Friday, 1 October 2010

What's wrong with modern Britain

One of the many things I may never understand is the female obsession with shoes. I don't think I'm the only man who is puzzled by this.

A few months ago, two of my male friends, both retired Professors, showed me a job-advert in the Guardian for a post-doctoral Senior Research Fellow to work in a British University to study the sociology of women's shoes. The advert was couched in the unique impenetrable jargon of sociologists, but so far as we could gather the intention of this 3 year project was to "explore issues of embodiment using focus groups to look at things through the lens of footwear". Glass slippers maybe? Clearly a burning issue.

The plan appeared to be for the Research Fellow to accompany women on shopping trips, making video-recordings of them choosing and wearing their shoes, asking them to take photographs of their shoe-collection, and "keep a diary of their shoe experiences". The Fellow would also carry out three qualitative interviews with each of the women to explore the part that shoes play in their everyday lives, how old shoes bring back memories of past experiences, how buying, storing and wearing shoes contributes to women's sense of who they are, and "what they are all about".

My two friends and I guffawed at this, even though it was sad to think that money was being spent in this way when sensible science departments were being closed down for lack of funds.

We were so amused by this advert that we decided that, since we all had doctorates and had a long experience of writing research grant applications, we should all three of us apply for the post, using fictitious female names. We felt confident that we could provide what they seemed to be looking for, namely enthusiasm, obscurantism, flannel, and verbosity. The hope was that we would all get as far as the interview stage, and then we would each turn up for the interview in drag, wearing wigs and refusing to give our age, gender,or sexual orientation, as is politically correct. We had great fun trying to envisage the expressions on the faces of the interviewing panel as the three 'lady' candidates minced in, one after the other, on improbably high heels, of the type which I believe a certain Ms. Greer described as F**k-Me shoes. Even if one of us was offered the post, the other two could then complain they were turned down because of the panel's institutional ageism, sexism or homophobia. Should look good in the newspapers!

We never did it of course, partly because of the sheer amount of dreary paperwork involved in filling in modern application forms, and partly because so many women we told of our plan said "No, this is a great research idea, its very important to us women". Really?

I'd almost forgotten all about it until I noticed a newspaper article on Sept. 22nd reporting the results of an entirely different research project from Northumbria University which had studied men's reaction to women in high-heels. I don't know how long the research took or what it cost, but they discovered that, wait for it... men don't notice what shoes women are wearing.

Of course they don't, you dimwits, they never get that far down.

No wonder the country's going to the dogs!


  1. My better half does a good impersonation of Imelda Marcos. There are so many shoes in this house, you can't open a cupboard without them falling on your head.

  2. Legend-a common problem but the advice in Sunday's Post,3.10.10 (Looking good) might help...if you're brave enough!