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MADDEAUX: Heel crisis over! Now tackle real issues

Sabrina Maddeaux says that now we've solved the great high heel crisis, maybe the government could get on with something a little more substantive.

Sabrina Maddeaux says that now we've solved the great high heel crisis, maybe the government could get on with something a little more substantive.


High heels are the bane of many a woman's existence. Even the most dignified among us can recall at least one occasion where the pain from being stuffed into tiny (but oh-so-pretty) foot coffins led us to hobble home barefoot, shoes in hand. Many women also consider them a source of power.

Whether one considers stilettos torture chambers or beloved companions, we should all be able to agree on one thing: no one should be forced to wear them.

This isn't a new sentiment.

For years now, it's been not only uncouth but also illegal in Canada. According to human rights codes across the country, it's illegal for employers to have gender-specific dress codes.

Despite this, a new Ontario bill backed by a Liberal MP wants to make the redundant point of banning employers in the province from requiring women to wear high heels at work. Specifically, the bill targets "unsafe footwear" from being part of a uniform or dress code.

Not only is this bill unnecessary, it's wasting valuable time, effort and resources that could be put to better use.

Of course, there are some employers who flout current human rights codes and social norms- there always are. And bloody feet make for great sensational news hits. Workplaces caught forcing female employees to suffer through shifts in heels swiftly suffer an unforgiving PR crisis that leads to immediate self-correction and poses as a warning to others.

The reality is, there are very few women forced to wear heels these days.

Note, I say "forced." There is a fine, but significant difference between forcing someone to do something and creating a culture where certain behaviours become expected. Unfortunately, you can't fight the latter problem with a new law. That is a much more complex issue that deals with the sexualization and commodification of women.

Instead of combatting an avalanche of negative press with a headline-grabbing heels ban that amounts to little more than a PR stunt, the government should step up and tackle tough issues that still plague women. Some examples include income disparity, reporting and securing convictions in sexual harassment and assault cases, and the severe lack of affordable childcare that keeps many women out of the workforce. How about access to affordable birth control and mental health care for conditions like anxiety and depression that are much more common in women? The list goes on from there.

Unfortunately for women, these are much more prickly and potentially divisive issues to tackle. And the last thing the government wants right now is more controversy. It appears they'd much rather play it safe and put on a show of supporting women while maintaining the status quo.

Want to read more from Sabrina? Follow her on Twitter @SabrinaMaddeaux