A short history of the high heel

Posted November 13, 2017 09:00:00

It’s a dilemma many women face when they go out — do they want to elongate their legs by wearing high heeled shoes for an event, or still be able to feel their feet at the end of the night?

After events like the Spring Racing Carnival, it is common to see many women abandon their shoes and limp home barefoot.

And while men are perceived to be well turned out at any event in flat shoes, the high heel trend, believe it or not, began with them.

“The origins of the heel relates to horse riding and warriors and the ability to hold tight to the saddle,” podiatrist and shoe historian Cameron Kippen told ABC Radio Perth

“Subsequently you had these macho men swaggering about in boots with heels, but they very quickly became fashionable for rich courtiers and kings in particular.”

The first recorded instance of a high heeled shoe being worn by a woman was by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century.

She was about 150 centimetres tall and it is said she wanted to appear taller at her wedding.

Up until that time, women had been wearing platform shoes, some as high as 60 centimetres, in 16th century Europe.

“Platforms predate heeled shoes, but because many women would fall over their platforms, and pregnant women would miscarry, they had to be legislated against,” Mr Kippen said.

“Shoemakers realised they could give women height but they needed to make them safer, so they carved out the front of the platform and created a high heel which was biomechanically more sound than platforms.”

During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, some 200 years later, wearing heels really began to take off — but again, among men.

“After de Medici died, that was the end of heeled shoes for women in terms of fashion,” Mr Kippen said.

“Women started to wear lower heels, but men liked this idea of towering above everyone else — and no one more than Louis XIV, who of course gave his name to an actual heel itself.

“He would parade around with very tight fitting high heeled shoes, very highly decorated.

“His critical badge of honour was a red heel, and he wouldn’t allow anybody else in the French court to wear them.”

Heels in the French court at Versailles were an important status symbol and restricted to the nobility.

“Wearing heels without permission — you would lose your head, literally,” Mr Kippen said.

“In those days there were fewer people wanting to be fashionable.

“Ordinary people would go about their business with no trouble at all, whereas it was the courtiers and those that had privilege and money that would want to outdo each other.

“Therefore, trying to emulate the royal family in whatever country you were in was something that was governed against.”

The right to wear heels eventually extended to the general population, but they remained chunky until after the end of World War II.

“We had to fight two world wars to have the technology to be able to make a stiletto heel,” Mr Kippen said.

“The secret of the stiletto heel was a small piece of metal which joined the inside of the shoes sufficiently that the heel and foot of the shoe could operate separately. It could actually bend and twist.

“It’s known as a shank.

“Once a shoe designer managed to work that out, then heels became more like what we see today.

“In the past heels were more like arch supports. They sat much closer to the middle of the foot, whereas now they can sit right at the end of the shoe.”

Initially, the creation of the stiletto heel was a cause of great consternation.

“In all the ballrooms at the time, the owners were very much concerned,” Mr Kippen said.

“These new stiletto heels could actually bore a hole in the floor.

“There was much warning and health foreboding about the things that would happen if you wore stiletto heels.”

Blisters aside, Mr Kippen said there was little evidence that high heeled shoes caused long-term health problems for wearers.

“We have lived half a century past that time and there is no evidence to show that people who wear these for a prolonged period would have foot or back problems at all,” he said.

Topics: fashion, history, women, perth-6000

Why the tentacles of the Weinstein effect reach for those in power

Updated November 09, 2017 16:42:27

A wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations is crashing across the world, reaching into an increasing number of industries with claims men are abusing positions of power.

The New York Times published the article Harvey Weinstein Paid off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades on October 5.

Since then, men at the height of several industries have faced sexual assault or harassment allegations.

  • Leaders in Hollywood
  • Bosses at media companies
  • Prominent chefs
  • Big names in technology
  • Politicians
  • Academics
  • Judges
  • The list really does go on

There are no geographical boundaries to this surge in allegations either.

