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


24 responses to “Mary Wollstonecraft wept

  1. That just reminded me to check my shoes, (I’m at work, no holiday here) and yep, I forgot to take off the comfy (and very dirty) red Rivers slip ons and put on my work slip ons. Oops. I think I’ll have to go home at lunch time, the managers are visiting today. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I’m not wearing any shoes today, I did spend a bit of time convincing the child that the shoes that are several sizes too big (handmedowns from a cousin) were not a good idea. But then, he’s also into nail polish at the moment. I haven’t been to the races for a few years, but I grew up in Flemington so we always saw lots of people on their way to and fro, there are two types of race goer: those who wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes you can eat a picnic in, and the other sort, who tend to be the ones who drink too much and don’t actually look at the horses. It’s not just women either, there are plenty of very messy young men with sore feet by the end of major race days.

  3. Well, exactly, Deborah.
    And then we have this from the NZ Herald. which seems to be becoming more execrable by the day:
    If you can’t bear to link to it, it’s about .. ‘the 24 most beautiful broadcasters’. Because, you know, it’s not about how good you are at your job, it’s just what you look like that matters. It is at least equal opportunity shallowness as it includes men as well.

  4. Oh, the shoes, the shoes. They seem to be even higher tan ever this year, if that’s possible. I was talking to my osteopath about this, and she opined that when women put those shoes on their IQ drops by at least 50% – at least half of the brain is distracted by having to monitor balance. Probably more than 50% once alcohol is added to the mix. Mind you, she rubs her hands at the future business she will gain from the weaers of these shoes.

  5. Yes, I’ve been thinking that steering offspring into podiatry as a career will probably guarantee them an income.

  6. Yet more proof for my contention that the fashion industry is inherently misogynist.

  7. Mary’s husband was very cool too.

  8. It is Mary’s 250th birthday this year. Some things have changed beyond all recognition. Others haven’t altered a jot.

    I’ll add this blogpost to a collection I’m tending, of current references to Mary W.

  9. I am wearing gold flats today, but can I be a small voice in favour of (not ridiculously high) stilettos? ‘Cos…pretty!

    But yeah, injecting poisonous substances into yourself so as to be able to stand up longer? Just no.

  10. The distortions of body, and feet, all in the pursuit of some idea of fashionableness

    It doesn’t stop at botox injections either – I can only imagine what Mary would think if she saw the young women of today who tear open their skin and inject themselves with ink, all because tattoos and piercings are popular.

  11. If you haven’t already, read Vindication, the marvellous biog of Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon. I shudder every time I go past a shoe shop, and now injections? Talk about reinventing foot-binding!

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  13. Spare a thought for the men.

    Looking at the NZHerald’s photo coverage there is an individual called Chris Smith, clearly a magician as no well educated or dressed man could consider actually wearing such a bow tie otherwise; And four fellows whose suits of shocking pink, bright yellow, orange, lime green and purple indicate they are clowns on their day off.

  14. You mean these cheery chaps, Tom?

    [Ooops – that link leads only to the gallery, and I can’t seem to get a link direct to the men in suits. You’ll need to work through the gallery to find them.]

  15. One of my ancestors commissioned a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft, which survives. I am very proud of this fact. I wish I could access their conversations, but unless memory is transmitted via DNA, no luck.
    Yrs, with arch supports, so wearing flat but good-looking shoes (El Naturalista, in green)
    Lucy Sussex

  16. That’s marvellous, Lucy. Which portrait of her? Do you have a URL?

  17. Have you ever had an injection in your foot? It freakin’ KILLS! Some of the News Ltd websites are running a gallery of the girls at the races after they’d had too much to drink. How nasty. Drunk boys never get ridiculed in this manner.

  18. Would it be this avatar, by any chance?

  19. Yes, it’s that one. She was pregnant at the time with Mary.

    More feminists should be on stamps!

    Lucy Sussex

  20. Who was it who commissioned that portrait, Lucy? And do you know why?

  21. Some people have reasons other than “fashion” or “popularity” when they get tattoos or piercings. Please do not ascribe motives to people based on one point of similarity.

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