We went out for a meal on Wednesday night – hot and spicy bowls of noodles, chilli prawns and little dumplings – my best sort of food.
We were waiting at the bus stop on the way home when a group of girls trooped past. They were about 15, I’d guess, with faces set into hard scowls and too much make up and the highest heels you ever did see.
It was clear that their shoes were causing them problems. Grabbing onto each other with white knuckles, they toppled and wobbled and swore and crashed about like foals that had just been born, but far less endearing.
I’m a Mother; one instinct was to run across and rip off their shoes. I would have bought them all a pair of Converse there and then, hang the cost. But it was such a funny sight, the gang of them all about to topple over like skittles if someone so much as breathed. I didn’t go after them, all motherly. I giggled.
Quietly, OK, and under my breath, almost. I don’t think they heard. But I felt so bad.
A young guy at the bus stop decided it was a good idea to mimic them as they struggled past, which really didn’t go down well with them, and when they’d shambled off to a safer distance (this took ages – about 2 full minutes to go 20m), one of them turned around and made her displeasure felt with a vigorous hand gesture.
I took it to heart, as I was guilty too.
It has troubled me ever since. Why did I giggle? Why did I not get immediately angry? (I did get angry quite quickly though!). Because those girls were so crippled by their footwear that it left them extremely vulnerable – slow, stilted and effectively trapped by whatever sexualised construct they’d concocted for themselves that evening.
What bothers me more than anything is the fact that our society sexualises young girls so flippantly, that come 15, or 13 even, or 12, it seems normal to us to see girls at parties dressed up to the nines with lipstick and tight clothes and high heels. Why do we allow our girls to trip along into a constructed ideal of womanhood that few lay people are questioning or dissecting or challenging at some political level?*
I’ve got all sorts of shoes, some of them illustrated here. Ballet shoes, trainers, running shoes, slippers, heels – yes, I’ve got some**- brogues, shoes with buckles, cowboy boots (my favourite sort of shoe, they rarely leave my feet), flip flops, sandals, wellies, boots for the park.
We can all choose what we wear, and that’s good, and of course there must be some experimenting. Heels are fun, sometimes, or every day, who cares, for grown women (who can actually walk in them). But those girls definitely weren’t having fun in those heels, and maybe they’ll decide to wear flip flops out on the town next time. Or shoes they can run in. And why shouldn’t they?
I want to live in a world where we don’t sleepwalk our children into a future that’s preordained by some outdated code of gender stereotype.
*I know that things are changing. But until regular high street shops stop selling even slightly sexualised clothes for small girls, or young teenagers, as part of their offering to everyday parents, it’s going to be a vicious circle.
**And they’re beautiful, and they look wonderful. And I’m a fully fledged adult.