My brain is so dead from reading all week about healthcare reform and Gorsuch’s confirmation process that I have to keep this light.
We watched Jurassic World tonight to satisfy my kids’ insatiable appetites for watching prehistoric predators devour other things that move over two hours. While the rest of my family was single-mindedly focused on the death and destruction, I could not help but be totally distracted by the fact that Bryce Dallas Howard – who plays the role of a senior operations manager for the dinosaur park – wore high heels throughout the movie. Including while she was being chased around by Indominus Rex, a (mythical) hybrid creature that’s meaner, bigger and even more invincible than TRex. Up and down hills, in the mud, over rocks and gravel.
These are the heels in question.
And just for context, here’s how scary it is to be chased by Indominus Rex even when you are a cocky, Velociraptor-taming, Navy veteran wearing whatever indestructible footwear that such people tend to wear when they go predator-hunting.
So yeah, wearing heels could not have been the best choice.
I get that the Jurassic series can occasionally stretch your imagination. One might even argue that that’s the whole point. For instance, there’s that whole thing about dinosaurs roaming around Costa Rica in the late 20th/early 21st century. Its also true that the series is sexist in other ways. You’ve got the stereotype of the frigid, no-fun, children-shunning, career woman who has not had sex in years. Also the totally conformist evolution of Laura Dern’s character in the original Jurassic Park trilogy, from daring paleobotanist who jumps spontaneously into a giant mound of Triceratops poop in the first movie to thoroughly domesticated wife and mother who gets to stay at home with her kids in the third. It would probably not surprise you to learn that the recurring male protagonists are not weighed down by any domestic compulsions and continue to wrestle with their prehistoric frenemies throughout the series. So elevating women is certainly not the point of these movies, and that’s fine.
But still…come on. Jurassic World was released in 2015, and its women were still in heels while being chased around by dinosaurs! We don’t have to be quite this gratuitous about making women look inept and not particularly bright. I was certainly not the only one to notice, because the movie has already been widely ridiculed and criticized for its portrayal of the female lead.
Women wearing heels don’t just outrun dinosaurs. They also feature in tired cliches. You can’t possibly have missed the old saying that Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but only backwards and in heels. Barack Obama repeated the “backwards and in heels” line so many times in the context of Hillary Clinton’s presidential runs that I wanted to start an online petition to ban the damn phrase. I get that it is supposed to be an endearing reference to the lack of a level playing field for professional women, but it’s an outdated, ill-fitting metaphor, which doesn’t even begin to address the real issues. Plus, there’s probably more than one little girl out there who hears the phrase and asks herself when she needs to buy her first pair of heels (and she should not have to). Hillary Clinton herself has used the same phrase in the past to describe some of her professional challenges. And almost two decades ago, Ann Richards delivered the “backwards and in high heels” line when giving the keynote address at her party’s convention – she was only the second woman to take on that prominent role in 160 years, and that probably has to do with a lot more than struggles with footwear. The line always seems to get an applause, so perhaps my online petition is doomed from the get-go.
Women wearing heels also have tired feet and they are not going to take that anymore. Last year, a British woman, Nicola Thorp, reported to work as a temporary receptionist in flat shoes only to be told by her supervisor said that she had to return in “2in to 4in heel.” She refused, arguing that her male colleagues were not asked to do the same. She was then sent home without pay. In response, Thorp started a petition calling for a law that would guarantee that no company could ever again demand that a woman wear heels to work. The petition garnered more than 150,000 signatures. It also started a movement — many professional women expressed solidarity with Thorp and posted photographs of themselves on Twitter defiantly wearing flat shoes. This rebellion ultimately resulted in an inquiry overseen by a parliamentary committee in the UK. The committee’s findings were published in a report in January. It included statements from hundreds of women who complained about the physical pain and health risks caused by having to wear high heels for long periods (the precisely estimated time for the pain to set in is “1 hour, 6 minutes, and 48 seconds” on average), about feeling objectified and sexualized over requirements to wear revealing outfits (e.g., short skirts and unbuttoned shirts) and about having to apply and reapply make-up at work. The report also concluded that gender-based dress codes exacerbate workplace discrimination against LGBT employees. Nicola Thorp, the woman who started this conversation in the UK, wrote about a black female colleague being ordered to wear “flesh-toned” tights that had little to do with her skin tone. In Thorp’s words, “[i]t was like the manager didn’t even recognize that her skin color was a skin color.” So ridiculous workplace dress codes inflict physical and psychological pain, and perpetuate degrading stereotypes of all kinds (and don’t even get me started on women being forced to wear tights to work. 2017, anyone?).
In 2015, the organizers of Cannes film festival came under fire when a group of women in their 50s were turned away from a screening for not wearing high-heeled shoes. So Julia Roberts did this the next year:
Because she can. Take that!