Monday, December 08, 2003

If The Shoe Fits...

Would you like someone to bite chunks off you? No? Neither would I. But many people, most of them female, seem to want just that. Now it's the feet that are going to be chopped smaller or padded taller. Gardiner Harris writes about this in a New York Times article titled "If Shoe Won't Fit, Fix the Foot? Popular Surgery Raises Concern".

The reason for this surgery, according to Harris, is the desire for better 'toe cleavage' (!) or the yearning to continue wearing high heels even after the feet have decisively said no to that. The article notes:
Foot fashion and function have, of course, long been in conflict. Chinese girls' feet were bound to shorten them by bending the toes backward. High heels have been fashionable in the United States for decades, even though they can cause not only serious foot problems but knee, pelvic, back, shoulder and even jaw pain.

Walking in high heels means walking on the balls of the feet, as if tiptoeing through life. Why would anybody wish to undergo surgery for that end? The answer, according to one of the orthopedists interviewed in the article is simple:
"Take your average woman and give her heels instead of flats, and she'll suddenly get whistles on the street," Dr. Levine said. "I do everything I can to get them back into their shoes."

Take a bite off here, add a bit more over there, and suddenly, voila! you are desirable.

Or maybe just socially acceptable. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also consists of taking chunks off women, or rather young girls. This practise makes them more marriageworthy in the cultures that embrace FGM, but it may cause serious lifelong health problems, not to mention a permanent reduction in the woman's ability to enjoy sex. On the other hand, some types of FGM are said to enhance the man's sexual enjoyment.

Are women born with all sorts of extraneous bits that need to be cut off? The answer isn't that simple. If it was, we wouldn't be able to explain why so many women have breast enhancement surgery. It seems that the Powers That Be have just misdesigned women, and surgery is needed to put them right. Right for what?

Twenty years ago in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions Gloria Steinem used the saying: "If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?" to argue for societal changes that would better accommodate women's everyday lives. It seems that the foot is more easily altered than the shoe, after all.

1. There are some good news on the FGM front.
2. To avert all the criticism I can see forthcoming, here is my confession: Yes, it's true that I have no feet and have never worn shoes.
3. The comments were down on 12/8/03. My apologies.
4. After I posted this, I found several good blogs on the same topic. Check out Pen-Elayne
and Ms. musings for a start.