Hey Emmanuelle, look what mommy bought for you today! Yes, your first pair of high heels. I think its time you have a pair… I mean how old are you now? 13 months? Such a late bloomer.
Here you go honey, hot pink pumps in perfect size 3″.
What? They hurt your little toes? Yeah, that part of the trade-off, but wow they look awesome and everyone at the party is going to think you are the cutest thing evah.

Seeing you makes me wish I could fit into a pair of those naugahyde suckers. If I break my toes and bind it for a few years, I’m sure I can make it fit and then its matching outfits for me and you! Weeee. I should have been a designer. Why didnt I think of that? High heels for infants. Fucking brilliant.

Early developmental feminism
Early developmental feminism

 
Didn’t we learn anything from Jonbenet?

“On my way to play marbles”
“On my way to play marbles”

Standards change, but our obsession and allegiance to beauty never has and doubtfully never will. Cross culturally, spanning 1000s of years, our ideals of beauty no matter how painful, expensive or even crippling has ruled many a heart & mind. What’s interesting now, is how it’s marketed to us. But what about back then?

While searching for the image above of those ridiculous infant heels, I was reminded of the more notable practices we’ve subjected children to in the name of beauty & cultural acceptance over the years, such as Chinese foot binding.
 
 
 
Over a billion Chinese girls were maimed and crippled in this practice that lasted over 1000 years. A casual play by play from Wikipedia sits below:

Orthopedics; Chinese woman, World War 1 era.
Orthopedics; Chinese woman, World War 1 era.

When girls were around 3 to 6 years old, the toes on each of their feet were pressed with great force downwards and into the sole of the foot until the toes broke. The broken toes were then held tightly against the sole of the foot and wrapped tightly with cotton bandages prepared by soaking them in a blood and herb mixture. The foot was then drawn down straight and the arch forcibly broken. The bandages were repeatedly wound in a figure eight movement, forcing the freshly broken toes to be pressed tighter into the sole of the foot. At each pass the binding pulled the ball of the foot and the heel ever close together, causing the broken foot to fold at the arch. The end of the binding cloth was then sewn tightly to prevent the girl from loosening it. This unbinding and rebinding ritual was repeated as often as possible (for the rich at least once daily). The girl was not allowed to rest after her feet had been bound; however much pain she was suffering, she was required to walk on her broken and bound feet, so that her own body weight would help crush them into the desired shape.

Fashion Smashin: An xray of bound feet.
Fashion Smashin: An xray of bound feet.

 

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Yes, I shamefully left Max & Manu to forage their own fun while I indulged in my fascination with ritual and modification. Fascinated in part because societies & families, both historic and current, willingly maim their own. I’m interested in why human beings instigate and conform to widespread abuse, noting that those who sanctimoniously deny the possibility within themselves are often the most capable of all. Recent cases like The Stanford Experiment and the US military’s condoning of torture come to mind.

I am reading & thinking more about how P and I can create for Max & Emmanuelle healthy rituals or rights of passage that will help them feel empowered by and comfortable in the changes they’ll experience in their own bodies & mind. Helping Manu into high heels certainly isn’t one of them as you see, my own first experience with heels was less than stellar.

I was at church, and instead of sitting in the pews itemizing my sins, I was off chasing a potential boyfriend through the halls. I had all the confidence in the world I would catch him in my brand new pair of high heeled Candies, and as he ran down a flight of stairs, I went right after him…. head first. As I hit the bottom stair, with my dress piled up over my head, I was too shocked to move but I remember going home and tossing those shoes in the back of my closet. I was in my late 20s before I ever wore another pair. I didn’t blame the shoes, I just felt my skill and competence on the flat would get me much further in life than perched like a little bird on my toes.
 

“I’d rather go naked than wear high heels”
“I’d rather go naked than wear high heels”

 
 
* High heels and Chinese foot binding are not being compared in this post.

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