Taking a snapshot of our coverage to date in November alone, stories on claims and cases of sexual assault and harassment, as well as women speaking out against violence have included:

Add to that, an Austrian politician resigning amid sexual harassment claims, France’s “rat out your pig” movement, similar social media trends in Italy and Spain as well as the countless stories told around the world that had mentions of #metoo on Twitter doing this:

The common theme? Power

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at California’s University of Berkeley and has spent 25 years studying power.

He said the Weinstein case “brought together every force that makes power problematic“.

“It is striking to just think about the context that 95 per cent of directors in Hollywood are male,” Professor Keltner said.

“When you have a kind of concentration of a certain type of person, so men or a certain ethnicity, you’re more likely to get an abuse of power against another group — like young women.”

Professor Keltner has been watching with great interest as the Weinstein case unfolds and the world wakes up.

“I think this is a pivotal moment. I really do,” he said.

Is it **really** different this time?

We started to wonder if there was a genuine and enduring shift happening.

Is this different to Bill Cosby? Is this different to that time a recording of a presidential candidate saying he grabbed women “by the pussy” was released during a campaign and he got elected anyway?

Professor Keltner:

“Feminists have been writing about this, social scientists have been studying sexual harassment, women have been talking about it among themselves, but sometimes you need these pivotal moral events … where suddenly it’s like, ‘OK, we’ve got to change this’.

“I think this is it.”

His theory is that this time women have allies and they’re taking control of the discussion.

Those New York Times journalists who fought for more than a decade to get the Weinstein story up, pressed publish at a time when movements like Women’s March had made significant gains.

Now, there is a network of people — men and women — who are getting strength from one another to say harassment — from cat calling on the street to assault as invasive as rape — is not OK and will no longer be accepted.

Professor Keltner talked about a group of female leaders who run multi-billion-dollar sections of the US healthcare system.

“What they do, is what women will now be doing post-Weinstein,” he said.

“[They say]: ‘Here are 12 things a man cannot do to you, period. And if he does it, you get to tell somebody’.

“He can’t whistle at you. He can’t roll his eyes when you’re in a meeting. He can’t grab your body or try to kiss you — he just can’t do that.”

As media coverage has increased, activists and victims have found a very specific voice.

“When you gather stories, you allow people to use this language,” Professor Keltner said.

“You allow people to say, ‘That senior male professor grabbed my breast’ and before, we were hesitant to use that language and so we couldn’t get a clear picture of this phenomenon and that’s different now.

“Women own that language and when you do that you empower people.”

Remember when Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman”?

That term didn’t fade. Activists took ownership of it.

To cut through, to claw back power, Professor Keltner says: “You’ve got to take on the grittiness of it.”

Grit. Like this?

Language. Like this?

Professor Keltner:

“Women are gaining power right now more than they’ve had in 15,000 years.”

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, agrees the time is now.

“I’m really hopeful and optimistic that this global spotlight, but also an Australian spotlight particularly on sexual harassment and assault, will be the catalyst for real change,” she said.

Ms Jenkins referenced different research projects that examined experiences for women in a cross-section of Australian industries, including:

  • Defence
  • Victoria Police
  • The Royal College of Surgeons
  • Universities, via the Human Rights Commission
  • The arts, via Actors Equity

“They all show alarmingly high rates of sexual harassment in the workplace and the community at large,” she said.

“What is happening at the moment is it has become a talking point for people who really don’t understand what experiences for women are.”

Why it seems like it’s always men

Because, as the research shows, it usually is.

Research. Data. The people who interview perpetrators. The people who interview victims.

If we look at the data around gender and harassment, we learn some truths.

On Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released data from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey.

Here’s one domestic truth:

When you read about the “participation gap”, you’re reading about boardrooms/parliaments/movie credits that have more men than women.

There are fewer women in positions of power, therefore there are fewer women who abuse power.

