Thursday, February 18, 2010

LadyMama Column: Head over Heels

Suri Cruise, the three-year-old daughter of celebrities Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, has been attracting media attention ever since spotted wearing high heels during casual outings with her mother. While shoe lines carrying all styles of heels and platforms for little girls have sprouted up over the past few years, there’s nothing like a celebrity to push a fad over the edge. Fashion-forward mothers are now scrambling for the perfect heels for their tiny tots, considering them a welcome addition to their daughters’ “cute” and “girly” wardrobe.
But many parents are divided as to whether the added inches are appropriate for their little ones, complaining that heels should be strictly "mommies only." The concern: that heels are forcing our already-quick-to-age children to follow trends and play a part that is years – no, centuries – beyond their age.
But what is so age-inappropriate about little girls wearing heels? Why has Suri’s wardrobe decision incited such controversy? What really irks parents who find the style out of line?
A lot is lost when we force kids to be ultra-conscious of the way they use exteriors to communicate their gender. Being calculated in their dress and mannerisms is something young kids are definably not about, and for good reason. The less they are concerned with their image, the more unbridled their expression will be, ensuring they have the self confidence to better tackle a peer-pressure world that is already making too many decisions for them. For little girls in particular, something as seemingly insignificant as a pair of heels can make all the difference.
Any honest woman knows the power of a good pair of Louboutins. By nature, heels are a tool for getting noticed and communicating womanliness. A successful heel will elongate and slim our appearance and force an altered stance that accentuates our womanliness. The added height puts us on a pedestal that promotes our feelings of confidence and power. A woman slips on her heels and is immediately highlighting all the right features and loudly pronouncing her femaleness. In her song “High Heels,” singer Keri Hilson says it best: “I hate high heels/love how they look/hate how they feel… Starting to think I shouldn't have worn these shoes/What's the price we pay/For looking this way.”
This is exactly the reason little girls get a kick out of trying on mommy’s heels, and not her sneakers or slippers. They inspire a uniquely feminine persona that does not fit in any other shoe. Little girls know that mommy wears heels when she wants to look extra pretty. They know that mommy walks a little differently with those added inches. They know that, in her heels, mommy is more womanly. When they play dress-up and gallivant around the house in mommy’s pointy-toed pumps, they are mimicking their mother’s character when she wears heels – a character they intrinsically know they must grow into. Mommy’s little girl understands she can’t wear heels simply by virtue of being born a female. Rather, it’s a right to be earned.
In other words, our daughters’ feminine self is a work in progress. So what happens when a young girl who is still developing and defining her girlhood starts to wear the confidence and womanliness of heels? We can label it “cute” and “girly” – but at what expense? How does a young girl defining herself understand that wearing heels is feminine, but doesn’t make you feminine?
Today, even the youngest minds are impressed with American culture’s idea of what makes a woman, leaving little room for young girls to build their own identity. Mothers who feel they are nurturing their daughter by allowing them to be “just like mommy” should put their heads over heels. By entitling our little girls to womanly privileges, we’re meddling in the vital process they need to nurture their girlhood and naturally segue into womanhood. Until our daughters actually have true self-awareness and femininity within, let’s keep heels in the dress-up box and encourage what has been truly “girly” until now – unabashed expression, charming innocence….and a good pair of Mary Janes.

1 LadyMama voices:

Rikki Lyampe said... [Reply to comment]

And what about piercing our little baby girl's ears which has become very normal these days. Do you think it falls into the same category as high heels? Should it remain as a rite-of-passage for girls as they grow and become women?