I am in awe of this National Youth Commission campaign In Her Shoes because it is so wrong, so offensive, so sexist, and is being sold to us by the male commissioners, including actor Dingdong Dantes in bright red high heels.
Oh yes, at 1;27AM on March 12, I have the privilege of seeing him on 9News, in a replay of Pia Hontiveros’s News.Ph show. He and NYC commissioner Perci Cendaña have brought the heels they’ve been wearing for this campaign; Hontiveros has them put it on the table (lest we don’t believe these shoes to exist?), and even has the two guests put a shoe on. She then asks them: so how does it feel?
I’d like to give Hontiveros the benefit of the doubt and imagine that I heard some sarcasm in her voice. I could of course be mistaken.
This campaign though, this campaign that imagines that the valid symbol for woman power is a high-heeled shoe — this is absolutely a mistake.Cendaña asserts that they needed to be creative about sending this message of equality for women and women empowerment, and that having men walk in high heels is a symbolic act that encourages empathy. Dantes says that it is merely a start, and that it’s what happens after that is important.
Well, if what happens after was so important, then shouldn’t they have thought of that instead of wasting time looking for large-sized heels for their feet? Because you know they actually spent cash on these heels. How’s that for a waste of money and time?
Will a man wearing high heeled shoes for an hour or two mean any understanding at all of the daily plight of women in this country? Will this “fun walk” in heels force a man to think about his attitudes and biases against women? Will a pair of wedges or stilettos change a man’s mind about the role his mother or his wife plays in the home? Will it make him think, ah, how difficult a life the women in my life are living, playing multiple roles, and living with oppressive expectations, whatever shoes they might be wearing?
The answer is no. And neither will men walking in high heels for a kilometer or ten be equal to empathy. Whatever it is that these NYC commissioners were imagining about this campaign, they are absolutely delusional about it. One wonders if they even realize how ironic it is that the NYC’s commissioners speaking about these are men. One is gay but apparently that doesn’t matter in this case.
Because high heels as symbol for Pinay power — as with the NYC’s logo for the campaign — was just badly conceptualized. Because the high heels, especially in a country like the Philippines, reeks of class difference and violence, as it does stand for the difficult expectations on our women. Who wears high heels in this country? And so if men are taught empathy by the act of wearing these shoes, wouldn’t that mean only feeling for a certain kind of Filipina?
This is why it is such a wrong symbol, both for woman power, and for the campaign for gender equality and empathy. It’s why things became more and more absurd as this interview with Hontiveros continued.
Because Dantes actually thought that his difficult with balancing in high heels was metaphor for something deeper: “Women all over are expected to have that balance.”
Cendaña took it too far when he said that they would tell the men who were about to walk in high heels: “When you step into those shoes, treat it like you’re stepping into the shoes of this woman — a mother trying to balance her family life and her career or a woman who is a victim of domestic violence but still she chooses to stay with her husband for the sake of their children.”
ANO RAW?!? How are these connections even possible? Only someone who does not suffer these injustices would even think this true, or valid.
If this is the depth of empathy that the NYC had hoped to achieve with this campaign, then they are actually trivializing what our women go through. The struggles and difficulties, the oppression and violence.
This is not just sexist and unjust, it’s also ultimately dangerous.
Please. Make them stop. Because the Pinay deserves better than this. At least once a year, and on Women’s Month, we deserve better.