Julia Roberts barefoot at Cannes

The week we abandoned high heels and Julia Roberts went barefoot at Cannes

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Wear heels, wear flats – or, make like Julia, and go barefoot 

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By Lynn Enright on

The week commencing May 9. A week in early summer when we worried about the BBC, and thought about taking the barbecue out of the shed. A week when the debate about what women should wear on their feet rattled on. A week when we suddenly thought, “Hang on, we’re having a DEBATE about what women should wear on their feet.” A week when Julia Roberts was a barefoot vision of brilliance on the red carpet at Cannes. It was a week when we finally called BS on high heels! 

For years, we had struggled on, accepting heels as an uncomfortable but inevitable part of life. Because we kind of *had* to wear them, didn’t we? If we wanted to look smart, at the office or at an evening do, then heels were a necessity, weren’t they? Even if they hurt our feet or hindered our movements or permanently damaged the muscles in our legs… Heels were just one of those rubbish things about being a woman, much like day-two heavy-flow periods… Except, actually, heels aren’t an inescapable biological function… And if employers or movie-industry event organisers try to force us to wear them, we can revolt.

I’m not a geisha, I’m a receptionist, and I can do my job as well, maybe better, if my feet aren’t squished into an uncomfortable, unnatural arch

The heels conversation kicked off this week when Nicola Thorp, a London temp, started a petition after she was sent home without pay from her role as a corporate receptionist for not wearing high heels. Within a few days, the petition – which calls for the government to “make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work” – had garnered more than 120,000 signatures; 120,000 women saying, “I’m not a geisha, I’m a receptionist or an accountant or a lawyer or a public relations executive or a shop assistant, and I can do my job as well, maybe better, if my feet aren’t squished into an uncomfortable, unnatural arch.” 

Then, yesterday, Julia Roberts lent the movement Hollywood approval by turning up to the Cannes premiere of Money Monster barefoot. (Well, she arrived at the event in massive black platforms, but quickly abandoned them.) Perhaps she had read about Nicola Thorp, perhaps she was inspired by the DGAF attitude of leather-jacket-wearing Oscar winner Jenny Beavan, perhaps she was referencing the Cannes flat-shoes debate of 2015, or perhaps she was just really uncomfortable… But, for whatever reason, she chose to kick off her heels, neatly showing up the pretty ridiculous beauty standards women are expected to adhere to. 

Of course you can wear heels if you want to, but you can also, as of the week commencing May 9, think hard about whether you want to or not, signing a petition to challenge their mandatory nature in the workplace, and saluting Julia Roberts and her brilliant bare feet.  

@lynnenright 

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Tagged in:
Julia Roberts
women at work
women in film
shoes
Sexism

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