Friday, March 24, 2017

High Heels for Babies Are Here — and Parents Aren’t Happy

British moms are up in arms about an American-made high-heeled-shoe line designed specifically for babies up to 6 months old. The mini-stilettos, called Pee Wee Pumps, have been around for a few years, but a recent Facebook post on the kids’ clothing watchdog page Let Clothes Be Clothes blasted the controversial footwear, thrusting the sexy shoes into the spotlight.

Pee Wee Pumps are essentially soft, cotton slippers; many of the styles come in provocative animal prints. On its website, the brand shows babies sporting the shoes while dressed in pearls, feathers, and leopard-print diaper covers. Many mothers are concerned that the shoes — and the boudoir scenes in which they’re showcased — contribute to the sexualization of babies.

“Creepy and ridiculous in equal measure,” one parent said on Facebook. “You have to be kidding me! Sorry but this is sick! Children should be allowed to be children & not dressed up to look like hookers!” another wrote. Other moms were absolutely incensed at the sexual implications of putting stilettos on small babies. One wrote, “Do they realise that the reason heeled shoes are perceived as sexy is because the heel forces the wearer to walk with chest/buttocks out for balance and an exaggerated arch in the foot mimicking (apparently) feet during orgasm.”

Women were equally troubled by the overtly sexual photos on the company’s website and social media accounts. “Dear god, why is that infant doing a boudoir session?!” chimed in one mom, who was also disturbed by the 1920s flapper costumes that some babies on the website are dressed in. “That’s disturbing. Even without the heels the pics would be not even remotely okay,” another added.

And then there were moms who couldn’t fathom the practical implications of the pumps. “Apart from the tremendously worrying sexualization of children such products contribute to, I don’t even want to know the effects these shoes would have on small, developing feet,” wrote one appalled Facebook user.

But her concerns about the effect on the feet do not necessarily have merit, as the company insists that the shoes are meant just for photo opportunities and are sized only for pre-ambulatory babies. According to an article in Footwear News, “The shoes are not made for walking and sizes only go up to six months, ‘when babies start to crawl,’ [Pee Wee Pumps owner Michele] Holbrook added.”

The shoes have Velcro straps and come with faux heels — extensions of the slipper, which are filled with cotton, says Footwear News. The footwear is “collapsible with pressure” and “poses no endangerment” to the infant, Holbrook told the publication. “To me, my Pee Wee Pumps are nothing more than the cute headbands or adorable baby rompers parents put on their babies,” she added.

Still, parents aren’t buying it, literally and figuratively, asking, “WTF is wrong with people” in as many ways as possible. But Holbrook says this isn’t the first time there’s been an uproar about her precocious product. “They did it last May and it went out of control,” she told Footwear News, adding, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity; if it brings attention, it’ll help you.”

Pee Wee Pumps have even gotten celebrity attention, according to the publication. Coco Austin, wife of rapper/actor Ice-T, shared a photo of her newborn daughter, Chanel Nicole, in a ballerina pink pair of pumps, which matched her pink tutu and namesake top. “Long day for my sleeping beauty,” Austin captioned the (now deleted) photo. Holbrook also noted that the shoes got celebrity coverage on the E! channel after she sent a pair to Real Housewife Tamra Judge.

On the Pee Wee Pumps website, Holbrook is careful to describe her product in this way: “Infant crib shoes are made with care and love for your little princess. The soft, flexible shoe with a collapsible heel will form to your daughter’s foot, whether it’s narrow or wide. Its adjustable strap allows the shoe to stay on and provides a comfortable fit!”

The shoes, which retail for $14.99 to $24.99 a pair, have equally provocative names — yet another issue pointed out by angry parents on social media — such as Glamorous, Wild Child, and Sassy (“She’ll make a statement in this bold, red hue,” the product description reads).

Friday, February 24, 2017

I Don’t Need High Heels And Lipstick To Be Professional

I like to wear lipstick. I like to wear high heels. They make me feel confident and glamorous, and I like the way I look when I choose to wear them.

You know what else makes me feel confident? Being good at my job and doing it well.

Are the two related? Absolutely not.

But it seems, for some people, being glamorous and being professional are the same thing. That employers have a right to try to make their female workers look glamorous because that will mean they are doing their job better.

To be honest, glamorous is just one very short step away from “sexy”. What it really feels like to me is that women are being told they should look sexy. That they’ll be doing their jobs better if they look sexy. That they have to look attractive to men to be considered professional.

It is completely reasonable to want someone who is representing your company in a client-facing role to look smart. They are representing your brand and so everything from their appearance to their behaviour is important. It’s clearly not appropriate for someone to greet clients looking like they’ve just rolled out of bed.

But I fail to see how a smart pair of flat shoes looks any less professional than a smart pair of high heels. How painting your lips red (or pink or purple or whatever) is more professional than showing their natural colour.

If anyone can provide me with proof that my work has been in any way compromised on a day I’ve worn lip balm rather than Ruby Woo, be my guest.

Looking smart and looking glamorous are two different things. Ask your employees, male and female, to look smart, by all means. But forcing them to wear deeply uncomfortable shoes simply so they can look glamorous isn’t right.

Of course, there’s also the health implications - both physical and psychological - of wearing high heels. A parliamentary report released by the Petitions Committee and Women’s and Equalities Committee has showed how women are being unlawfully forced by their employers to wear high heels, despite the fact that they are being left in pain and embarrassed by this.

Evidence given to the committees by experts showed that physically heels were leaving women with blisters, bleeding and long-term damage to their feet. Some even had to resort to corrective surgery to undo the damage to their feet.

Piers Morgan caused a collective eye-roll among women when he tried to compare wearing high heels to wearing a suit. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t exactly an abundance of medical evidence for the painful and long-lasting physical effects of wearing a suit.

