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High Heel

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

Fetishized, demonized, celebrated and outlawed, the high heel is central to the iconography of modern womanhood. But are high heels good? Are they feminist? What does it mean for a woman (or, for that matter, a man) to choose to wear them? Meditating on the
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 21st 2019 by Bloomsbury Academic
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Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  129 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Roman Clodia
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Our shoes pin us to the world... and because the stories that shoes tell are invariably about public life, they must also be about status

A thought-provoking meditation that starts with heels and travels over a range of related topics from rape culture to fashion, pain and femininity, beauty and art. Brennan is a wonderful companion as she moves us from Ovid's Daphne via Sylvia Plath's haunting black pumps in The Bell Jar, the shoe workshop in Ferrante's quartet of novels, and the numerous
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely one of the more interesting and thought-provoking volumes from the wonderful Object Lessons series. It’s a thoughtful and wide-ranging exploration of high heels – how and why they were first thought of to why women (in particular) still wear them, however uncomfortable, nay even dangerous, they often are. (How glad I am my own high heel days are over). Insightful, non-judgemental and entertaining – just what the books in this series should be.
Summer Brennan
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I absolutely love this book, but I might be biased—I wrote it ;)
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Killer heels and Plathitudes.

My first entry into Bloomsbury Academic’s collection of monographs…and likely my last (sorry Bloomsbury!) The Object Lessons series consists of short little books, about 25,000 words, about specific objects ranging from the everyday to the unexpected. (Eye charts, anyone?)

Unfortunately, this one read to me like a disorganised student essay. There are some insights as well as some interesting nuggets to discover but there really wasn’t a great deal here that I didn’t
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought this book because I now make shoes designed for healthy, natural movement, which high heels are decidedly not. Despite knowing the significant negative effects these shoes have on not just the feet but also the ankles, knees, hips and back, I still found myself unable to shake the idea that a truly elegant look requires these torturous devices.

Summer Brennan's mesmerizing book is an exploration of why that idea is so deeply embedded in the consciousness of many women. I've never read
roxi Net
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: roxidiy, roxiown
As a lover of high heels, I felt this book was a must read for myself. I thought it was well laid-out and written almost as if I were hearing a podcast. history, opinion, and acute observations made this book and enjoyable read. To link Orvid, fairy tales, societal views/norms to 'simple' high heels was fascinating to read. Oddly enough, the book inspired me to wear heels the next day after months of comfy flats. I won't look at heels the same, and I love them just as much.
Margaret Sankey
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always enjoy these short meditations on everyday material objects. This one traces high heels through the pattens that carried people above the muck of medieval streets to the high heeled boots made for stirrups, then to showcase male musculature of the calves, then extended to exclusively to women's fashion and use by men transgressing mainstream behavior. Brennan pulls on threads like fairy tales, drag queens, stripper shoes and pole dancing, luxury brands, foot binding, workplace inequality ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things".

In this object spotlight we dive into the world of the High Heel.
The High Heel, the icon of femininity a landmark symbol to be celebrated, fetishized, demonized and outlawed.
A particularly in depth look into the world of the High Heel and how it has transformed over time, it's relevance to gender identity, sex, women and the feeling of empowerment to the wearer's.
Brennan makes a great
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A researched collection of vignettes about the meaning of high-heeled shoes. It is an impressionistic piece of creative nonfiction divided into 150 passages. A lot of attention is paid to the fact that high heels usually (but not always) prevent a woman from running and moving as freely as she otherwise might be capable, and to how this fact is subliminally absorbed and understood on a cultural level, enhanced by mythological tie-ins on the theme of escape. I was intrigued by the number of ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thoughtful, thought-provoking and beautifully put together.
Victoria Namkung
Brennan takes great care with her research and deeply feminist analysis of the iconic high heel. Whether you shun or collect them, you’ll likely never look at a pair of heels the same way again.
Anton Prosser
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at the high heel, as an object and a metaphor. Full of historical bits, art, myth and the experience of women in their own shoes.
Penny Zang
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For such a “small” book (less than 200 pages), High Heel never feels small. Carefully researched and beautifully written, a fascinating topic approached through multiple layers and angles—I devoured this book. It is a book so rich and provocative that I will need to read it more than once.
Heather Allen
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Check out this review and others on 80 Books Blog!

I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

High Heel is part of a series published by Bloomsbury Academic called “Object Lessons” that takes everyday topics and does a brief, but in depth look at those objects. I probably would have overlooked the series entirely if I didn’t already follow the author of this work on Twitter. I am intrigued by some of the other works in the series so this was a good gateway book for
A Reader
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, feminism
When I saw Summer Brennan’s book High Heel, I felt intrigued. It is the first of her books that I read and the first of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury, a collection of interesting books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

High Heel gave me so much pleasure. It is a short and concise book but it covers a lot of ground. As you read it reveals more and more, so much so, that I don’t know how Summer Brennan managed to write it. It is a book about femininity and feminism, sex and
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
HIGH HEEL - My introduction to "Object Lessons" - has whetted my appetite for more deep dives into the anthropological and ethical questions surrounding seemingly mundane things. Summer Brennan brings insightful commentary to the discussion, invoking mythology and fairy tale imagery, patriarchy and feminism, with sound historical analysis. This has already prompted conversations in my workplace, and I know of at least one person who is actively seeking out other lessons that objects can teach ...more
Jill Elizabeth
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have found these Object Lessons books intriguing yet somewhat uneven so far. This one, however, is without a doubt my favorite to date...

