Remember Hoping That Toe Removal For More Tolerable High Heel Wearage Was An Urban Legend?

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In her essay Sex and the Stepford Wife, Katha Pollitt asked:

… if women are free to be whatever they want, why are they still so obsessed with fitting narrow and rigid definitions of beauty? Feminism was supposed to send those to the trash can along with girdles and white gloves. Who would have thought in 1975 that thirty years later women would be tottering about in excruciating shoes–and having their little toes cut off to fit into them?

Pollitt was referencing this NYT Op-Ed where Catherine Orenstein wrote: “Along with collagen implants and Botox, summer beauty treatments now include toe-shortening and even pinky-toe removal — the better to fit into pointy shoes.”   How I hoped that was hyperbole. But today I read this excerpt from an interview with a plastic surgeon:

Along with the old favourites, such as tummy tucks, facelifts and nose jobs, Lewis’s book also features more unusual surgeries such as vaginal trimming. This reflects the fact that as cosmetic surgery becomes more and more popular, the range of surgeries increases, as does the range of body parts that we are meant to worry about. For instance, last week came news of the belly button “nip and tuck”, (umbilicoplasty) the latest offering for women wishing to expose a perfect midriff.

Toe removal also features in Lewis’s book. The growth of this procedure is apparently the result of the popularity of expensive designer heels. Second and third toes that poke out beyond the big toe can be shortened, and crooked fourth and fifth toes can be straightened out. The operation involves cutting a piece of bone out of the joint and reattaching the tendon. Another option is the removal of the baby toe to make pointed shoes more comfortable. Like all surgery, this procedure carries a risk of lifelong pain and disablement.

Interview link via the f-word. Hard to believe that women go to this extreme, but apparently some do, even though they must realize that eventually pointed shoes will be “out.” Something is really wrong here. As Echidne asked:

What is it about the society that makes some women willing to have amputations for the sake of shoes? Is it something similar to what caused the footbinding in ancient China? And if it is, what can we learn about the way the societal norms work on women?

–Ann Bartow

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