Here we go again! At a premier in Cannes a day or so ago, a number of women were refused entry via the red carpet because they were not wearing high heels. This, of course, has caused the expected howls of outrage around the theme of sexism and gender discrimination. I actually agree with the several commentators, and de-carpeted women, who tell us that high heels are uncomfortable, useless and potentially bad for the health (very bad, if you fall off them). I agree, too, that it is ridiculous to make them compulsory.
However, are women treated in an unfair or discriminatory manner compared to men? Not at all. Exactly the same rules that prevent a woman from flat-footed access to the red carpet, also force a man to use the side-door unless he is wearing the male uniform of a suit and tie. No-one can possibly complain about the sheer, bloody-minded uselessness of high heels without complaining equally loudly about the sheer, bloody-minded uselessness of the tie. High heels vie with the tie for the title of most useless, unnecessary and uncomfortable fashion accessory. The big difference, of course, is that it very unusual for a woman to be forced to wear high heels, most do it by choice. The opposite is true of ties: most men don’t wear them unless they are obliged to do so. It is a sad reflection on the efficacy of our so-called gender equality laws that very many men are still forced to wear them to work on a daily basis, whether they want to or not. Ties, for men only of course, remain the only obligatory item of clothing in many workplaces.
What it boils down to is that forcing a man to dress in a certain way is called “maintaining standards”, forcing a woman to dress in a certain way is called “sexism”.
So come on, writers, critics and commentators, let’s have some balance! If you are going to complain magna voce about this tiny number of elegant women forced to wear high heels for a special occasion, please spare at least a whisper for the much, much greater number of unwilling men forced to wear a tie on a daily basis.
Remember that gender discrimination is not only in the eyes of the beholder, but can also be around the neck of the victim.