High Heel and the Solidarity of Women


All women’s clothing is divisive. Whether we like it or not, women’s clothing is political. All clothing is political, but none more so than that which is coded as “female,” as we have come to understand the meaning of the word, and even regardless of who is wearing it. We could choose any item worn on the body and have endless discussions and history lessons and debates about all of the weight this particular item carries, as well as the implications of whoever chooses to wear it.

Out this week, Summer Brennan’s High Heel , the latest in Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons Series, does just that for the ever elusive, beloved (by some, of course) accessory. And we are ecstatic. High Heel is an education. Every inch of Brennan’s writing contains myriad myths, backstory, and philosophical debate, and just the right amount of trigger to pull you in. Reading concurrently and obsessively discussing it over iMessage with Olivia, it wasn’t simply that passages were informative in ways a fascinating textbook might be — they resonated.

To do anything as a woman is to apparently also ask the world’s opinion of it, including choosing a pair of shoes in the morning.

As many reviews have already stated, High Heel is a glowing showcase of what it means to be a woman, in every historical, political, and publicly consumed meaning of the word. It comes as no surprise, even, the number of people suddenly compelled to share their thoughts on both the shoe and Brennan’s choice to write so extensively about it at her publicly, through Twitter and the comments sections of sites that have published excerpts, without even reading her book at all. To do anything as a woman is to apparently also ask the world’s opinion of it, including choosing a pair of shoes in the morning.

But the beauty of High Heel, much like the beauty of choosing whatever footwear we like, or even, say, finding that perfect pair of heels in the first place, isn’t in the unprompted opinions of needless strangers, it is in the sensation of finally finding that object, or point of view, that speaks to your soul. So much of High Heel feel like it has been presented in an act of kismet. From fairy tales and myths long forgotten to even Brennan’s own anecdotal experiences, the result isn’t just a deeper meaning, it’s a connection. Messages back and forth during reading not only discussed the text but our own similar experiences; and there it was, proof that we had not experienced any of these events in our life alone. Somewhere out there as well, was a fellow person, awkwardly falling down the stairs, proving herself in a professional or academic environment, or pretending her feet weren’t hurting that second hour into an event.

On the back cover blurb, author Jami Attenberg writes, “I would like to press a copy of [High Heel] into the hands of every woman I know,” and I know exactly what she means. Like anything else one loves, it is a gift you want to share. In the same summary, Attenberg describes the book as ‘deeply liberating,’ and it’s true. There is freedom in learning we are not solitary in our experiences. This sense of community reminds me of other moments women share — sending virtual hugs to a friend who posts about a bad day, sharing tampons in a restaurant bathroom, walking up to an uncomfortable stranger at a bar so another stranger will stop harassing them — the actions we take to let each other know, “you are not alone.” Of course, people have opinions on these actions, too.

In her final passage, Brennan writes:

When I tried to examine the path walked by women, I found it to be full of beasts and deception, setbacks and false starts. We are not yet out of our feminine glass labyrinth, and there’s no telling how long it will take; at least it seems we have grasped a thread.

For every troll online there is a samaritan ready to defend you, or send messages of support. For every jerk on the street telling you that your shoes aren’t attractive there is a confident stranger telling you to strut your fierce self. Every time a woman in my presence expresses doubt at her own sartorial choices, I will probably tell her to read this book. It’s true we don’t know where the world is going exactly, but it’s going, and we may as well walk together, share our stories, and wear whatever we damn well please.

This post is not sponsored and all opinions are my own, however I was gifted an advance copy. Thank you once again to Summer Brennan and Bloomsbury!

Raquel Reyes is Creative Director at The Attic on Eighth. She enjoys styling photo shoots, dramatic hair accessories, and old fashioned cocktails.