Here We Go Again

[Content Note: Choice policing; fat hatred; racism; transphobia; disablism.]

In the blogaround, I linked to a post at Flavia's place that included, in part, commentary on this piece of shit article in which self-identified feminist Charlotte Raven declares that high heels are unfeminist and "a form of self-harm."

As with the policing about selfies, policing women's choice of shoes ignores realities for fat women.

Accessories are the one place most fat women can reliably find ways to be stylish. Shoes are generally fashionable in a wider variety of sizes than are clothes. Which still doesn't mean every woman can find fashionable shoes to fit her feet, but there's a bigger selection of stylish shoes, particularly affordable ones, than there is a selection of affordable, plus-size stylish clothes. Last week, I excitedly posted about a new sweater with buttons on the sleeve with the explanatory note: "Yes, cute detailing on fat ladies' clothes is that rare!"

And, for fat women, being stylish isn't a luxury. It's often a necessity to get hired, to get access to healthcare, to get treated like a human being.

Fat women have all kinds of narratives about sloppiness, laziness, dirtiness to overcome. Sometimes heels are a crucial part of looking "put together" in a way that sufficiently convinces people that we care about ourselves, that manages to counteract pervasive cultural narratives that fat people don't care about ourselves. That we have "let ourselves go."

Being "put together" is part of the way many of us convey to a judgmental world that we are worth caring about.

I get treated completely differently at a $20 hair salon if I'm dressed up or dressed down. Two totally different experiences. I get treated differently at the doctor's office, and at the emergency room. I can't go to the ER in sweatpants, because I'll get shittier treatment. In an emergency, I have to worry if I am dressed up enough to prove that I deserve respect and care.

Proving these things has always, for me, meant wearing fashionable shoes. Sometimes those shoes are heels.

I am speaking to my own experience here, but many women with other marginalized bodies have the same experience. Women of color, trans* women, women with disabilities, and other marginalized classes of women may strongly relate to the idea of having to be "put together" in order to be treated as human beings.

What might look like "a form of self-harm" to a privileged woman might look like "a form of survival" to women who don't share her privileges.

If there's an issue about which to be concerned, it isn't women who have the freedom to choose whether to wear high heels. It's the culture that obliges some of us to wear them, irrespective of our desire to wear them.

I have absolutely zero interest in policing women's shoes, whether they are worn out of obligation or choice.

I have an issue with a culture that makes it a choice for some women, and an obligation for others. And I have an issue with feminists who can't be bothered to make that distinction.


Fat is a feminist issue. That fat women have different lived experiences than thin women, that we may regard things like selfies and high heels differently by necessity of our marginalization, is not a new idea. All of the above ideas are things about which I and others have written plenty of times.

There's no excuse for not knowing except not listening.

[Related Reading: Pro-Choice Feminism; On Visibility.]

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