To understand power as being a state of consciousness, as represented through a commodity, the high heel shoe. Through science, as in biology using a woman’s egg and all forms of communication, from media through education that create society. And to take this concept and apply it to life and discuss how we are shaped by our culture and observe the consequences of that, power.
As a woman, when you buy a shoe, especially a high heel shoe, do you not experience a momentary thrill that mimics the sheer pleasure and excitement women feel when they slip on this licentious objet d’art, the high heel shoe? What you are not knowingly doing with this love affair, went not to an object but much deeper than that. Women are peeling back the layers of femininity and getting closer to the truth of their own sacred self, the seat of a woman’s human soul, her egg.
High heel shoes, the human soul and our eggs? Deep into this tiny cell, capable of letting us experience this sensation, that even the choice of buying a shoe, could be just biology, neatly wrapped up in thousands of years of human evolution, culture and mass media. This routine act embodies so much from the worlds of science, sociology and communication.
Let’s look at the egg and the sperm, not quite as we have always understood them but let’s take a new retrospective of that which is known into the unknown. We need to understand the way cultural content in scientific descriptions changes as biological discoveries unfold. The nature-nurture debate is over. Our DNA is more alike than differentiated that seeking out gender based genetics is redundant.
In the old days, the sperm penetrated the egg, wiggling itself into that place where the west was won. New views indicate that it’s the egg, causing the wiggling due to the death like grip that the egg has placed onto the head of the sperm. It makes one think of the black widow spider as she devours her mate. The egg is now seen to play a larger more aggressive role. Mimicry in our cultural stereotypes creates the femme fatale, the egg is the aggressor, who captures and tethers the male. Observe the provocative language, aggressor, tethers, and femme fatale and was it the sperm that was wiggling or was the sperm acting out a more uncelebrated move from the seducer, the egg, creating the wiggle. Is our female culture more powerful than we thought, until now? This deviates from a traditional perspective but as expressed by Deborah Brock, “The labeling of behavior or appearance as deviant will change over time, and will vary by place, revealing its social and historical construction.”
As per Stuart Hall, our femininity can be experienced as culture, “Culture we may say is involved with all practices that are not genetically programmed, but which carry meaning and value to us, which can be meaningfully interpreted, by others, culture in this sense permeates all of society, it’s what distinguishes the human element in social life, from what is biologically driven”. Our feminine culture, as represented in the high heels, was introduced in the1500s and the modern day stiletto (Italian for a small penetrating dagger) high heel evolved. The high heel, a dangerous seducer, focused the egg-sperm wiggle, moved it to the sway of the hips accentuated, now by the high-heel shoe. Yes, the stiletto, a slender heel, equated height with style arousing erectile images and sexual desire.
What power is evocated by this imagery, the heels, phallic shaped, provokes the males in our culture and this power moulds us. “We are always inside of power. To speak about power is to signal the existence of an enormous range of social beliefs, discourses and practices.”. Women wore high heels for self-gratification and heels gave them not only height but power and authority. “Communication is always linked with power.” claims Stuart Hall. Did the vertically and aesthetically challenged Catherine de Medici, (1519-1589) who later married the King of France, compensate for her lack of physical stature by adding heels to her shoes? That increase in height communicated her position of power and produced the known wiggle that charmed the French court and the nation In any regard, the high heeled shoe combines both the acts of penetration and seduction, through objectified symbolism. The common sense meaning of representation is to depict it as if it’s already there. I think there was a representation for sex by the high-heel shoe understood for hundreds of years.
Science once thought that the male sperm was the aggressor not the weak female egg and this thought was deemed as a prediction by Ludwig Fleck who established the self contained nature of scientific thought. A theory described as “the interaction between what is already known and what remains to be learnt and those who are to apprehend it, go to ensure harmony within the system but at the same time they also preserve the harmony of illusions, which is quite secure within the confines of a given thought cycle.”.
We live in a world that relates to us through language and cultural association. Where images represent words and the relationship between our cultural and personal gender based identity become blurred. Nowhere is it blurred, more than in our ideals of beauty, the high heels evoke sophistication, elegance and super – models and all things, beautiful. One purveyor of beauty is the magazine Cosmopolitan. Cosmo is printed in seventeen languages globally and offers its readers a glimpse in to a beautiful world that represents sexuality, success and glamour. A powerfully, seductive world that represents to women a sense of self esteem and dignity. This question, I found probing, how do cultural icons become represented in our society ? and “what does representation have to do with culture? What is the connection between them? Culture is about shared meanings. Language is the privileged medium, in which we make sense of stuff. In which meaning is produced and exchanged.”.
