Leora Tanenbaum interviewed by Liz Funk

Leora Tanenbaum interviewed by Liz Funk

May 5, 2010

Excerpted from an interview at Lemondrop between Leora Tanenbaum (author, as we all know, of the just-released Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them), and Liz Funk (author of Supergirls Speak Out, from Simon & Schuster):

… What surprised you the most as you were writing and researching this book in particular?

As I was speaking with women for my research, I would educate them and say, ‘Guess what? If you wear a high-heeled shoe on a regular basis, over and over and over again, you’re going to change the shape of your feet and be likely to have serious foot pain later. ‘

And occasionally women would say, ‘Oh, I don’t care, it’s worth it. When it happens, I’ll just have the surgery.’

There was one woman in New York City whom I interviewed who told me that she wore these heels that weren’t even that high but they were too narrow and too tight so she literally had to take them off and she didn’t have money to take a cab home. She had to walk around the city barefoot. And I said, ‘Oh, that’s awful. So now you’ve learned a lesson, right? Next time, if you wear those shoes, you’ll carry a second pair of comfortable shoes to change into.’ She looked as me as though I was crazy.

It was as though she felt, I must wear these shoes, even if it is unhealthy, because I look great. If you stand back and examine this, it’s oppressive. She’s a savvy, sophisticated woman but in her mind, she must wear a certain shoe in order to look attractive. We are pressured to fit into this narrow beauty ideal, and we feel that we must wear a certain kind of shoe. Well, A) it’s not true, and B) you’re only hurting yourself here. The irony is so many of us wear these shoes to look good, but we’re causing ugliness.

How do you feel about heels on the heels of having finished the book?

I wear high heels myself. I look great in them. But I limit how I wear them and where I wear them. I don’t do serious walking in them. I’ll change into my heels. I would never tell anyone to throw away all your heels. I just try to be careful with them. I also have my walking shoes.

Right. There is no shame in carrying a second pair of more comfortable shoes in your purse.

Absolutely. Although some women do feel that it’s unfashionable. In the ’80s, there was the woman in her power suit wearing nylons and sneakers, with her high heels sticking out of her tote bag. Because women in the workforce became the butt of jokes in that era, that visual became the shorthand for mocking working women. So we need to really forget that negative connotation.

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