. Yes, I am mad.

We (most of us) do, of course, have the right to dress in whatever bloody way we like. Feminism is about the right to choose, after all. But for God’s sake ladies – pull it together when you are at work.

Just as we can’t be as gobby as we perhaps are in our personal lives, we can’t really be as loud with the clothes we wear in the workplace also. There is a time and a place, as they say. Being greeted by a crop top and leather leggings makes me uncomfortable at, say, the doctor’s surgery reception. Everywhere else – fine.

I am aware I am coming across as a ragingly conservative anti-feminist, but hear me out. Like it or not, you cannot get away from the fact that how you dress does project an image, a message to others. And at work, the only thing you want to show off is your professionalism.

I feel (relatively) passionate about this subject. On my commute to work I see a lot of other people on their way to work. A lot of young women. And there are times when when I involuntarily tut out loud as I watch one of them topple into an office in Spice Girls-eqsue trainer wedges. Cringe as a I catch a glimpse of the pants of another under a too-short skirt. Too much denim. Sports wear (literally, like they are going to the gym). A lot of skimpy, downright uncomfortable looking outfits that just seem plain incongruous with the workplace.

Maybe I’ve just been brainwashed by decades of fashion magazines – you know what I mean, those hilarious work wear sections that I’m sure most of us just flick through, yawning. Forever  dispensing the same advice, the same rules. It’s all pencils, body-con, shirts, cardigans – basically stuff that makes you look like a sensible grown up in the day, but will let it’s hair down with you as you ‘transition’ into a raucous evening. Stuff that says you’re ‘serious’, ‘strong’ but still ‘feminine’. The language is silly but it does ring true. This style of dressing gives us the flexibility, that armour we need.

And far as I’m concerned, flashing the flesh hasn’t really got much to do with empowerment, other than that you have freely chosen to flash it. But, more importantly, what you have almost certainly chosen is to mark your card as someone who can mis-read a situation.

Look, I’m not deranged – I can see how in some workplaces a relaxed dress code, a controversial one even, is accepted. Welcomed, even. Hairdressers spring to mind (the kind where people have beards and piercings, tattoos a-plenty… not Nicky Clarke). Bars, too. Trendy shops. Some PR companies maybe? I don’t know.

But take my place of work, for example – a creative small business founded by an artist who went around for three years in her twenties wearing the same boiler suit everyday. So you can imagine the atmosphere is a little loose – we can pretty much wear whatever we like. However, we are also a training provider, working with vulnerable school children. So, whilst we are not exactly your typical school, we do have a duty to be good role models for the kids. We also have a responsible image to project to our partners in the schools. Plus, there are times we have to look even more grown up for the local authority.

We are also, coincidentally, an all-female team. Each one of us has to re-edit ourselves a bit, depending on who we’ve got coming in – we constantly have to meet other people’s expectations. And, as a tiny company competing with the ‘big boys’, we have to push even harder to be taken seriously. How we dress plays a part in this. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. It’s obviously especially true for women, but men do have the same standards and expectations to meet also – a man coming into a meeting in a vest and shorts wouldn’t be tolerated in most workplaces.

It would be nice to think we could all just go about life true to our own code, the whole time. But this is not a reality for anyone (well, maybe Kate Moss). Perhaps this is a good thing, anyhow – I imagine we would turn out to be a pretty selfish race if we all did exactly what we wanted to, all of the time.

This mini-rant is brought on by something that happened this week, at work. One of our female students came in wearing a sheer lace corset dress and stiletto heels.

Now, we have a policy where our students are treated as fellow staff members. They are ambassadors for the company. Plus, this girl is just 14 years old. It was genuinely frightening that she had thought it was acceptable to come in dressed in the way she was – that she even owns such clothes. After a frank talking-to about self-worth and choice (my boss actually likened the get-up to that of a prostitute’s…not the most pc of strategies but I could see where she was coming from…) we had to send her home.

It can be difficult enough being taken seriously at work as it is. At the end of the day, inappropriate clothes make you look out of place. Not in a ‘I’m asserting my individuality’ way. But in an ‘I’ve judged it wrong’ way. And this does nothing for selling your skills.

I feel quite uncomfortable writing this post. I know it will rankle people. I would probably find myself a little rankled if I wasn’t the writer. But I do maintain that you can stay true to yourself as you present different versions of this self to the world. It’s not about conforming, or changing yourself. It’s about making considered decisions.