I’m using that privilege of making sense in which meaning is produced and exchanged. Our bodies communicate in strange and wonderful ways as we have seen. What if the cells themselves can communicate on an extraordinary level especially, the egg and sperm? The X chromosome is genetically androgynous belonging to both genders and that XY and XX chromosome, purported to create distinction was actually in perfect harmony as both had X’s involved, the mirroring of mutual predestined desire. The shoe (high heel) produces this wiggle that is a direct signal from deep within. Men and women both respond to it. Some men even prefer to wear woman’s shoes or appear in feminine garb. Some may say, that this is abnormal or transgender. The X already is transgender; it links both what is male to the female, and vice versa. As Mary Louise Adams has asked, “Why are the causes of Heterosexuality, not investigated?”. Is it a boy or a girl that wears a high heel? Did man misunderstand this communication and classify it as abnormal or deviant. Are our own body functions, deviant to the way, we perceive them to be? Apparently gender does not change, we are taught from cradle to grave, you are male or female but in reality we live in a world of multiple identities, of hybridity, of decenterdness and fragmentation. Illusions of class, gender, race and sexuality are being redefined to create a new normal.
Were women keeping themselves trapped by the paradigm of preserving the harmony of illusions? Women are foot fetishists; we wear this accessory to enhance our own sense of lust and power. Can one really make that distinction and remove biology from humanity? We experienced biology and developed a tool to enhance a biological function in the high heel. Are we not as human beings elevated through language to communicate not just about our own biology but how it reflects through the veneers of culture? Hall discusses this arousing process and I have chosen thematic vignettes of it to support my own observations. “Language is one of the media, through which thoughts, ideas and feelings are represented in a culture…. Culture is one of the most difficult concepts in the human and social sciences, and has many different ways of defining it…. Culture is said to embody, the best that has been thought and said, it is the sum of the greatest idea, represented in the classic works of literature, painting music and philosophy. It creates diversity of meaning. Culture is a set of practices. Participating in a culture gives it meaning, not the things themselves.”
Somewhere in our collective cultural history of recent wo-mankind, men translated, transcribed, debated, analyzed, allegorized life and all its meaning into rules. Rules as you know, the adage, are meant to be broken or changed. So who makes the rules, as Brock writes, “it depends on who you ask.”. The world is not flat, we do not live in some Dickens or Orwellian universe and social and cultural anthropology is still emerging. If language was static, we would not have the various meanings for the word, mouse nor would words such as bootylicious and fabulosity be coined. Both by the way were inserted into our cultural lingo by strong heel wearing icons of our time. We are active participants in our culture. Women are foot fetishists, enjoying power and status through the high heel.
What we have created is another link to our internal dialogue. Leah Hager Cohen, states it well, “Commodity fetishism is the habit of perceiving an object’s price, as something intrinsic to and fixed within that object. Something, emanating directly and vitally from the objects core, rather than the end result of a history of people, and their labor.”. This statement stimulates two things as related to my discussion. One we have fixed a high value on sex and then transferred it to the cost of high heel shoes. Repeating, an earlier premise regarding a woman’s need for self esteem and dignity to be reflected through acts of beauty and fashion. Taking things apart or recreating the sum of those parts, may have merit but only if it’s understood as real to a particular frame of reference.
The major problem I see is the issue of theories, dogma and related suffering to us all. And this is more of a gut wrenching thought. Did we get it all wrong? People globally lived their lives, they were not educated, they were just ordinary people, like you and I and yet, somehow in this book so full of knowledge, that suggests we live in an enlightened world, because it’s in black and white yet, over and over it was about rethinking theories, philosophy and facts. Gone are the days when it was perceived as being designed by God and thusly unchangeable. Then there is more to read about new thoughts, novel points and conflicting arguments, pro, con, indifferent, negligible etc. When does it end? “The state, the law, the social classes, are not sources of power, but rather the terminal point that power takes.”.
I find absolute authority appalling. I am the author of this piece, but the biggest mistake to me, is that humanity is now removed from humanity. The material I read represents humanity as in a culturally based society. It is clearly statically full of intersecting ideas but these ideas are not about all of us, only parts of us. It should not be just thought, or biology or communication, it should be about person hood. Humanity and please insert society and culture as the words are seemingly interchangeable as long as this privilege by people is a political concept, to keep the thinking about equality and equity incomplete. We, they, them are not I. I object and others classify the objection.
In conclusion, I wondered how many people suffered due to all these theories and opinion presented as facts. There is a cultural invisibility at work here, and it stems from those that constructed these theories and process ad infinitum. Richard Dyer hits the nail on its cultural head when he observes that people in general refer to white people. He refers to a large data base of research from books, museums, TV all reflect a common theme, whites are not only dominant but they are the human race. If one group, speaks for all and has spoken for all, for centuries then we as a culture are in a process of waking up. For not only did people suffer, women in particular suffered at the hands of these people. Image or imagination thought is it real or perceived? I will use my interpretation of cultural representation by Hall. He writes, “It is worth emphasizing, that there is no single or correct answer to the question, what does this image mean?”. I mean by image, words, theories, speculated facts that create mental images that are more permanent than the ads, Hall was referring to. He is correct that akin to an image, thought and meanings will change over time and that many things in life are interpretations of who is right and who is wrong? So back to my question, did we get it right or wrong? Whose life, are we truly living, ours by choice, ours by our nature or ours by societal design. By image or imagination? By IQ or paradigm? By race, culture or gender?
I choose to live within the cultural context that I have absorbed and allow myself to be redefined when alternative choices make that appropriate. To take everything that is, considered power and allow myself to participate in culture, be it from within or as partner with society.
Christopher De Caermichael
The Power of IMAGE