A friend of mine is fond of saying that if you need evidence of patriarchy, you need look no further than high-heeled shoes.
It's that thinking that spawned yesterday's Walk a Mile in her Shoes action, in which feminist-friendly men strapped on a pair of pumps at Younge and Dundas in Toronto and teetered painfully down the street in solidarity with ending violence against women.
So it seems curious, then, that the Ontario NDP would choose to unveil a new ad which features orange high heels to boost their electoral chances following Andrea Horwath's impressive debate performance earlier this week. It's not the first time the ONDP have flirted, so to speak, with this approach. Why a political party which professes to be grounded in feminist principles would choose to represent themselves with so limiting an image of female beauty; or, indeed, why the only female leader in the Ontario provincial election needs to frame her appeal to voters in terms of her sexual attractiveness (to heterosexual men), is beyond me.
I don't suppose more pressing symbols of femininity, like say, an orange paystub or an orange child-care worker, are likely to show up in future ONDP campaigns. What's next? Orange lipstick? Actually, probably.
Andrea Horwath is a strong, principled leader who doesn't need corporate branders or PR cabals coming up with anti-feminist pop images to win an election. If the ONDP believes that the only way to make progressive policies attractive is to dress them up in heels, then not only has the party failed to present themselves as an alternative to the old boys club ruling parties (ironically the precise objective the ads are trying to achieve), they risk betraying the activists and volunteers who have spent decades fighting patriarchal conventions only to see the only party they could call home embrace them.
Whether you wear high heels or not, the ONDP will mobilise the people of Ontario not through cheap (and troublesome) gimmicks, but through their policies, conviction and courage. Kick off your heels, Andrea.
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