The High Price of High Heels: How Women’s Fashion is an Agent of Patriarchal Control

Class Year


Access Type

Archival Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Sociology Department

First Advisor

Pinar Batur


Women have made great strides over the past century gaining rights and achieving inclusion throughout much of American society but it is widely accepted that women still experience marginalization in what remains a patriarchal society. Some women feel that high heels give them a sense of power and competitiveness or advantage, particularly in traditionally male dominated arenas, to prove their merit. I argue instead that high heels are a threat to women’s rights, objectifying, degrading and subjugating women into objects of men’s fancy, while crippling them physically and symbolically in a system where their worth is determined by their appearance. Associations between traditional Chinese foot binding and modern high heels provide insight into the systematic patriarchal controls that still exist. I examine changes in women’s rights and feminist thoughts particularly in the midst of the current individualistic nature of our society and how we might proceed from here to break the patriarchal cycle of domination.

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