Down at Heel

WhatsApp from my dad yesterday :

Hi Luce, I expect you’ve seen Baroness Hale’s views on compulsory high heels for women. She wants equality, high heels for men as well! 

It was followed by a cheeky nerdy face emoji so I think it was intended as a joke. Difficult to tell with my dad.

I was perplexed. I had not seen the interview. I’m still perplexed. Nobody has ever told me I *must* wear high heels. My now far more infrequent wearing of high heels is entirely self imposed (self imposed shackles borne of my conditioning since birth by the patriarchal system, natch). I am short. I prefer to be a bit taller. I think high heels look smart. That I’ve reached the age where the trade off is no longer worth the discomfort and irritation of constant reheeling (I wear boots to work and switch shoes only whilst at court), does not change the fact that I chose to wear high heels for much of my professional life, although I could never manage or carry off the full on six inch stilettos. Maybe I saw everyone else doing so and thought I ought to in order to look the part; maybe putting on the heels gave me that bit of confidence to stand up and be tall in court. And maybe my perspective has changed now I’m older and I realise my strength is not in my stilettos. But…

The idea that someone would TELL ME to wear heels is flipping outrageous. I wondered what on earth Baroness Hale was on about. But I am assured via twitter that there are solicitors’ firms where this is a THING.

I have no reason to doubt that is so, but it is really shocking. Moreover apparently it isn’t limited to heels, but also extends to overt instructions regarding nail colour, and the colour of clothing. I had no idea this went on. I like to think I’d spit the dummy if anyone attempted to impose this on me, but who am I to say how difficult it would be for someone just trying to make their way as a junior employee in a competitive field?

I am confident that I would not last a moment in such an organisation, as much because of my basic level personal grooming skills as my feminist principles. By all means instruct me to attend court without a coating of dog hair, with vaguely clean nails, with the mud wet wiped efficiently from my boots and with my hair at least smoothed down to some sort of momentary calm, if not brushed and styled into submission. But ask me to waste my valuable time giving myself a flipping manicure when I should be thinking through my cross examination and there may well be a shoe throwing incident. And believe me, you don’t want to be on the wrong end of my shoes. They are flat but smelly.

I don’t know what support we boot wearing established women can offer to those in a more tricky / vulnerable position but I do hope this is called out. And that any firm (or chambers) who recognises that they do this is squirming. Take a look at yourselves! And stop it before you get caught out.

One thought on “Down at Heel

  1. I did my articles in the Seventies in a well-known firm where only one partner was a woman: that, no doubt, reflected the realities of the time, or rather of the Fifties when the partners had joined the firm.

    Half the intake of articled clerks (that’s what we called trainees, then, you youngsters) were female and one of them got a shellacking (in the presence of many of us including me) from the Only Female Partner for getting her ears pierced. “There’s only one professor where that is appropriate, my dear, and it’s not the one you are joining”.

    When I retired last summer I had a trainee with more piercings in her ears and nose than I could count, not that I wanted to, and far be it from me to wonder how many more there were that I couldn’t see. And I had to wonder what the Only Female Partner would have made of her!

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