“There has been a historical view in Australia that sexual assault and harassment happens because men can’t control their urges,” Ms Jenkins said.

“But these situations don’t happen everywhere, they happen in situations of power. They happen where speaking up is difficult.”

Is it a ‘bad time to be a man’?

Because, if you’ve ever been on Twitter, you’ve probably read that.

The way Professor Keltner described it was, “No”. This is just a “long overdue” correction.

He said women gaining power was a “balancing out”, not a takeover.

Maybe the Weinstein tide will subside only when it has dredged up the last of these abuses of power and we get to a point where it’s a good time to be someone who identifies as any gender.

“We need to move from big villains to the small everyday things that lead to this environment where we tolerate sexual harassment,” Ms Jenkins said.

“My hope is not that we start catching high-profile people in Australia, but in the everyday experience we just reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment so it’s not part of the workplace experience for women.”

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, community-and-society, women, sexual-offences, law-crime-and-justice, united-states, australia, united-kingdom

First posted November 09, 2017 16:37:02

The women of Australian true crime: A criminal record from ‘bad’ to ‘good’

Women have always been central to true crime stories: as victims, perpetrators, readers, and (increasingly) as tellers of these tales.

Music changed Alison Campbell’s life, so she’s returning the favour

Posted November 04, 2017 06:06:01

For Alison Campbell, music is more than just something to listen to.

“It speaks to you when you are feeling happy, when you are feeling a bit down it can lift you … there is just so much that music can do for well-being.

“Perhaps music makes me more myself.”

Women’s Work

We all know her — the busy woman who finds time for more. We’re celebrating the extraordinary voluntary work, done by ordinary women, in the ABC’s new series Women’s Work.

It’s this link between music and wellbeing that’s driven Alison to offer about 16 hours of unpaid work per week, to keep Adelaide’s symphony orchestra alive.

Alison is president of Friends of Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the team of dedicated volunteers who’ve raised “probably well over a million dollars” over 30 years, according to ASO managing director Vince Ciccarello.

It’s one of the few concrete measures for something that is, by its nature, ethereal.

“Music doesn’t have a tangible result,” Alison says.

“If you’ve got an accountant, they give you better results at work. If you’ve got a lawyer they win cases for you. If you’ve got a doctor they make you better. Music is much more inside somebody.”

A symphony of support

In the early 2000s, a Howard government report suggested slashing Adelaide’s symphony orchestra.

The idea provoked a chorus of condemnation, or perhaps in this case, a symphony. It was swiftly dropped.

Nevertheless, more than a decade later, the mere mention of it still provokes Alison.

“Oh that really pissed me off,” the softly-spoken president says.

“It was just so eastern states-centric and totally ignored what we were capable of.”

Alison is proud to affirm the ASO’s capability — it recently came second only to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a blind test by music aficionados.

But capability is a term equally applicable to Alison and her volunteering colleagues.

ASO managing director Vince Ciccarello says the orchestra would be a shadow of what it is now without its Friends.

“We are very, very lucky to have them and Alison as their president,” he said.

“I quipped to someone the other day, I reckon Alison puts in more hours as a volunteer, than most people do in a paid role.”

‘It stuck with me forever’

Alison understood from a young age the profound impact music can have on people.

“When I was a child, my father was in the army, stationed in Germany. We’d get the British Forces broadcasts on the radio and we’d listen to them driving around.

“We’d hear pieces of music and our parents would tell us what they were called, and the first piece of music I can remember identifying by name was the Grand March from Aida and it’s stuck with me forever.”

Music sticks with you and it sticks by you.

Singing an emotional escape

Music was a huge source of comfort to Alison when her marriage ended a few years ago.

“I’d been a choir mum for about a year, ferrying my sons back and forth to St Peter’s Cathedral when they were singing and I just thought, well why shouldn’t I do it too?

“Singing, because it is so emotional, can be an escape. So, the cathedral choir was my happy place.”

