So something’s been really stickin in my craw lately. Enough to get me out of my posting hibernation even!
I really, really hate seeing female action characters running around in heels. It screams objectification to me and really just turns up the “HEY LADIES YOU CAN BE STRONG AND STUFF, BUT FIRST YOU GOTS TO BE SEXAY” message to 11. And it’s freaking everywhere right now.
Black Widow in the latest Cap Movie went into multiple situations where it was known before hand that the likelihood of seeing some action was very high. AND SHE STILL WORE HIGH HEELED BOOTS.
This is during the long action sequence in which she literally jumps off a bridge.
She did this in the first Avengers, too. As did every single other female SHIELD agent on the helicarrier. Because apparently a flying warship with a Hulk and a captured god villian on board is essentially super safe and will never ever call for you to be prepared and ready to fight or escape at a moments notice.
Almost every female SHIELD agent in the background of the Avengers was wearing this outfit, complete with the heels. Even Maria Hill was wearing heels with her jumpsuit.
Speaking of SHIELD uniforms, Melinda May’s on Agents of SHIELD apparently has chunky heels as part of her battle dress uniform.
Even when she knows she’s walking into battle, the Cavalry rarely wears combat boots or anything similar.
And this is not to just point fingers at Marvel (lord knows DC’s bad about it with Catwoman) or comicbook adaptations. Sleepy Hollow’s Abbie Mills is constantly wearing heels, even as part of her cop ensemble or when she’s taking hikes in the woods.
You know the trick they pull on Death? Where Abbie pretends she fell and broke her ankle? I though it was real cause she was freaking running around in a dark, debris strewn, centuries old underground tunnel system while being chased by one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in heels! Choose better footwear Abbie! Yeesh.
And its not just TV and movies. Games too are terrible about this. Here’s Samus Aran’s dayglo monstrosities for the new Smash game.
This not the first time Samus has been put in heels while in her Zero Suit. But we like to pretend Other M and any other crap that came as an off-shoot of that just didn’t happen.
And while plenty of MMOs put heels on their female characters in a bid to cater to some fabled slavering, easily-swayed-by-boobies-to-purchase-things male demographic, right now I’m super displeased with Everquest Next Landmark. It was recently pointed out they have somewhat sneakily made it so that all female characters are wearing heels no matter what.
Well this explains why the female character’s basic stance is so skewed. Even when she looks to be wearing sneakers and hiking boots, as befits a miner/adventurer/explorer, she’s actually wearing hidden wedge heels the entire time.
“Meh” I hear you say, “What’s the big deal with heels? What if the character just like wearing heels and can run really well in them anyways?” Well to that I say three things:
A) Characters cannot CHOOSE anything. Things are chosen for them by their creators. And the fact that all these female characters are designed to wear heels speaks to them being designed with certain ideas in mind. In the best possible reading they’re being designed to be fashionable, even when it comes at the cost of battle-readiness. physical impediment, or injury to the actors portraying the character. In a not so benign reading they’re being designed to have their power as heroes and agents in the story physically undermined by their femininity through the symbolic hobbling of high heels.
B) Even if you can run really well in high heels, you will never be able to run as well and as sure-footedly as you could barefoot or in footwear designed for some semblance of function over form.
Even Scarlett Johansson who, at this point I’m sure, can run really well in heels chucks those things for some running shoes when it’s time to do the heavy lifting of a physical action scene. Pro tip for Character Design people: if your actor can’t physically do what you’re asking them to do in the outfit you designed, rethink that outfit.
And lastly C) the big deal with heels is that they are a form of sexist social pressure on women to hobble and debilitate themselves to make themselves more physically pleasing to men. It doesn’t matter how comfy they are or how nice they look or how much you ‘choose your choice’. The purpose of heels in this culture is to mark women as weaker and as objects for men to find sexually pleasing and available. The fact that they have become ubiquitous in our cultural fictions and fashions, even in situations where the fictional woman in question would be physically harmed by wearing them, leads to really disturbing trends for real life women. Like heeled shoes for toddlers and tweens. Or women being required to wear heels by their employers, which is especially ridiculous for physically demanding jobs or jobs that require you to be on your feet constantly. And of course it leads to the ever popular idea that women just aren’t feminine enough or ‘properly put together/dressed for the occasion’ if they aren’t wearing heels.
For the record: I love all of the characters I mentioned (yes, even you Background SHIELD Agents) and for really-real, real-life women who chose their choice, I say have a high heeled blast, or even two if that floats your boat. But we need to stop saturating our culture and our society in images of women wearing heels as the go-to shoe for every situation. We keep pretending that its not bad for our long term physical and mental well-being, but constantly putting the cultural idea of femininity into these hobbling and objectifying shoes eats away at our ability to imagine women, both real and fictional, as fully realized and empowered people.