What the hell is wrong with Russell Smith?

I'm often unsettled by Russell Smith's fashion columns. There's something incredibly creepy about the way he discusses women's wear -- and really, I can't be alone in thinking so. Take his most recent column, "Footwear for slave girls is oddly appealing":

Do guys like those strappy gladiator sandals for women?There is something oddly sexy about a lower leg bound in leather straps and buckles. Perhaps it's their suggestion of confinement. Perhaps it's that they remind us of all the impossibly beautiful "slave girls" in the series Rome, or mad Cleopatra and her smoky sexuality.

The problem with so many of these elaborate harnesses is that they can get a bit gaudy - they tend so often to metallic colours, to sparkles and spikes and studs, that they can look a little bit brassy, as if to suggest that the wearer should also have a pack of menthol smokes, platinum blonde hair and her house upholstered in leopard skin.

Luckily, most Canadian men aren't as sensitive to aesthetic connotation as this. All they are going to notice really is whether your shoes are flat-heeled or high - and even this we tend to register unconsciously, as a vaguely different shape to your leg.

Now the high-heeled variety of gladiator sandals are extremely flashy, indeed overtly fetishistic; they just scream high-maintenance, expensive gifts and uninhibited sex. We will certainly notice these.

No, really. I couldn't have made this up if I tried, could I? I'm sure that Smith thinks this kind of discussion of desire is a sign of enlightenment, a sign that he has transcended his provincial small-city Canadian past. I'm sure of this because I read his columns with faithful distaste, and because I too am a Haligonian expat. Clever as Smith always obviously thinks he is, knowing where he's from I can only see his attitude as the typical smugness of an Eastern Canadian who wants to sever all connection to his once-home. So much more sensitive to aesthetics than most men? Of course! So cutting towards women who dare not dress to arouse, and so vocal in his declarations of lust for those who do? How liberated he is from the backwards bourgeoisie of Nova Scotia.

I'm sure Smith is clever; obviously he's well-read. That makes his evocation of vague Orientalized objects of desire all the more offensive, because he should know better. And it makes his discussion of women -- arousing or not -- all the more tiresome. If he's so clever and liberated, why is he so desperate to prove it?

In response to his imagined retorts:
1) I have also lived in Paris. I live in New York now. Shut up.
2) I was very badly treated in Nova Scotia through much of my youth. I was also bored senseless. I'm quite sure I know what you felt. It's still home, even if I never live there again.
3) I'm sure that you'd be appalled by my summer footwear of choice. I pick it for the arch support, not for exotic sex appeal. Whatever. I make delightful company, even if I'm not fetching drinks for bulimic men in sheets, and even if there's no chance that I'll off myself with a poison asp.



cancrit(at)gmail.com said...


Anonymous said...


(I'm bored at work and just got your email. PS I hope I'm not the impetus for the male dirtiness post!)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like somebody has a big, big crush...

(Smith is not from Hali btw)

cancrit(at)gmail.com said...

He's not originally from Halifax -- but he did live there in his youth, for sure. I believe he went to QEH.

As for "big big crush"... ewwwwwww.