A tribute to Isis, Aimee Mullins, and great shoes

Last night, I dreamed that I had a closet full of seriously amazing shoes, from strappy stilettos to lace-up boots. When I awoke and remembered that my closet is actually full of uncomfortable work pumps and trail runners, I was disappointed. But I knew who to blame for my dream: Isis!

Ever since Isis arrived at Scienceblogs, I've been meaning to post something about shoes. When our resident domestic and laboratory goddess saved me a couple hours of driving to and from the office on Saturday by emailing me a journal article I'd forgotten, I promised to write her a thank-you post all about shoes. Have I done so? No. Because all of a sudden, my shoes don't seem amazing enough. Work pumps and trail runners like these just don't cut it in Isis' world.

Nevertheless, I knew my shoe dream was a sign of a guilty conscience. So I figured I'd blog about the shoes I wish I had. Starting with these:

Coppelia Pique stilettos, photo by Andy Julia
Via Haute Macabre

Now, where would I wear these lacy, lethal confections? NOWHERE! They look horribly uncomfortable! But I still want them. Why? I have no idea! I wish NIH would fund research on the origins of my barely controllable desire for boots like these:

Versace also via Haute Macabre

Of course I don't own those. I'd look ridiculous in them. Nor do I own these anatomical Keds. But I do own these:

Carlos Santana, "Starlet"

The last time I wore them, a random person on the street called me "la Diabla." Seriously.

While shoes can be fun and frivolous and way too expensive, they can also be empowering. Check out these handcarved wooden beauties:


Those aren't just boots - they're legs: handcarved wooden prosthetic legs, one of a dozen different pairs made for athlete Aimee Mullins. Mullins loves having legs that kids want to run over and touch and explore, that make her 6'1" instead of 5'8", that help her run faster and jump higher, and that are just plain beautiful. As she said in her recent TED talk,

Poetry is what elevates the banal and neglected object to the realm of art; it can transform the thing that might have made people fearful into something that invites them to look and look a little longer. . . my legs could be wearable sculpture.

Watch Mullins own the stage, taking something that some people find less than empowering - sexy and often impractical shoes - and transforming them into a very practical means for her to transcend her disability while simultaneously re-examining what is "beautiful":

TED talk by Aimee Mullins found via Bottled Monsters

I think this talk is fabulous. Mullins is articulate and stunning. Instead of letting her double amputation diminish her confidence in herself and limit her options, she is proactively reimagining herself as a superathlete, a 6'1" diva in stiletto heels, a cheetah, or anything else she wants.

What does a beautiful woman look like? What is a sexy body? And what does it mean to have a disability? I mean, people, Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do; nobody calls her disabled.

Interestingly, if you read the comments on Mullins' talk, some people criticize her for buying into traditional fashion standards. Apparently, they think it would somehow be more appropriate/empowering for her to wear unattractive prosthetic legs that don't fit in a hot pair of heels. What? How does that make any sense? When I saw those comments, they reminded me of the criticisms Isis sometimes gets for blogging so much about shoes - the implication being that some people would take her more seriously as a scientist if she wasn't so, well, fashionable.

Why do people think respect/power is mutually exclusive with aesthetics/fashion?

In our society, being a professional female is a difficult balance. You're expected to spend a fair bit of time on your appearance (manicures, hairstyling, cosmetics, etc.), but not so much time that you appear vain or shallow. You're expected to be attractive, but not too sexy, because that would be inappropriate and distracting to your male coworkers. Regardless, you're judged by others on your appearance all the time, whether you like it or not (if you haven't already read what Sheril has to say on this subject, time to go visit the Intersection and see the discussion in the comments there). Unfortunately, our society sometimes has a hard time reconciling the frivolous, hawt, shoe-loving facets of a woman's personality - which she has every right to have - with the competitive, intellectual facets. I like to think that every post by Isis is chipping away at that barrier, so we can all dream of really great shoes and great careers.

You go, goddess!

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Vive la difference, as the French say! As for shoes, I have a serviceable pair of walking shoes I wear every day and a pair of high-top work boots. So what's the male equivalent of womens' desire for fancy shoes? Vehicles? Guns? I'm just curious...

Perhaps this outs me as a geek among geeks, but my male friends tend to covet things like video games and tech toys. (Guns and vehicles, after all, are tech toys too). To make a gross generalization, I think the male equivalent of Manolo Blahniks would probably be tiny sportscars: pretty, useful only under limited circumstances, and grossly overpriced.

(My boyfriend suggests the Tesla Roadster. I have no idea what that is. My boyfriend's dad, on the other hand, suggests power tools - but I want power tools too, so that can't be a gender thing).

I love the Starlets, this post, and I'm totally going to be referring to you as 'la Diabla de Scienceblogs' from now on. The title suits our growing cult nicely!

Those red ones take my breath away. YOWZA. absolutely stunning.

Since I have arthritis in my back and my feet, I tend to prefer to wear my comfy hiking sandals -- even sometimes in winter. I can only appreciate totally hot shoes on a purely aesthetic level. However, if I had a gazillion dollars, I'd probably spend about half on extremely expensive perfume. And about forty rose bushes -- but only ones that have won awards for FRAGRANCE!

La diabla, indeed, hermosa mia!

BioE, I want you to know that I adore this and that I absolutely adore you! These things need not always be practical. I see them as art and love them for that reason alone. Why shoes? Who knows, but I don't care either.

But I am amazed at your willpower. If I had those red shoes I would never leave the house. I would spend ever moment of ever day curled up, stroking them, and whispering "my precious."