by: David Chastity
Sometimes Pandora makes terrible choices about what to advertise to me. Engagement rings, diapers, and luxury cars have all been known to show up on the breaks between Jesus Christ Superstar and Garth Brooks, forcing me to wonder when I can start hitting thumbs-down on items completely irrelevant to my life. Sometimes Pandora is right on the mark, though, like when they tell me about Taco Bell and Doritos teaming up to create the Ultimate Stoner Food, or remind me how much I love Google+ Hangouts. But by far my favorite, most relevant Pandora ads are for SHOES. Just today I glanced over to find a gorgeous bright pink peep-toe stiletto with sequins, and spent a good 30 or 90 seconds just admiring its beauty. You see, I am one of those girls who loves high heels.
I sometimes feel like I should apologize for it. After all, I’m a feminist, and a queer, and I know that heels do terrible things to your body and are just designed to make you look sexy for men! And yet. I see an exciting pair of shoes, and I feel like one of those ladies in a commercial. It doesn’t help that I also love weddings, like, so much, and would eat yogurt all the time if I could, because yogurt is delicious. And the next thing I know I’m aerating my boyfriend’s back yard at his first wife’s wedding because I just had to wear these shoes that are so cute, and also all my eye makeup is sweating off so it looks like I’m crying, and Oxygen is pulling up in a van to offer me a new reality show just for women. Okay, I made that last part up, but you get the point. I’m an accidental stereotype.
I wasn’t always this way. Both my grandmothers were cookie cutter tomboys, athletic women who had no interest in fashion and such silliness. When my mom was little, her mom kept her hair cut short for maximum ease, which once led a child to ask my mother if she was a boy or a girl, a traumatizing experience we hear about at every major holiday and family gathering. (Whether this early androgyny has given my mom better sympathy for gender outlaws is a topic for another day.) So by the time I came along, I inherited a family tradition of practicality over aesthetics, encouraged to express myself through my clothes, sure, but thankfully avoiding the entire beauty industry until my adolescence was near over. While my high school friends were going to the salon with their moms for tanning, waxing, manicures, and whatever else femmes are apparently required to do, I was watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and wondering if I should ask my mom about moisturizer. Surrounded as I was by pop culture gay men, I spent my late teens trying to express my masculine side, mostly by reading gender theory and cutting pictures of male teen heartthrobs out to put on my wall. Being a teenager is confusing.
Fortunately, the gender theory I stumbled into was good stuff, and I even managed to stumble into a college so queer it invited Kate Bornstein to speak at orientation. Living on an all-queer hall in the dorms, I made friends with trans kids and started to feel less like I had to be a boy to like boys. I learned how to bind my chest and started collecting neckties and began doing drag in multiple genders. Other people may talk about going to costume parties in college, but I don’t think that I went to a single party without a costume. Somewhere in that four years of trying on dozens of genders, I came out with a pretty femme one.
I’ve only gotten more femme in the years since I left college. I no longer start my trip to the thrift store in the menswear section, but instead make a beeline to the shoes. Nothing can change my attitude and outlook quite as drastically as putting on a pair of heels, the higher the better. Recently, Thing Two’s metamour had a Drag Karaoke party for their birthday. I leaped at the chance to play dress up again, and got even more excited when I realized I could bring Thing One with me and coordinate our outfits. In my classic overachieving style, I decided to do Velvet Goldmine, me Brian Slade and he Curt Wild, and that meant I got to go buy New Shoes.
I found them at one of those places that buys and resells clothes, just a step up from Goodwill. I’m a size 6, and I’ve never had an issue fitting shoes, which helps explain my love. And there on the sale shelf sat a pair of 5 inch black velor platform heels. For something like $5, I got the highest heels I’ve ever owned (a distinction that was previously held by the dominatrix boots I bought for $10 before my first porn shoot). I got a lot of other great clothes to make two fantastic glam rock outfits, but nothing excited me like these shoes. I spent days practicing wearing them. I watched a video about how to walk in heels, just to make sure my technique was right. Still, faced with the prospect of walking some 8 blocks on uneven sidewalks to the karaoke bar, I wore flats on the way over and switched at the bar. Thing Two called me a wimp, claiming he’s walked farther in worse. I don’t believe him. My shoes (and everything else) were a party hit, and I’m sort of sad I don’t have places to go in ridiculous heels every week.
And I’m still a really good feminist. I play high femme because I love it, and I’m just as comfortable rolling out of bed unshowered, putting on the same shorts I’ve been wearing for a week, and going out to breakfast because my interest in scrambled eggs is a lot higher than my interest in looking cute. This is the real point of feminism: not rejecting one form of being a woman in favor of a more acceptable one, but instead opening the roles up for all of us to pick how we want to be. Moreover, I’d argue that my embrace of femme style is a pro-woman stance: rather than claiming that the only way to be equal is to reject that which is feminine, and thus masculinize ourselves, I celebrate the fun of that which is entirely associate with the female. People who are authentically butch should stay butch, but those of us femmes are equally right to buy ridiculous heels and wear glitter eye makeup and laugh over our bowls of fruit.
David Chastity is some girl who lives in a city on the East Coast and likes kissing. She also really enjoys doing the Onion A.V. Club crossword puzzle, drinking good beer and finding the secret sexual meanings in popular music. She’s working on her MDiv and convincing Jesus to marry her.