Make Forcing Women to Wear High Heels Against The Law
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Not long ago, I was forced to wear high heels while standing on a marble floor in NYC. It was a ten hour shift. My coworkers and I were forced to stand in those heels on the hard marble floor for the entire day. We were told the manager would come get us when it was time for our break. Nobody came. Bewildered, I continued to stand in my one position, thinking at some point someone would have to come tell us our painful journey was over and we could switch into flats. It did not happen. That night, at home, I had difficulty walking. I woke up in the middle of the night, and when I swung my legs over to the floor to stand up, I instead stumbled over myself. My feet wouldn't straighten out, they were stuck in a painful curled position, the muscles and bones shocked from the trauma of the day. The pain in the balls of my feet rubbed raw was sharp and shooting. My feet were sore and swollen. I cried at the thought of having to do it again the next day. One coworker did complain to the manager about the situation. The manager had no sympathy for her, and had her leave early. Then she had turned and looked at us, the remaining two, with an angry look that dared us to complain. All I could remember was the last time I tried to stand up for myself, on the set of a popular TV show, where the most powerful casting company fired me for requesting the appropriate pay rate. I remembered this and kept my mouth shut. But this isn't a one-off occurrence, and I can't stand by while other girls and woman are intimidated, coerced, forced, and left to feel as if they have to choose between their work and their health, their dignity. It's scary how normalized pain and discrimination against women is. So here I am, standing up for myself, and standing up for every woman everywhere who has ever felt this way, gone through this, and for every future young girl we can prevent from ever being faced with this.
According to US labor laws, heels are an employer dress code policy, which an employer chooses at their discretion. Most garment laws have to do with protection, such as protective gear on a work site. But who will protect a woman's right to decide her own footwear, and as a consequence decide the future of her health, the immediacy of whether she wants to be in severe pain or not, and the ability to do something so integral to being human as walking? Somehow, this particular issue has fallen through the cracks. Employers are allowed to require women to wear heels to work, and are even allowed to stipulate such a requirement in a hiring agreement. This happens every day in the experiential marketing industry, by staffing agencies, as well as elsewhere. Let's end this archaic, discriminatory, and harmful practice.
The issue with requiring women to wear heels is three-fold:
One - It is a safety concern. Walking is integral to being human and a core function of living. Wearing heels impacts walking. Heels slow down a woman, making her less efficient, forcing her to put more effort into the simple act of walking rather than focusing on her environment and the task at hand. Heels make it easy for a woman to lose her balance. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22742722 Heels increase the likelihood a woman may fall, slip, trip, and injure herself. Heels are an undue safety concern.
Two - It is a health concern. Wearing heels has been proven and documented to be detrimental to a woman's health. "High heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment, so the effects aren’t limited to the feet,” Dr. Surve explained. “It’s not unusual for people who spend lots of time in high heels to have low back, neck and shoulder pain because the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body." Quoted from: http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/womens-health/Pages/high-heels.aspx "Daily High Heel use over a number of years can actually lead to changes in your anatomy. Teetering on stilettos puts undue stress on the back and knees as the weight of the body shifts forward. Additionally, calve muscles can shorten and tendons may thicken. Spondylolisthesis, or the slippage of one vertebra forward over another, frequently occurs as a result of wearing high heels, especially in the lumbar region of the spine where the body's weight is concentrated." Excerpt from: http://www.thespinehealthinstitute.com/news-room/health-blog/how-high-heels-affect-your-body A study found "The continuous use of high heels tends to provoke venous hypertension in the lower limbs and may represent a causal factor of venous disease symptoms." From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22483354 These are just a few of the multitude of studies showing the health issues heels cause in the bones, spine, nervous system, circulatory system, and more. Let's not forget one of the most immediate concerns - the severe pain that wearing high heels can inflict on a woman, in just a few steps.
Three - It is discriminatory. Men are not asked to wear heels. Nor are they asked to wear an equivalent of footwear or gear that creates a more sexual appeal and at the same time seriously hinders both their health and the very core human function of walking. This is a case of gender-based discrimination.
Therefore, we need a law in place that specifies that no woman shall be forced to wear heels as a requirement for any job. That no dress code shall be discriminatory in its requirements for women, nor shall it impede neither the health nor the normal functioning of a human being.
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Special thanks to Nicola Thorp for being the trailblazer with her petition in London against workplace heel requirements, and Nicola Gavins for bringing attention to the discriminatory practices at her workplace in Canada with her viral bloody feet and heels photo, used here. Thanks to all the women and men everywhere who strive for equality amongst us all, together may we end discrimination!
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