High heels are such an emblem of femininity - for good or ill - and their fetishization by men and women alike is a fascinating topic in and of itself. Add in the layered feminist and sociopolitical ideology that Brennan weaves throughout the narrative and you find yourself with a very intriguing book that covers a lot of ground in a relatively short time.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking in its intimacy as well as scope: a hospitable starting place for anyone starting to ask questions about patriarchy but an equally refreshing place for those who have been engaging these questions for decades.

I took my sweet time with the book, only reading a few portions a week. Maybe there’s a universe in which I could have raced through it and read it all in one sitting, but in this universe, I had to exhale, pause and regroup after nearly every section—in a good way. With
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
From this wildly erratic series comes a stolid, comfortable, supporting kind of read – therefore one totally at odds with its subject. There's an introductory quote from Virginia Woolf about not understanding women, and this cultural study of high heels certainly shows they're a vital cog in the machine of understanding them and what they've been through, no matter the gender of the reader. (Of course, the discourse has to drag in those that try and cross gender, but that's probably par for the ...more
Beth Younge
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy the objects series and how they focus on the reasoning behind an object. This was no exception to that. I rarely wear standard high heels and normally opt for a boot with a chunky 2-3inch heel as anything else is painful for long periods of time. The way that Brennan brings her various sources and arguments together was done really well and I finished this feeling like I learnt something about the cultural significance these shoes play. The combination of the past and the present ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
How hard is it to answer the question of High Heels? Do they make a woman's leg look great? Yes. Do they hurt your back and legs? Yes. Why do women wear them? They make them look sexy. Its the standard of professional women and of women trying to get men to notice them.

So, Knowing all this, why do women still wear high heels? So they feel sexy? So they feel feimine? So they can "beat" those who don't wear them or don't look as good in them?

Stop wearing high heels or don't. You don't need to
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
High Heel by Summer Brennan is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late March.

Brennan takes an unusual Greek philosophy route to chaptering the story and a formal decorum in its prose. Shoes portrayed as being a portrait of their wearer, the image (i.e. elegance, power) they want to convey, appearances in works of fiction, and the evolution of shoe design and height over time. There's also philosophic questions posed on the nature of beauty and what is attractive, playing an empowered role,
Wow. I didn't know it when I picked this little book up but it is exactly the kind of thing for which I've been searching for a very long time. Fashion history meets feminist theory meets fairy-tale criticism. Throw in bits of personal memoir, reference to the work and lives of literary giants like Plath, Sand, and Borges (not to mention more contemporary artists like Ana Teresa Fernandez), and discussion of the problems of beauty as a cultural construct (constraint?) and you'll get an idea of ...more
Randee Dawn
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Expecting a very scholarly work with clearly defined essays, I was nonetheless charmed by the quick bite-sized hits (that all tie together) in Brennan's book, which looks at the way women's shoes have defined them -- and how they've helped (and hurt) women's definition of themselves. There's the usual look at fairy tales, but also mythology and costume history for context. Whether you're a shoe-aholic or only ever wear sneakers, this is a book that will change your perspective.
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Just as surely as high heels enforce rigid ideas of gender, so too can they be used to subvert them.” In this work, Brennan interrogates notions of beauty, taking heels as the locus of debate. From their introduction to the West through trade with Persia to their adoption by French courts, through their role in myth, drag and rape culture - this book delivers a rich tapestry of what it means to walk in women’s shoes.
Michelle Herbert
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but it is a concise mediation on High Heels, what they mean to society and culture, entwining mythology and fairy tales and feminism along the way. I would recommend this book to everyone and will happily reread it. The book is well researched and given the selected bibliography will mean that I have many more books and artist to look up this year.
Courtney LeBlanc
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book but can only give it 4 stars because my dog ate it before I could finish it. There's a high likelihood it would have earned a 5-star rating from me but until I get another copy and finish reading it I'll leave it at 4 stars.

(If I could attach a picture to this I'd show the destruction. Apparently my sweet pup doesn't like my choice of books...)
RoseAnn Foster
I really enjoyed this book. Summer Brennan looks at the history and cultural influences behind high heels, and then further explores the high heel in today's society. She does a good job with the book, and the research is both interesting and fascinating. This book becomes not only a book about high heels, but a book about being a woman in today's society.
Erica Wright
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
High Heel reminded me of why I enjoy reading essays off-line sometimes, for those moments of epiphany where you set the book aside to contemplate. This is a thoughtful, layered meditation on a phenomenon I've never considered beyond which shoes give me blisters and which do not.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Listen, said the mother secretly.
'Here's a knife, and if the slipper is too tight for you,
then cut off a piece of your foot. It will hurt a bit.
But what does it matter? It will soon pass,
and one of you will become the queen.'"
- The Brothers Grimm, Cinderella
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Summer Brennan is a journalist and author. She received the 2016 Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award and was a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Her first book, The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America (2015) was a finalist for the 2016 Orion Book Award. Her second book, High Heel, ...more
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“Our shoes pin us to the world, like Peter Pan to his shadow. More than simply facilitating our movement out-of-doors, they mediate between the wearer and the ground. Perhaps it is less the world they pin us to, but our place in it; that shadow of society that follows wherever we go.” 0 likes
“A pair of worn shoes is a portrait of its wearer. Not just the scuffed toes and heels ground down by months or years of pavement, or the narratives told by damage and repair, but the form and function of them, their type. They are a part of our costume in both the quotidian and theatrical sense. And because the stories that shoes tell are invariably about public life, they must also be about status, and power, or the lack of it.” 0 likes
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