Can we please talk about something other than Melania and Ivanka Trump’s footwear?
It’s Friday, August 11, 2017, and according the rhetorical cliches emanating from Donald Trump’s voice box, the United States is on the brink of a nuclear standoff with North Korea.1 But for some unknown reason, towards the end of this week, North Korea’s promise to strike waters near a U.S. territory took the backseat to the slingback stilettos donned by the First Lady and First Daughter.
“Melania, Ivanka and Ivana wear high heels, a symbol of everything that is beautiful and horrifying about them,” Newsweek’s Nina Burleigh wrote Thursday. “The female consorts of the Leader of the Free World do not set foot in public without first molding their arches into the supranatural curve that Mattel toy designers once devised for Barbie’s plastic feet,” Burleigh wrote after a brief introduction that touched on “the perils our late-summer flirtation with nuclear war.”
Apparently, Melania Trump has only been chronicled suffering the plight of flat-heeled shoes once during her six months as First Lady, at the White House Easter Egg hunt (where presumably stilettos would have left a rather Holy path in her wake). Likewise, Ivanka Trump frequently dons the footgear Hollywood darling Jennifer Lawrence once dubbed “Satan’s shoes.”
Stilettos, Newsweek points out, are difficult to wear: your feet point inward, your arch curves up, and lord help you if you lose your balance and tumble—full body weight—onto your ankle. And why would anyone put themselves through such Hell? As former Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley told Newsweek, “Trump women favor high heels because they were trained young in the ‘rigor’ of wearing them—and because they look good. “
Hollywood Reporter’s Sam Reed ascribed an even more insidious meaning to the Trumpian foot staple. “The Trump women’s styling of the stilettos, often with vintage-inspired silhouettes, may play into the idea of the pre-feminist, male-gaze-dominated perception,” Reed wrote.
“What’s frightening, perhaps, is that against the backdrop of a presidency rooted in the antiquated ’50s values of a man who speaks of pussy grabbing, etc., stilettos can appear more constricting rather than say, sexually liberating,” Reed added.
These ascriptions, undoubtedly, are what prompted the Federalist’s Holly Scheer and Inez Feltscher to defiantly announce “pro-‘choice’ [leftists]” can “pry [stilettos] from our cold, dead hands.”
“High heels, especially stilettos, have long been on the ever-expanding feminist takedown list,” the pair wrote. “To the feminist left, heels are a visible symbol of the patriarchy, a way to ‘weaken’ women and heighten their sex appeal, in order to simultaneously arouse both predatory and chivalrous instincts in men.”
“Beyond the pros and cons of stilettos, however, is the obnoxious and smarmy busybody attitude of those who claim to speak for ‘women’ today,” they continued. “Agree with them at all times, right down to how your favorite footwear is ‘problematic,’ or be labeled a victim of patriarchal Stockholm Syndrome. Loving gorgeous shoes is just a sign of internalized misogyny, because there’s no way a woke woman would be wearing stilettos.”
To which I say: perhaps it’s not just Donald Trump who needs to tone down the rhetoric. Stilettos as indicative of the “pre-feminist, male-gaze-dominated perception”? Pry them from your “cold, dead hands”?
Can’t a shoe just be a shoe? And more importantly, can’t we trust women—yes even these women—to decide for themselves what shoes they want? (Except UGGs, there’s really no excuse for UGGs).
1. By all accounts, there’s no perceptible change in the U.S. posture towards North Korea, and no real indication that the military is gearing up for war, but don’t let that technicality distract you from the president’s Really Tough Talk.