Empowering or demeaning? Cannes Film Festival enrages feminists, stirs up heels debate

With last week’s backlash against the Cannes Film Festival for allegedly turning away women in flat shoes, a flurry of opinions has been unleashed.

Though a spokesperson for the Festival said heel height is not mentioned in their dress code, reports of some women not being allowed in to the red carpet event because of their lack of heels sparked outrage on social media last week.

The UK’s Daily Mail asked if it is time to “kick off the tyranny of high heels” as some of its writers took to the debate.

The Mail’s Janet Street-Porter called the Cannes ban ludicrous, adding that sensible shoes have become high fashion with designers like Chanel, Lagerfeld and Prada bedazzling their flat footwear.

Arguing that high heels are “demeaning and desperate,” Street-Porter claims they “were designed by men to keep women in their place. They turn us into subservient beings, less able to run and defend ourselves.

These objects don’t empower women.”

“Cannes Film Festival says the industry needs to take women seriously,” she continued. “But forcing heels is conforming to an outdated stereotype of femininity.”

Fashion writer Catherine Ostler disagrees, writing in the Mail that Cannes “is a showbiz festival, not a plumbers’ convention. Keep the heels, keep the gowns, and keep the glitzy fantasy.”

Though she thinks heel size should be practical, she finds it “peculiarly petty that a storm has blown up over the most mundane part of the whole get-up: the footwear.”

The shoe is on the other foot for 61-year-old Jilly Johnson, who wouldn’t dream of NOT wearing high heels, which she calls “one of man’s most beautiful creations.”
The columnist, who is a grandmother, asks “ Who cares if they aren’t comfortable? Sometimes you have to suffer to look good.”

And in a comment that will send feminists over the edge, she adds “Heels are heaven sent. They psychologically and physically empower you.”

Daily Mail columnist Libby Purves feels wearing heels should be a choice “But why should anyone be forced to walk on tiptoe?”
And she sums up the entire footwear debate with a dose of reality.

“I love the Cannes film festival,” she writes. “Every year there’s a new imbecility, which gives pleasure as I don’t have to go so can laugh my head off at poor devils who do. After all, it is designed more around glamorous nonsense than respecting art.”

Frieda Powers

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