The report also detailed how women were left feeling “degraded”, “humiliated” and “dehumanised” by requests to wear heels, with some specifically tying this to feelings of being “sexualised”.

No one should have to feel that way at work.

It’s 2017. Why are women being forced to endure degradation and actual physical pain to prove we are competent, professional employees?

We are skilled, experienced and motivated. We do not need lipstick or a pair of heels to be professional.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I tried wearing heels for the first time ever, and it did not go well

I’ve avoided heels for the first 26 years of my life. For me, it's always been a pragmatic choice rather than an aesthetic one. When you regularly trip on uneven sidewalks — or even over your own feet — it just seems logical to stay as close to the ground as possible. So my footwear rotates between black Converse and black sandals.

After a year at Refinery29 surrounded by women in heels (who could walk — and walk quickly!), I felt like it might be time to broaden my shoe repertoire. High heels always felt like a benchmark of adulthood, something, along with an understanding of 401(k)s, that I had skipped. But, I had recently made an appointment with a financial advisor; maybe I could click around confidently, too, inches above my average height. So I decided to test out heels for the first time, ever.

Since my shoe shopping experiences usually involve not much more than finding the sneaker that looks like it's been attacked by a finger-painting toddler, I was sent to Century21 with fashion market writer Ray Lowe for my first pair of heels. She zipped through the aisles, taking in shoe stats, analyzing them like a footwear cyborg, while the only help I could really offer was my size.

We ended up trying on about four pairs of shoes, landing first on a "functional" pair of white, block-heeled sandals with an ankle strap to keep it securely tethered to my foot.

My second pair was less secure, "a pair that reflected your mental image of heels horror," Lowe told me. "Stiletto, impossible to walk in, a covert weapon." I slipped them on, and immediately feared for my life, or at least my ankles. When I turned to get out of the way of another customer, my lack of balance sent me hurtling backward into the shoe rack before sliding to the ground. The next morning, I found a giant, purple bruise on my hip; I couldn't sit normally all week.

I attempted to get through my first day in heels strapped into the casual block heels, but already I found my movement limited. I ordered lunch to be delivered. I went to the bathroom less. I felt like a kid stumbling around in her mom's heels, and I was sure I was drawing somewhat curious, somewhat concerned attention to myself with every step. My fashion sense isn't actually inconspicuous (lots of bright colors, poufy dresses, sometimes channeling multiple Disney characters in a single outfit), but the attention on my heels felt different. At least if I got a weird look for a flashy dress, I was owning it because I was comfortable in it.

Heels made me feel ridiculous, and more than that, ridiculous under a spotlight.
The subway became dangerous. Even with my knees bent, like I was about to take off down the slopes, I could not keep my feet rooted to the car floor, knocking into my fellow passengers like a very apologetic pinball. I no longer simply sat in suddenly vacant seats — I collapsed.

I made it through to Thursday before donning my stilettos, the spindly things I was truly dreading. By then, being a shaky 5-foot-7 had made me a lot of things: blistered, very angry at the patriarchy, susceptible to infomercials selling leg-messaging chairs. When I slipped on the stilettos, I felt certain the heels were going to snap off, followed by my feet, like a Bratz doll. I tiptoed in slow motion to the subway, clinging to walls and beams for dear life.

When I got off the subway in the West Village, I was faced with yet another American Ninja Warrior-like challenge: cobblestones. I was already 10 minutes late to see a play, "running" at a glacial pace of one city block every five minutes, and chanting to myself, "Just keep swimming," like Dory in Finding Nemo, until I reached the theater and crumpled into my seat.

Two hours later, after a blissful seated break for the play, I wobbled back outside. A friend of a friend who moonlights as a drag queen insisted on correcting my heel-walking form. He advised me to keep my head up and attempt to "glide." He's not quite Michael Caine, but it helped — I felt more stable, less likely to fall into the nearby sewer grate. His helpful encouragement — shoulders back, walk heel-toe — carried me for three very slow blocks, before I ultimately found myself giving up and changing into my sneakers. I decided to never put those stilettos on my feet again.

One important note: My biggest fear throughout this entire experiment was falling. I was terrified of faceplanting in the hallways at work, tripping on the sidewalks of New York, toppling over in a themed bar with my friends. But other than generally sore feet, nothing bad happened to me after the first fall in the Century21 store. I wasn't taken in the night by some shadowy figure alerted to my presence by the click of my heels, as horror movies might have taught me. I didn't topple onto the subway tracks on the way home from bars. I didn't break off one of my heels, twist my ankle, or get caught in subway grates.

In fact, my general feeling toward heels is no longer fear. Instead, it's rage. I'm not an angry person, but after a night of supermarket shopping in the sandals, teetering between my Whole Foods bags, I didn't just want to take my new shoes off. I wanted to take them off and hurl them through a window. A closed window.
I understand the desire to wear heels the way I, as a vegetarian, understand a craving for a hamburger. I know the sandwich is full of protein and iron. I know, no matter how unappetizing I might find it, it's flavor and juiciness has widespread appeal. I see its merits in a distant, scientific way. But the thought of eating one myself makes me want to gag. I begrudge no one their Jimmy Choos or Happy Meals. But after my time spent in heels, I know unequivocally I want no part of either.

I still have the heels in my closet, and I no longer feel the urge to throw them out a window. I considered giving them away to a more heel-inclined friend or coworker, but I like them where they are, laying on a bed of sneakers. They're a reminder that scary things aren't impossible, and that once you've done that thing that scares you, you're allowed to call it faced and conquered. And who knows? Maybe one day I'll pull out the block heels for a friend's summer wedding. They'll look great next to everyone else's discarded heels on the side of the dance floor.