Daily Archives: Tuesday 3 November 2009

Mary Wollstonecraft wept

Mary Wollstonecraft was a wonderful woman, radical in her thinking, and in the way she lived. In her great book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792, she argued that women should have the right to an education and to a political voice. When I talk about her to my students, I often say that were she somehow to see me lecturing, and the number of women students in the lecture theatre (usually around half), she would be thrilled and delighted, and she would feel that her ambitions for women had been achieved.

But then perhaps she would read about women’s fashion, and I think she would weep. Today is Melbourne Cup day, and the newspapers are full of it, including fashion tips and tricks. The latest one? In order to be able to wear ridiculous, foot-and-body-damaging 10cm high stiletto heels, women are getting their feet injected with “filler” and botox.

Botox and filler injections for the feet are the latest crazes in cosmetic surgery to make their way to Flemington – and the solution, according those with cash to splash, to the old racing conundrum of how to wear those towering pumps and not end up carrying them home after the final race has been run.

For about $1500, some doctors, such as Bondi-based cosmetic surgeon Michael Zacharia, will inject hyaluronic acid into the balls of the feet.

The fluid, commonly injected into joints to treat osteoarthritis, numbs the parts of the foot that become strained by wearing sky-high heels. [link]

Apparently it provides internal padding for your feet, so you can totter about in comfort. But it hurts, and all it really does is mask the pain, and possibly mask more serious problems.

Australasian College of Podiatric Surgeons president Mark Gilheany said while women might think the procedures were magic solutions to stiletto-fatigue, foot fillers could be masking symptoms of more serious problems.

He warned that for people experiencing a significant amount of pain standing in heels it could be a sign of partially dislocated bones or torn ligaments.

“If you require something of that (surgical) nature then you could have an underlying problem,” he said.

“It’s not something that is routinely done and I haven’t seen any clinical trials to say whether the injection of a biological cushion into the foot is effective.

“If there was anything that really worked I’m sure I would know about it. It seems like a waste of time when you can stick a cushion in your shoes and take some paracetamol.”[link]

Wollstonecraft lamented the extent to which women primped and preened, immersed themselves in finery and outward show, took up any fashion, and distorted their true natures, all in search of finding a husband. She argued that women needed financial independence, and needed to develop their characters, not adorn their bodies and simper and flirt and coquette.

I’m sure that most of the women who will be staggering around Flemington today are quite capable of earning their own incomes, and that they are not wearing silly shoes in order to catch a husband. But oh! The distortions of body, and feet, all in the pursuit of some idea of fashionableness. Stiletto shoes… well, whatever. If you want to wear them on your feet, then you go for it. But if you have to have surgery and injections to enable your otherwise healthy feet to sustain a day in silly shoes, then perhaps that’s just going a step too far.

Updated to say… these are the shoes I’m wearing today.

Updated to add this portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft, to which commenter Lucy Sussex has a connection.

491px-MarywollstonecraftImage from Wiki Commons