The thing is, for all that Germaine Greer decries the patriarchy and the way it constrains women, she's certainly quite keen to slag on the looks of anyone — from her intellectual rivals to Michelle Obama to Posh or even Madonna — who she deems insufficiently classically beautiful. For a woman so eager to rip other women apart for what their footwear choices say about their insufficient commitment to feminism, she seems more than a little over-eager to criticize women for being insufficiently attentive to their adherence to convention beauty standards.
There is, however, a rhyme and reason to this, which Greer herself reveals pretty early on in her piece.
As an eight-year-old whiling away the long hours of watching over my baby sister I would prop my feet on dominoes set on their ends, and twirl my newly leggy self in front of my mother’s full-length mirror, yearning for proper high heels. Sadly, long before I was old enough to wear them, I had grown too tall. Like Jackie Kennedy, Princess Di and now Carla Bruni, I found myself restricted to kitten heels or downright flats.
First off, no woman is too tall for heels, unless you're trying to size yourself down... you know, to meet a man. How very feminist of her, trying to fit in to the stereotype that a woman shouldn't stand out for her stature.
She then notes this about the "consequences" of loving high heels.
My mother gave up her valuable scholarship and went to work as a milliner’s apprentice because she hated having to wear flat shoes to school.
That's not a "consequence" of high heels, that was a choice — and one her mother probably made for reasons other than the heels. I mean, hats did used to be pretty damn cool.
As far as Greer is concerned, anything but kitten heels and flats veers into dangerous fetishism with additional overtones of the enjoyment of "vicarious leisure," which is, I'm sure, what every woman carrying her heels on the subway in sneakers feels — leisurely. She adds:
Those now unfashionable psychoanalysts who explained women’s psychology as a perpetual struggle between narcissism and masochism might have had a point.
I mean, I guess they might have had a point, if one defines "women's psychology" as the sum total of what they choose to wear or how they choose to look which is, apparently, what Greer spends a great deal of time doing these days.
The one, small concession Greer makes to not writing complete claptrap is that she doesn't blame heels on men.
It makes no more sense to put women’s addiction to silly shoes down to men, than it does to blame men for cosmetic polysurgery and female genital cutting. If women spend fortunes on dreadfully uncomfortable shoes it is their choice...
Wait,I might have spoken too soon: The practice of FGM in some countries definitely has nothing to do with men. Nope, not a thing. It's all what women are choosing, of their own free will, to do to themselves, just like wearing heels!
Greer's closing indictment of the women's shoe industry is that they are undermining feminists' work "to set women free," you know, except from FGM, which women are obviously doing to themselves. Keeping women from wearing cute high heels that make their legs look longer, their hips sway and makes us look taller is obviously the last stage to full equality. Silly me. I'll go break out my flats and get my pay equity!
Do High Heels Empower or Constrain? [The Times]
Related: Tasting Blood Again [The Insight]
Feminists Attack Greer For Blast At 'Sabre-Tooth' Posh [The Independent]
Earlier: Michelle Obama's Election Night Dress: Germaine Greer Just Doesn't Get It
Madonna Is A Feminist Target