Not just ‘fuddy duddies’

Many people assume an orchestra, or a church choir for that matter, are only for the elderly or the elite: a proposition Alison rejects almost as quickly as a funding cut.

“It’s not just for old fuddy duddies at all.”

“If you think about a movie or watching a television series or playing a video game, can you imagine how they would be without music?”

Much of the music you hear playing in them is created by an orchestra.

“Personally, I’m not sure of the difference between rap and hip-hop, but the ASO has performed with the Hilltop Hoods, so they can reach quite a wide audience … Beatles for the Baby Boomers, classical music for people like me.”

‘Getting more than I give’

Being president of the Friends of the ASO has also been a happy place for Alison.

“I can’t imagine any other volunteering job like it.

“I kind of feel like I’m not volunteering in an altruistic way — I’m getting more than I give, I’m sure.”

But there is a limit to how much she can give, not because Alison has had enough, but because the rules stipulate presidents are limited to three-year terms.

With the Friends of the ASO celebrating their 30th birthday, cutting the cake will be Alison’s last official act, before passing the baton to another.

“I think it’s a good thing to have the three-year rule, it keeps fresh ideas coming in.”

“I’m going to miss it of course, miss it terribly.

“I would like to think after three years, the orchestra’s position in Adelaide is stronger than ever.”

Topics: women, volunteers, orchestral, music, classical, adelaide-5000

Beauty queens share violence against women statistics instead of body measurements

Updated November 01, 2017 20:54:36

When it came time for contestants at this year’s Miss Peru pageant to give their waist, hip and bust sizes, more than 20 women instead recited facts about trafficking, femicide and harassment.

Leading the protest was Camila Canicoba of Lima who said “my measurements are: 2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country”.

The winner, 20-year-old Romina Lozano, said her measurements were “3,114 women victims of trafficking up until 2014”, on the most watched show in Peru on Sunday (local time).

“My measurements are: the 65 per cent of university women who are assaulted by their partners,” Bélgica Guerra, representing Chincha, said.

“My measurements are: more than 70 per cent of women in our country are victims of street harassment,” contestant Juana Acevedo said.

The organisers also projected newspaper clippings of stories about violence against women as the contestants posed in bikinis at a theatre in the capital city, Lima.

The women are hoping to represent Peru in November’s 66th Miss Universe competition in Las Vegas.

Miss Peru 2018 organizer Jessica Newton told Buzzfeed: “Everyone who does not denounce and everyone who does not do something to stop this is an accomplice”.

“Women can walk out naked if they want to. Naked. It’s a personal decision,” she added.

“If I walk out in a bathing suit I am just as decent as a woman who walks out in an evening dress.”

The protest comes amid a slew of sexual harassment accusations towards film mogul Harvey Weinstein and now House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey.

The allegations towards Weinstein, originally sparked by a New York Times article detailing harassment towards Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd, prompted the #MeToo social media campaign.

Thousands of women began sharing their personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse using the #MeToo hashtag.

In the weeks that followed, countless numbers of women working in the film industry spoke out, accusing Weinstein of making unwanted advances towards them, and of sexual assault and rape.

Spacey is the latest prominent man in Hollywood to be called out for his behaviour.

Actor Anthony Rapp, best known for starring in the musical Rent and Star Trek: Discovery, said he was invited to a party at Spacey’s apartment in 1986 when he was just 14 and said Spacey, then 26, put him on his bed and climbed on top of him at the end of the night.

A second actor has now made a sexual harassment allegation towards Spacey.

Mexican actor Robert Cavazos said he encountered Spacey at the bar of London’s Old Vic Theatre where he tried to fondle him against his will.

Reuters/ABC

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, sexual-offences, women, peru

First posted November 01, 2017 20:25:08

Pocket history: Why dresses hardly ever have pockets

Are you frustrated with the lack of dresses and skirts with pockets? As with many things, it turns out history is partly to blame.