Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Many more words are extinct than those we get to read

I'm starting a new human evolution book project. Technically I've already started it but I've got the greenlight from my agent so it's for real. 

So much writing, at least for me, is just exploratory, organizational vomit that I never times infinity wish to see on the printed page. 

But, here, let me show you my vomit from this morning:

High heels are sexy because they change a woman’s posture so that her boobs and butt stick out and that’s attractive because boobs and butts and because waist hip ratio. 

Wait, no, they’re sexy because they make a person taller and taller is universally attractive. 

What if they’re a handicap or a fitness indicator like a risky bird call or a peacock’s tail? The hampered, painful locomotion signals to potential mates how badass the high heel wearer is. “We will have badass kids!” say high heels. 


Or they keep women from being able to escape too quickly if ambushed by aroused men, but that’s too macabre for me to consider further and pisses me off. 

How about, they’re sexy because we decided they are. Culture is weird and powerful: neck lengthening rings, circumcision, Taco Bell. 

Or they’re sexy because they make a woman’s feet look small for her height and this is sexy because … Fibonacci? (Must do calculations.) I don’t know. "Hold me closer tiny footed," isn’t how the song goes. 

But, wait, high heels change a woman’s locomotion. Women who walk in them have an exaggerated female-stereotyped gait. Ask those biomechanists who said so. That’s why heels are sexy, then, they heighten femininity and project its signal further out across the savannah, and into the gaze of more men for longer in each of their numerous salivating minds. 

But why are swinging hips sexy? Because they’re opposite of a man’s? 

But there’s something else that heels do to gait. They make a person unstable, careful, as if they're just learning to walk. One slips into those torture slippers and they're suddenly precious, adorable, in need of rapt attention. Like a toddler, walking for the very first time. 

The idea’s out there, somewhere, that heels make a woman helpless and that’s attractive to men who want to rescue women. This toddler idea is just a fraction of a degree away from that one. Is male attraction to helpless women the same thing that drives them to be doting fathers? Gawd. If that’s true, that means I shouldn’t be as annoyed when they want to rescue full grown women, and when full grown women want to be rescued, because, after all, it’s just good fatherly mojo. But, we’re not babies, dammit. 

High heels. Sexy for so many reasons, but also because they make women into babies and, hey, wait a second...

We don’t think babies are sexy. What the bleep am I talking about? Back up: what we prefer in babies can be preferred in adults for fundamentally similar reasons but those preferences can result in different outcomes. 

Attractive helpless babies get cared for and not sexualized (too much) and attractive helpless women do too but that affection includes bleeping. 

It all makes perfect sense. How on earth did our lineage survive this long without high heels?


Anonymous said...

I noticed that the overwhelming "tone" of your hypothesis generation was in one direction; pretty much making women (appear) weaker. Is it possible that women want to? They like it? that it's not to attract a mate? I can guarantee you that men notice (and are quite often attracted to) women wearing flats... sandals or bare feet are not deal breakers.

Holly Dunsworth said...

A-ha! My "tone" appears to have stirred just the ruminations I was hoping to stir. Thank you for commenting!

Holly Dunsworth said...

Sometimes I forget that many come here to read for the first time. And if this is one such post, the fact that here at the Mermaid's Tale we have good fun being skeptical of just-so evolutionary tales, is understandably absent from the context. Another sentence goes here to elegantly tie up this comment but I don't know what it is.

Anonymous said...

are all evolutionary hypotheses "just so stories"?

Holly Dunsworth said...


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm in agreement with you there

David J. Littleboy said...

I had an engineer friend at NEC (I'll call her "Ms. U" for this note.) who wore high heels. All day, every day. This was in ancient times: the mid 1980s Japan, but even then, there were two women engineers in the group I spent two years being a visiting researcher at.) I was a real fan: she could talk nerdy with the boys (it was an AI research group (although all of us were MS, not PHd, level folks), and she knew her stuff) and then talk shopping with the secretarial staff; a true bicultural. (The other woman engineer was apparently mono-cultural; I don't recall her talking shopping and she got a gig as a university professor later on.) Also, Ms. U. was one of the few women I've ever seen who could actually walk without wobbling on her high heels. One day, she came in in flats, and it was instantly clear why she wore heels: she was way too short (even for Japan in the 1980s) and really needed the extra height so she could work with the boys without height being a problem.

So, I _claim_ that there's at least one legitimate use for high heels, and that my claim should be given some credence since I was there in the field collecting the relevant data.

Whatever, I'm looking forward to your book. I loved your article on Koko the other day, and instantly became a fan. Keep up the good work!