Thursday, April 19, 2012

Social Commentary: Big Shoes

My assignment the other day was to cover the Vanity Fair party that would herald the opening of the 11th Annual Tribeca Film Festival. My producer and I were to work the so-called Red Carpet to shoot and interview the plethora of "A" list celebrities like Billy Crystal, Michael Douglas, and Robert DeNiro who where scheduled to attend. I mean, after all, it is well known in entertainment circles that THEY party to attend at any celebrity event HAS to be Vanity Fair's! Personally, and I believe I've made this clear in the past, I find these events much ado about nothing. But that my friends, is a story for another day. What I would like to address today are shoes. BIG SHOES. Women's BIG SHOES.

While my producer and I were taking our place with the other reporting teams on the Red Carpet, we noticed the producer from the crew right next to us. She had dark black hair that flowed long and wavy. She was petite, too, with a nice figure - about 5'2" and, maybe, 110 lbs. She had beautiful blue eyes that were accentuated by her dark hair and the light blue, summer-like dress she was wearing. I figured she must have been around 30. Not overly made-up, she had a natural beauty about her. Overall, she was an attractive and, from her demeanor, pleasant, young women. As we exchanged greetings (it's important to "know your neighbor" at these events because they pack you in so tightly you are bound to get "intimate" before the end of the evening!), I noticed that she was also wearing a pair of delicate sandals on her pedicured feet. They were not "flip-flops" - WAY more stylish than that. One might even call them sexy. And right next to where she was standing in those sexy, little sandals was the largest pair of shoes that I've ever seen!! I mean these things were MASSIVE. They were not "spike" heels but, rather thicker in appearance. And those heels were LONG. They had to be 6-8 inches tall. They were so tall, in fact, I believe that someone could commit suicide by jumping off the top of them!! They were VERY stylish, I'm sure, and were finished in a shinny, silver material that had flecks of black in it. It reminded me of the old "metal-flake" paint used on American Muscle cars. I mean we COULDN'T help but notice them! It was obvious that she was wearing her sandals because they were the most practical and comfortable but would switch to THE BIG SHOES when she would interview celebrities.

Of course, we HAD to ask her if they were, indeed, hers and if she could actually walk in them. She was good natured and said that they were hers and that she could walk in them if she was very careful. In fact, she said that she had injured herself a number of time trying to walk in THE BIG SHOES. We responded by asking, "why then, would you wear them, especially when you are already wearing a pair of sandals that are both practical AND sexy?! Her response? "They make me look taller."

They make me look taller. Simple enough. Or is it? On the surface, the statement is seemingly innocuous. Everyone wants to look their best and present an image that they believe shows them in the best light. However, the pressure to present a sexy, confident, young image is particularly intense for women. Women are barraged by messages that tell them how they should look, how they should eat, even how they should act. Walk by any newsstand and count the number of magazines devoted to women's fashion. I'm sure that they outnumber those targeting men by a wide margin. Count the number of TV commercials at any given time and, again, I'm sure that those targeting women FAR exceed those for men - especially when it comes to fashion and beauty. Buy this hair care product and you'll look like Angelina Jolie. Apply this make-up and you'll be like Nicole Kidman. Use this diet to get a figure like Brooklyn Decker. Wear these shoes and you'll party like you're at a Vanity Fair celebrity event! Silkier hair. Brighter teeth. Thinner waist. Bigger boobs. Longer nails. Sexier clothes. It's incessantly relentless. Everywhere that you turn there is another arbiter of high couture telling women to look like this or look like that, wear this, or wear that. I don't know how women can tell the real, healthy choices for their lives from the BULL SHIT.

I believe that it's part of a woman's nature to obsess, at least somewhat, over their appearance (MOST, anyway). I also know that, to a certain degree, most women are even willing to suffer (even if it's just a little bit) for the sake of being fashionable. But my concern is, where do you draw the line between fashion/beauty and common sense? And, who the hell are these fashion arbiters anyway and why should you listen to them? The BIG SHOES are an excellent example. Here was a beautiful young woman who had everything going for her. Yet, she still felt somehow inadequate because she was "short" and that had to be changed; even at the expense of her comfort and, possibly, safety. My producer and I never even noticed that she was "short" - she had so much else going for her. But BIG SHOES are "in". Tall women are "in". So, women receive the message that they better get with the program or get left behind. This is particularly true of professional women. They are so often led, and frequently misled, to believe that their looks are tied to their success.

Yes, this is a modern reality. I DO believe that society demands more of women in terms of so-called beauty and fashion. It IS too often interwoven with a woman's professional success. But why does it HAVE to be this way? Society deems it necessary? But WE are society and, therefore, we have the ability to change it!! And I believe that this change should start among women themselves. They can start putting an end to this "madness" by refusing to be defined by their looks or their so-called beauty. And I'm not calling for an end to "beauty" (which is in the eye of the beholder and can change radically from culture to culture anyway!). No. I'm calling for a common sense approach to it. It's simple. If things don't make sense, don't participate i.e. DON'T BUY IT!! Everyone, including women, apply this philosophy to virtually anything else. Why not fashion? Like BIG SHOES that are so BIG the wearer is in danger of getting a nose bleed from the altitude. They are dangerous and, IMHO, don't make you look any better then wearing a pair of skimpy, sexy, flat, COMFORTABLE sandals. So, go tell Messrs. Manolo, Madden, Antonio, Ferragamo, Kors, etc. (ALL men by the way, telling WOMEN what they should wear!) to take their dangerous, over-blown shoes and go take a hike in them - if they can!

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