The Ghomeshi trial's one taboo: Marie Henein's shoes -

The Ghomeshi trial’s one taboo: Marie Henein’s shoes

The visual branding of the defence team is key to the trial. What Marie Henein’s footwear tells us about gender, power and the optics of taking control

Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and his lawyer Marie Henein arrive at a Toronto court on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and his lawyer Marie Henein arrive at a Toronto court on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Jian Ghomeshi’s ongoing sexual assault trial has brought discussion of hand jobs veiled as “romantic encounters” and resulted in thousands experiencing disgust after googling “Dirty Sanchez,” a phrase arising in testimony. Yet one topic remains resolutely taboo when discussing the high-profile case: Marie Henein’s shoes. Mere mention of the defence lawyer’s glamorous, vertiginous footwear, a parade of Manolo Blahniks, Alaïas and Brian Atwoods, will reflexively get you branded as a sexist—as this writer discovered firsthand—followed by the comment that nobody is talking about Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan’s black lace-ups, which is true. Henein herself complained in a Toronto Life profile that male lawyers aren’t cross-examined about their clothing; the story noted the “$1,500 leopard-patterned Louis Vuitton pumps” on her feet: “If I dress this way, it’s because it amuses me,” Henein said, redirecting the interview, as one would expect.

Of course, anyone on the stand throwing off that line during a bullet-fire Henein cross-examination would have been strafed. The notion that Henein wanders to her closet of exquisite clothing in the morning and says “What amuses me today?” is about as believable as her saying she decides what questions she’ll ask that day’s witness while travelling to court. Anyone who has watched Henein in action can see that her courtroom identity, clothing and footwear included—as well as that of her co-counsel and her client—is meticulously constructed. And if there’s anything that “amuses” Marie Henein, it’s to prevail.

The entire defence team, in fact, functions like one perfect glossy, raven-haired package attending a fashionable funeral. Henein’s co-defence counsel, Danielle Robitaille, has clearly undergone a makeover from her appearance in the pre-trial motions in 2015; her long, wavy, brown-and-blond-streaked hair is now fashioned into a sleek dark bob coordinated with both Ghomeshi and Henein. With the dark suits and the sculpted hair, the three look like siblings. In fact Ghomeshi would fit in perfectly with the portrait photographs of Henein’s associates commissioned by her firm and included in the Toronto Life profileIf Henein’s brand in and out of court is an almost frightening competence and power, Ghomeshi would appear to benefit from the tie-in.

Henein is clearly leading the trial. And her presence in the courtroom offers an instructive lesson in the optics of taking control. She defies the real-life sexist messaging given women—that they should take up as little space as possible (the Platonic female ideal being the impossible size 00), that they not control the conversation, and that they not have the last word. In court this past week, Henein has done all three. She has mastered not only occupying but owning space. She stomps across the floor ferrying new evidence, gathering her shoulders in a quarterback’s hunch that brings to mind late criminal defence lawyer Eddie Greenspan, Henein’s mentor and former associate. Here, high heels provide a five-inch advantage, bringing the lawyer eye to eye with Crown lawyer Michael Callaghan. Then there is her almost architectural hair offering another few inches of loft, reminiscent of the black crest of a red-whiskered bulbul.

Then, the shoes. Wearing high heels that cost $1,500—walking on a billable hour, in a sense—is part of Henein’s exclusive branding; Toronto Life noted Henein’s shoe collection is “so notorious that Ontario’s former chief justice Warren Winkler once ribbed her, ‘So are you going to buy a car or a new pair of shoes?’ ”

Their expense, of course,  telegraphs status and success, not unlike a very expensive suit on a man. But donning exquisitely crafted suede shoes in February—black and teal as well as patchwork grey, black and burgundy—as Henein has done throughout the Ghomeshi trial, sends an even more rarefied version of that message: “My feet are unacquainted with slushy pavement,” it says: “I have a driver.” But literally standing on a grand is only part of it. There’s a fierceness conveyed by Henein and Robitaille showing up to court in five-inch stilettos, a shoe style made possible by technology invented in the ’50s; it gave birth to the “killer heel,” able to support a human body on a thin, shiv-like base.

Henein is obviously not alone. “High heels are part of a developing uniform of authority worn by women,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator of Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum. Semmelhack agrees that discussing the costuming of female lawyers doing their job is problematic. It bristles with a double standard: “Women’s appearance becomes a focus of discussion in ways that seem distracting.” But as someone who deconstructs fashion’s meaning professionally, she knows it’s more complicated: “Women don’t have a uniform of authority that they can slip on and not have their attractiveness, sexuality, sexual appeal, or desirabilty commented on.” Court is intrinsically a formal place, says the author of Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe, which puts both men and women in the arena of suits and sleek, shiny shoes. Appropriate female footwear in the court was the cause of a contretemps in 2008 when the Memphis Bar Association met to discuss the threat posed by “toe cleavage” to the judicial process; it added “cocktail shoes” to athletic shoes and sandals as verboten courtroom footwear. Of course, Henein could elect to wear neutrals or pastels, and demure flats. She doesn’t.

Her choice of footwear evokes the nice symmetry between high heels in court and the first high heels, dating to 10th century Persia, where they were worn by male warriors. Heels provided anchorage in newly invented stirrups, allowing them to shoot a bow and arrow with greater accuracy. High heels, incidentally, migrated to Europe first as a fashion item for men; they were worn by women first in the early 1600s when women, among them Elizabeth I, masculinized their attire, Semmelhack explains. Over the following century, heel shape became more “gendered,” she says: “Men wore heavier, sturdier heels suggesting active engagement with the outside world; women’s heels became more tapered and physically destabilizing and spoke to the domestic realm.

