Should women be forced to wear a certain kind of shoe to work? Siân Bevan talks uniforms, ‘femininity’ and walking like you’ve got swollen balls.
Lots of horrified people have discovered it was totally legal to do this, under vague rules about uniform and professional appearance. Many have pointed out that wearing high heels has proven ill effects on your Achilles tendon, posture and – if you’re like me – your ability to stand without looking like you have massively swollen testicles uncomfortably chafing your inner thigh.
Thorp set up a petition, asking that it be made illegal for a company to demand a woman wears high heels in the workplace. It’s currently had more than 100,000 signatures, which means it will be considered for debate in Parliament. Exciting times.
Intrigued by some pals commenting that “two-inch heels are not that high,” when I’d expect everyone to be weirded out by this whole thing, I’ve ventured into that part of the internet where you should never go: the comments section underneath articles. That place where a mere mention of feminism can invoke such badly spelled anger that some people explode into a vapour of consonants.
“It’s absolutely OK to ask for employees to wipe the mud off their shoes before work. It’s OK to ask them to dress smartly. It’s not OK to ask them to wear something which many women find painful, with proven physical ill effects.”
In fairness, most comments have been wise and supportive nods about freedom of choice. If you like the extra inches of a pair of stilettos then we salute you and that lovely noise you make as you clip clop down the corridor at work like a glamorous show pony. If it’s not for you, then you shouldn’t be relegated to working in a bin.
And so, may I present for your delectation: comments about an article where a woman quite rightly pointed out that it was very unreasonable to demand she wear heels of a specific height, what with most calendars indicating that it’s 2016.
Comment 1: Yeah really bad, like wearing a strangulating restrictive necktie, collar, and blazer on a hot day. This clothing is part of the dress code I have to suffer at work. Don’t you think it would be better if we just got to wear what we wanted at work? … None of this should be allowed… Or, Do we sign up for this shyte?
–Thomas Law, Metro
So, this came up a lot. The whole ‘well, dudes have to wear suits’ argument, from generally supportive people. There’s a whole other article about whether people should be able to wear whatever they want at work, especially if it’s not a public facing role. There’s also a lot to be said about whether your work should give you a clothing allowance if they want you to dress a certain way.
HOWEVER, your suit doesn’t mean you have to get home and soak your neck fat in ice at the end of the day. If it does, you should probably get a new suit and stop dressing like Daniel Craig in Spectre.
Comment 2: disgusting behaviour of the employer, they should shoot themselves.
–Adrian Critchley, The Sun
Although we appreciate the sentiment, Adrian pal, I think that might be a bit extreme. Maybe just an apology. I like that you’re angry though. The employer was being a bit gross, but actually the main issue is that they were acting within the law. We should be all shouty at the system and try to seal up all the leaky holes in legislation which allows such douchery to drip through.
But yes! The employers could metaphorically shoot themselves in the face with some knowledge of equality? Man, I’d be really worried if I ever forgot your birthday.
“If you like the extra inches of a pair of stilettos then we salute you and that lovely noise you make as you clip clop down the corridor like a glamorous show pony. If it’s not for you, then you shouldn’t be relegated to working in a bin.”
Comment 3: Christ what an idiot!! First – she will never be employed ever again, nobody will want to touch her. and secondly – what is wrong with women looking sharp, feminine in the office? … I work in the office and ALWAYS wear high heels because I like them and they make me feel more attractive and taller of course, why not? It’s not like they asked her to unbutton her shirt or not wear a bra or to wear a dress above the knee. I repeat, she is an idiot!
–Harsh T, The Daily Mail
A woman kicks ass against the patriarchy, showing determination, articulation and innovation by trying to get a law changed to be a bit less archaic. Yeah, you’re right. What a loser. No one will want her being awesome in their workplace.
And I’m pretty sure that you can be a woman in flats. To be honest, the word ‘feminine’ always gets followed by ‘hygiene’ in my head, so maybe we should be wearing shoes made of fanny pads.
Also “I work in the office and ALWAYS wear high heels because I like them.” Well, good. I think you’ve hit the nail with your Jimmy Choos there: cos you like them. Some people don’t. Some people like autoerotic asphyxiation. And no one is banning heels. Or autoerotic asphyxiation.
Here’s the thing: it’s absolutely OK to ask for employees to wipe the mud off their shoes before work. It’s OK to ask them to dress smartly. It’s not OK to ask them to wear something which many women find painful, with proven physical ill effects. Generally: if you’re asking your male and female employees to do different things, you’re probably on very rocky ground. And you’ll definitely need flats to walk on that.
If you’d like to sign the petition, and I really hope you would like to, you can do so here.
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Siân is a writer, performer, creator of joyful things and sometimes she tries to explain things to young people. She’s a mainly vegan feminist who loves elephants, is scared of the dark and likes stories most of all.