Fractured Fairy Tales – and Ankles…

We have a collective case of Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to high heels.

They hold us captive. We suffer decades of torture. It’s a form of traumatic bonding.

Yet despite our bad backs, twisted ankles and painful bunions, we’re wedded to them. (In an Anglican, submissive kind of way.)

They’re modern day foot binding, rendering us lame.

The feminists of the 60s who cried, “Liberate the captive foot of womanhood”, have been replaced by the Gen Ys who equate elevation with “girl power”.

The issue was brought into stilettoed focus yesterday by two seemingly unrelated events: A speech by the Prime Minister and a visit to the physiotherapist.

Julia Gillard was walking onto the stage at Customs House to launch a cyber safety initiative, when one of her shoes slipped off.

As a male guest helped her put it back on, she said it was another “Cinderella moment” after she shed a shoe being bundled out of a Canberra restaurant during a protest.

This is where the fairy tale is fractured.

Yesterday’s Nielsen poll is somewhat of a Cinderella story, showing a swing back to Labor.

Then Prince Charming – in the unlikely guise of John Howard – gave the PM a gift: a phoenix, riding from the ashes of WorkChoices.

Normally, journalists would doorstop the Prime Minister to ask about stories like these.

But there was no Fairy Godmother.

Instead, News Ltd and Fairfax ran Australian Associated Press pieces on their websites featuring the Cinderella moment, complete with a titillating glimpse of toe cleavage.

It’s a “sexy story”, as we say in the media.

But a Tony Abbott speech would never be overshadowed by comparisons with Popeye.

Nor would the clothing of a male Education Minister be subject to debate, as it was for South Australia’s Grace Portolesi during the leather skirt affair.

But who’s the real villain of this Disney tale?

Is it the media, judging women by what they wear?

Is it men, expecting us to dress in a certain way?

Or is it us, for buying in to the feminine mystique?

As I writhe in agony on the physiotherapist’s table, I blame myself.

Why am I such a vain fool, hobbling around in skyscraper heels like a 45-year-old Lady Gaga?

Do I really believe the extra centimetres on my legs will detract attention from my middle-aged spread?

And what happened to the woman who wrote this in the Sunday Telegraph, the day after clearing out her torture chamber?

(Of course, the whip and fishnets remain.)

I live every day with low level neck and back pain, caused by vicious vertiginous heels.

Like the Prime Minister, I’ve suffered the indignity of my footwear detracting from my message.

During a financial services convention, a twitter feed about my interview with economist Robert B. Reich kicked off with, “Nice shoes, Trace. Where did you get them?”

Instead of being offended I was flattered.

Obviously, my too-small shoes were restricting blood flow to the brain.

Seriously, why do we do it to ourselves?

As the author Sue Grafton wrote, “If high heels are so wonderful, men would be wearing them”.

I’m not suggesting the PM should be confined to flats.

She can wear whatever she bl*#dy well likes.

But I think we should step back and take a good look at our shoe shelves.

Is Manolo Blahnik into bondage? Patty Hearst the new face of Jimmy Cho? Versace covertly working for the CIA?

Then look in the mirror and ask: Are they empowering or enslaving us?