In preparing to bring “Asking For It” to colleges in the fall, I’ve been re-visiting the piece and going deeper. The organizations that I’m aligning with are concerned with healing and prevention. I have seen the healing that takes place when I’ve performed the play and also from feedback on the book, so I’ve been looking at prevention. And this is where it gets more than tricky for me given that no one EVER asks to be raped. I’m trying to stay open to anything that might possibly help prevent even one sexual assault. My politically correct self gets tripped up every time I lay eyes on stiletto platform shoes. The first thing I think of is “she can’t run”. which is okay if you’re on a red carpet surrounded by a security detail or posing for pictures in a studio, but what about navigating the pot holes and cracks of the cityscape? Or sinking into the soft ground of the countryside? They also symbolize for me another attack on women: why would a designer want someone they love to suffer from skeletal muscular problems, not to mention joint pain, fatigue, and venous hypertension in the lower limbs caused by those shoes, according to Wikipedia and my orthopedic surgeon.
Maybe it’s my life as a dancer that makes me hyper-aware of footwear and the way the body moves in them, but I have seen too many people schlep unattractively in these modern day “Joan Crawford Fuck Me” pumps. At one college graduation that I attended my eyes went straight to the feet of these obviously very bright seniors schlepping in cap and gown to receive their hard earned diplomas. They had not practiced walking in them and there was a good three-quarter inches between the heel of the foot and the back of the shoe.
“Why did they all buy shoes that are too big?”
“They’re not too big…” I was told, “their feet just slide down into the point.”
I know I have been a slave to fashion in the past and I’ve had to wear 6-inch thigh-high hot pink boots with marabou trim on a raked stage, but at least hazard pay was involved, though not enough to cover my subsequent knee surgery.
One night I was waiting for a light to change on a corner in the middle of the Boston University campus. It was September and school had just started. A group of what seemed to be freshmen girls schlepped across the street, navigating train tracks and new traffic patterns in their enormously heeled shoes topped off with the shortest of minis and as they passed by a group of young men on the corner, the boys made fun of them. It turned my stomach. I know that no matter what we wear, we are never asking for it, but to be perfectly politically incorrect, I wonder if there’s something going on underneath, feelings of low self-esteem, doubts about one’s worth, at a time when they’re still looking outside of themselves for validation, for finding their identity.
I know it shouldn’t matter what we wear and I’m sure it doesn’t matter to most healthy, well-balanced members of the opposite sex, but for the 3% of those who perpetrate these crimes, I think we do have to ask ourselves who will they be attracted to, the self-assured individual who has an idea how to protect herself or the girl who can’t run for her life?
These are questions that come up for me. I used to ignore them, but I have my own healing to consider and part of that is acknowledging that I’m not crazy and my thoughts are valid so I’m just going to allow myself to go deeper and question more. I feel like there should be nothing off the table in the attempt to put a stop to rape.