This Actress Makes a Bold Statement Against Sexism at the Cannes Film Festival

May 13th 2016

Tricia Tongco

No shoes? No problem.

julia roberts

In a bold move, Julia Roberts ditched her heels on the red carpet during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival premiere of her latest film “Money Monster" on Friday. 

This is more than just a fashion statement.

This might have seemed innocent enough if it weren’t for the controversy surrounding Cannes turning away women from a screening last year for wearing the “wrong” footwear, namely flats and not heels.

While Cannes declined to comment on that specific incident, they have confirmed that it is obligatory for all women to wear high-heels to red-carpet screenings, according to ScreenDaily.

Roberts hasn’t made any public comments regarding the high heel policy at Cannes, but it is difficult to see her choice to kick off her heels as anything but an act of protest.

The pressure and, in some cases, the requirement to wear high heels doesn’t just apply to women on the red carpet.

In fact, earlier this week, a picture of a waitress’s bloody feet after wearing the heels required at her job went viral.

Across the pond, a woman working as a temporary receptionist was sent home without pay after refusing to wear high heels this week, The Daily Beast reported. In response, women are tweeting pictures of themselves wearing flat shoes to work in protest of sexist dress codes.

The Fawcett Society, one of the UK's leading women's rights charities, is showing solidarity against sexist double standards for women's workplace attire through the hashtag #FawcettFlatsFriday, the IB Times reported. 

Not only is a high-heel mandate sexist, it’s dangerous for your health, too.

Long-term use of heels can damage muscles in your feet and increase the stiffness of the Achilles' tendon, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology. As a result, your ankle's motion range decreases, which increases one's risk of injuries and strains.

For many women, no one has required them to wear heels to work or elsewhere. But women are constantly told in media and in our culture that heels are sexy, attractive and feminine. Even powerful women in pop culture, from “Veep” to “House of Cards,” are always wearing high heels, no matter how uncomfortable or unrealistic the style choice is, as The Huffington Post pointed out.

In an article for The Atlantic, Megan Garber wrote:

No woman ever—no woman, at least, who has had any kind of say in the matter—has walked around her home in stilettos. No. Woman. Ever.

...Which means that heels—and stilettos, in particular—are public shoes, performative shoes, shoes that are tolerated when one is out in the world and that are shed, immediately, upon one’s return from it.

With so many images of women in heels in pop culture – doing everything from cooking in the kitchen to heading a boardroom – the image of leading lady Julia Roberts walking down the red carpet without heels on feels like a step in the right direction.