THE BLOG

Men In High Heels? I Won't Insist

26/04/2017 12:19 BST | Updated 26/04/2017 12:19 BST
RyanKing999 via Getty Images

Hard to know what to wear these days without causing offence. Burka? Not this season. Flats? Hmm. Tricky.

I'd like to think I might be the best judge of what suits me, the occasion or my faith. But apparently not: employers and politicians all seem to now feel a right to weigh in.

The Government has just decided it's perfectly fine to insist on high heels at work, and ministers feels no pressing need to call it out as pure sexism, and only mildly disguised.

What a shame, and particularly with women as Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Scotland's First Minister, that this perfect manifestation of everyday sexism is being permitted.

The Government seems to accept that the best judge of what I choose to wear will be a (usually male) stranger, (usually male) work colleague or (usually male) politician.

Like most women, I have lost count of the number of times throughout my working life when I have been expected to accept flattery from men for what I wear, or take tips on what I should not.

I still recall the male colleague who said that my black suede boots were inappropriate for a business meeting that we were both due to attend. Naturally, I made a point of wearing the boots to every subsequent meeting.

The continuing, and largely male, obsession with female dress comes despite the fact that women have rarely felt it necessary to comment on the often lamentable, lame or predictable gear that men produce for most occasions. But then we are not often allowed to be sexist.

Clothes seem to be one of the mercifully dwindling surrogates for men to still vent their need to be firmly in control. What with targets for promotion to company boards and gender gap salary reporting there is, indeed, little left.

Of course, as with all gender-based discrimination these days, the attack is subtle. Men, we are told, must also abide by dress codes. Happily for them this usually involves just one ensemble: suit and tie. Oh, and high heels. Only kidding.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Paul Nuttall, the leader of UKIP, has decided that wearing a face covering burka is so egregious that a ban is worth including in their election manifesto. I think we know the real reasons why it will be there and should deny the debate further oxygen. But it is worth noting as a further example of attire as attrition against women.

In my own experience, women are perfectly capable of choosing what is appropriate to wear, even without a faith component. And why wouldn't we be?

It is quite simple really, at least speaking for myself. I believe that I have an opportunity to stand out appropriately from all the 'suits', and dress accordingly. I enjoy wearing clothes and accessories that reflect my personality and individuality.I also keep in mind one other tip: Dress for the role you want, not the one you have.

But I also accept that clothes have an impact on perception, which is a simple fact of life and should be respected. But that is light years away from a major firm ruling that only high heels should be worn, with its uncomfortable sexualisation of a workplace role.

We ought to be past that nonsense. It is hard to escape the conclusion that a dress code insisting on a notoriously uncomfortable item of footwear is a barely sublimated put-down. Women need enlightened employers to raise their status, not their feet.