November 27th, 2012

Cutting off your toes to spike your feet

I doubt the practice is very popular. I certainly hope it’s not very popular. But it seems that some women are actually having their pinkie toes amputated, or having other toes shortened, in order to fit more easily and painlessly into stiletto high heels.

There’s a long tradition of severely or slightly altering the human body for fashion or other custom and belief, sometimes done by and to women (foot binding, female genital mutilation), or by and to males (circumcision), as well as unisex practices (lip, ear, and neck stretching; tattooing and scarification).

You might think we can do quite nicely without a pinkie toe. And it seems we can. But ugh! And you may be as surprised as I was to discover that the practice of removing the pinkie toe because of problems with offending footgear didn’t originate recently with women and stilettos:

Believe it or not in the old days in the National Football League certain players would get very painful corns on their fifth toes and instead of having pain or a potential wound-from all the action and the toe rubbing on rock-hard shoes-a small amount of players would have their 5th toes amputated.

I’ve never been able to wear stilettos even when I was young—too painful—and high heels have gotten even higher since then. Now it’s out of the question for me, although when the occasion’s right I still get out some of my regular high heels, slam them on my feet, and manage to walk around for the evening without too many difficulties.

Toe amputation in order to wear stilettos is such an extreme act that it reminds me of nothing less than the old Grimm version of “Cinderella.” If you’re only familiar with the sanitized one, let me just say that the original Grimms earned their surname honestly:

The King’s son picked it [the shoe Cinderella had left behind] up, and it was small and dainty, and all golden. Next morning, he went with it to the father, and said to him, “No one shall be my wife but she whose foot this golden slipper fits.” Then were the two sisters glad, for they had pretty feet. The eldest went with the shoe into her room and wanted to try it on, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her big toe into it, and the shoe was too small for her. Then her mother gave her a knife and said, “Cut the toe off; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot.” The maiden cut the toe off, forced the foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King’s son. Then he took her on his his horse as his bride and rode away with her. They were, however, obliged to pass the grave, and there, on the hazel-tree, sat the two pigeons and cried,

“Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There’s blood within the shoe,
The shoe it is too small for her,
The true bride waits for you.”

Then he looked at her foot and saw how the blood was streaming from it. He turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, and said she was not the true one, and that the other sister was to put the shoe on. Then this one went into her chamber and got her toes safely into the shoe, but her heel was too large. So her mother gave her a knife and said, “Cut a bit off thy heel; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot.” The maiden cut a bit off her heel, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King’s son. He took her on his horse as his bride, and rode away with her, but when they passed by the hazel-tree, two little pigeons sat on it and cried,

“Turn and peep, turn and peep,
There’s blood within the shoe
The shoe it is too small for her,
The true bride waits for you.”

He looked down at her foot and saw how the blood was running out of her shoe, and how it had stained her white stocking. Then he turned his horse and took the false bride home again. “This also is not the right one,” said he, “have you no other daughter?”

And yes, I’m aware there’s lots of symbolic sexual stuff in “Cinderella” and many other Grimm stories, but I’ll leave it at that.

14 Responses to “Cutting off your toes to spike your feet”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Add to the list tongue splitting or forking

    Never underestimate the degree to which humans can exhibit simple stupidity or how deep the insecurity of some human beings extends.

  2. Charles Says:

    Ha! I’m so seeing an anti-Obama message in that original Cinderella story.

    American voters, cut off your toes to fit into Obama’s New American Order – one size fits all. It not, we’ll make it fit, you might have to bleed, but what’s a little pain for all that Obama promises us.

  3. Artfldgr Says:

    isnt feminism wonderful? its a race to the bottom, lets see who wins…

  4. roc scssrs Says:

    Obviously, this post is about baseball. Curt Schilling’s Bloody Sock is never far from the mind of a Red Sox fan.

  5. vanderleun Says:

    Just more of the mindless drones need to maim and afflict their outsides so we can see and be warned about their insides.

  6. parker Says:

    Now if we could only find a way to make frontal lobotomies seem hip……

  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    roc scssrs,

    Nope, not the same at all. Even Yankee fans secretly admire Curt Schilling’s Bloody Sock…

  8. Barry Says:

    Well, if we’re talking about baseball here, someone should mention the winners of two of the last three World Series: my San Francisco Giants.

  9. ziontruth Says:

    I thought this post would be about the Republican party drawing their platform closer to the Dems on every issue so as to become “more electable.”

  10. waltj Says:

    This takes being a slave to fashion to a whole new level. But as the Grimm story shows, it’s nothing new. Go to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, or any other museum that displays clothing from several hundred years ago, and you’ll see shoes that bear no resemblance to the contours of the human foot. And these are mostly, but not entirely, women’s shoes, worn exclusively by people from the higher socioeconomic groups.

  11. MissJean Says:

    Art, that’s not “feminism.” Remember that “feminists” advocated menswear, throwing out razors, etc. Rather, these appear to be that weird group of women who think that they must do whatever it takes to intrigue (or keep) their man. (I use the quotes because to me the real feminists were the suffragists and the ones who fought for equality of property rights and pay, not the ones who defined marriage as concentration camp or men as bicycles for fish.)

    Neo, did you ever hear about the great opera singer Maria Callas swallowing a tapeworm to lose weight to please her lover? I never knew if that story was true, but I heard it as a little girl, used as a cautionary tale against altering oneself to please a fickle man (the resultant ill effects included damage to her voice).

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    MissJean: yes, I did hear that about Callas. No idea whether it was true. But she did become basically anorexic in order to get glamorous.

    As for whether this toe-cutting thing is feminism, you are certainly correct that the feminist line (especially back in the 60s and 70s) was naturalism and doing away with artifice. However, many feminists ultimately ended up defending stuff like prostitution and stripping (“sex workers”) and isn’t it strange that today’s women, who pretty much think of themselves as “liberated,” are so keen on wearing these stiletto heels, whether they cut off their toes or not? Artifice and the felt need for more and more perfection in looks (weight, makeup, big breast, etc.) have only increased, not decreased.

  13. MissJean Says:

    Neo, I think that “sexually liberated” translates as reducing women to free-range chickens. Many don’t know the difference between a farmer and a fox, as long as he’s male!

    I’ll say right off the bat that I don’t cotton to co-habitation before marriage, let alone shacking up for a decade and then getting married (and don’t get me started on those who have detailed gift registries for the event). So I find it hard to pity men who invite gold-diggers into their homes and get burned, and I’m amazed at how many women now are letting a shiftless man (usually younger than they) move into their home. At least a worker can help pay the bills or, if he’s lost his job, he’s not adverse to keeping busy around the place until he finds one. Same goes for a woman who will work.

    I have an acquaintance who was talking about how she nearly had to have her ex-lover served with eviction notices to get him out of her house; my cousin remarked that he had a girlfriend like that, too – but he did that when he was young and stupid (and girlfriend was the same age and equally stupid.

    Sorry, I’m ranting. Sometimes I feel like that old MadTV skit with the therapist whose only advice to the woman choosing bad men was “Stop that!”

  14. MissJean Says:

    As an aside: It seems to me that young men are often sucked into the perfection trap more than they used to be, as well. I have met weight-lifters who have great definition in their arms and legs, but they’re obsessed about stretch marks (not even bad ones). Good Lord! They’re gorgeous!

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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