I genuinely hope that, sooner rather than later, we get to the point where men and women are finally considered as equal in the workplace, and in society in general. In such a society I imagine men will be able to choose to come into work in a skirt and feel no shame or recrimination. Women could choose to come in wearing an embellished bin liner.

But I still wouldn’t get my hair cut there.

yoghurt sketch edited

It’s time for something especially trivial today, readers. Sorry. But I must get this off my chest.

Yoghurt adverts – what the hell?

These adverts have become the scourge of our televisions, multiplying in seemingly endless numbers every week.

At this terrifying rate, soon every other advert will be for yoghurt.

Why so MANY of them?? I’m bemused.

I mean, how much yoghurt does anyone ever buy? Surely the advert to consumer ratio is all warped.

Am I missing something? I’ve eaten yoghurt. It’s ok. Sometimes they’re very creamy. That makes them more ok.

But are they, say, delicious…not really.

Yoghurt does not meet your snack need in any way, shape or form. Everyone knows this. If anything, you are hungrier. Yoghurts are only ever bought out of guilt – guilt for really wanting to buy a chocolate bar.

Plus, it’s really inconvenient – if you’re not eating it from the comfort of your own home, you need to have cutlery on you.

But maybe I’m wrong. Apparently yoghurts can offer you a taste of luxury…Erm, are they luxurious? In any conceivable way? Christ no! It’s yoghurt, for God’s sake.

If for a second you’re entertaining yoghurt as an idea of luxury, you’ve got more problems than this humble product can help you with.

liberte

Image courtesy of Liberte

Not only are these adverts increasing in number, they are also taking silliness to whole new levels.

Greek mythological figures? Firemen? Sexy criminals? Lifeguards? Topless men in tighty-whities?

A magician??! Come on, everyone knows that magicians are not sexy. Creepy, yes. Yet here one is, in a jolly farmers market, turning fruit into yoghurt, surrounded by a bevy of young blondes who begin to giggle mindlessly. Hmmm…

Seriously indulgent? Sumptuous? Please. Yoghurts being pushed as luxury products? Sexy, even? I find this bizarre.

As far as I am concerned, you just can’t sex up yoghurt. If anything, it is one of the least sexy foods. It is barely even food. Despite this glaring truth, most recently Muller have tried to turn yoghurt into sex (ugh, sorry), courtesy of Nicole effing Scherzinger. Maybe she got confused and thought she was shooting another Herbal Essences ad. At least the painful acting makes it entertaining.

At best these adverts are silly and frivolous and at worst, mindless and patronising. Practically all are touted as a dieting aid. And with all these cues, they could only ever be aimed at women, naturally.

The more I think about it, actually, the more riled I get.

On the one hand you’ve got outdated stereotype A – silly women, prancing around, drooling over half-dressed men and getting over excited at dairy products. And on the other hand, there’s outdated stereotype B – silly women, prancing around, obsessing over their weight and digestion, and getting over excited at dairy products. It’s insufferable. We could be here all day analysing what it all means.

Look. I like to call myself a feminist. A gentle feminist, if you can have such a thing. And whilst I find observations such as these thought provoking and very valid, I just don’t feel them deep down in my soul, if I’m honest.

Please don’t shoot me – I’m not a detractor! I’m just not as passionate about some things as my younger self was. But it is great to see so many more young women becoming passionate about feminism, especially when compared with the reception feminism typically received when I was their age.

People left, right and centre are talking openly about feminism now as if it is the new buzzword. Boosting by strong support from women in the public eye, including Caitlin Moran and Laurie Penny. It’s good to know feminism is no longer a dirty word.

However, I do feel rather cynical about the apparent renewed interest, and question the real impact it will have in the long term.

It feels very much like a popular fad being pushed by the media, hungry to see female pop stars out on stage in their pants, behind a big flashy neon sign, under the banner of ‘feminism’. For me, this is not feminism. It’s yet more advertising. All a bit vacuous.

And on the other side of the flashing neon, it’s all too serious and angry.

So, while I can neither relate to the media poster girls nor the academics, I find myself in the middle, on the sofa, entertaining feminist-lite thoughts, and I reserve the right to get irritated at yoghurt.

Turn off the TV you say? Stick to the BBC?

Yes, you’ve got a point. But when will I watch Come Dine With Me?

This is more me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf_roIC9Pso

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