In the professional realm today, it’s another matter. “If powerful women across the board begin to wear high heels, the high heel becomes associated with power,” Semmelhack says.  Anyone who watches The Good Wife, of course, already knows that. But any “power” confirmed by high heels remains as precarious as they are, she says.  There’s a shelf-life you don’t see with men’s power clothing, she says: “We’re happy to have a three-piece suit on a three-year-old ring bearer at a wedding, just as we’re happy to have a three-piece suit on a Bay Street banker and on a widower in his 90s burying his wife.” High heels don’t have the same flexibility: “If you put a pair of power heels on a four-year-old flower girl, there’s something uncomfortable about that, just as there is putting them on a widow burying her husband in her 90s.” And that’s a problem, Semmelhack says: “If I can only have access to an accessory of power between ages 18 and 35, what what does that mean for the longevity of women’s power?”

Somehow that’s not a problem one sees Marie Henein facing. If and when she decides to step down from her high heels, she’ll be sitting on the bench.

Read more of Anne Kingston’s coverage from Jian Ghomeshi’s trial here.


The Ghomeshi trial’s one taboo: Marie Henein’s shoes

  1. Does Maclean’s not have anyone better that can cover this trial? Ms. Kingston has shown repeatedly to be out of her depth, pushing her own personal agenda throughout this trial. Now that that agenda has imploded, we get an article about shoes… good grief.

    • Ms. Kingston obviously has serious issues similar to the 3 so called lying witnesses in this false case.
      Kingston should be terminated from MacLeans for her slanderous articles about Mr. Ghomeshi.

      • I’m just happy Mr. “I’m too sexy for my voice” has had to take his hairdo’s and big time Toronto arrogance to his mom’s house and quit stinking up the air waves. Who are the CBC donkey’s that put that talentless boob in the position of power he used in the first place ? The CBC should be moved out of Toronto and headquartered in Yellowknife. No one that attended university in Ontario should be allowed to make decisions at the CBC without first having lived amongst actual human beings. Oh yes Gord Downey should replace the electric chair he’d be a much more humane way to fulfill the death sentence….four acapella notes should do it…

  2. It’s not just the “hunch” that brings to mind Marie Henein’s mentor Eddie Greenspan.

    Nova Scotians have already witnessed the disconnect between our court system and the realities of sexual abuse – about which the whole of Canada is now gaining awareness via the trial of Jian Ghomeshi.

    The cultural tactics today echo those of Greenspan who well-served that province’s ex-Premier Gerald Regan, in a societal context the Ghomeshi of an earlier generation.

    • You are so blinded by this overwhelming feminist shit that you cannot see clearly.
      You have been conned by them.

    • your mom really messed you up buddy

  3. “women’s heels became more tapered and physically destabilizing and spoke to the domestic realm.”

    One could only visualize ‘Ma’, working over a hot stove in a merry widow with stiletto pumps.

    Smacks of a lawyer’s wet dream.

  4. More Mean Girl stuff. “Marie Heinen’s so smart. She’s so pretty. Her shoes are so high and so expensive. Wah wah wah”. Stitched together with the usual blend of fiction and regurgitating the work of other writers’ assumptions, innuendo and Mean Girl sniping. Now, in the world according to Kingston, the three of them apparently coordinated their hair and outfits every morning. Here’s a design observation. Dark hair, dark clothes, it’s bound to appear harmonious. Imagine the grief they’d get if any of them dared to wear bright colours.

    What I see is three very tired people. Two of them have been working their hearts out, and at the end of their day, they’re treated like pariahs. These are truly heroic women. The third one of the group had something like four people in the Star today say his life and career was unsalvageable, despite the fact that the court case seems discredited. Yet somehow these are all the bad guys. Say what you want about Ghomeshi, he’s never demonstrated disrespect for the court system, as the witnesses did.

    • I expect that Ghomeshi will get more positive benefits from the trial than negative.

      He has already admitted in his FB post that hitting women is sexy for him. Assuming he is acquitted, he can then point to the trial as some form of vindication. Without the trial, he would forever be followed by innuendo and gossip. This has given him an opportunity to get the facts into the open for all to see.

      • I don’t mean to defend Ghomesi because I honestly don’t know if he is guilty or not, but I hear this lie repeated quite a bit around here. Ghomesi did not admit that he’s into “hitting women” or that he “finds it sexy”. He said that he enjoys engaging in rough sex, role play, and BDSM, and that all of it is consensual. What he has actually admitted to is pretty vague and could mean all kinds of things, so let’s stop pretending that he has admitted to hitting these women and this trial is just a matter of whether it was consensual or not. What’s on trial is whether the acts took place at all.

        • A fair point re: hitting women. I’ve relied on my understanding of rough sex, the “s” in bdsm and media reports of his partners broken rib. I can’t say for certain that he hits women. However if bdsm and roughness is part of his sexual practices, I would argue that he finds it sexy.
          But to be clear, I did not suggest he admitted to hitting the women in this trial. I was referring to his admitted practices, which I strongly disagree with. I’m not suggesting it is illegal, simply that I believe it is wrong.

  5. As the “smoke and mirrors” of Jian Ghomeshi’s defence passes, we’re seeing relevant and clear-headed legal analyses: “Reflections on Week One of the Ghomeshi Trial”

    “All of the attention on the fact that the first two complainants in the Ghomeshi trial had contact and communications with him after the alleged incidents is therefore misplaced, should not be seen as relevant to whether they are believable or whether they consented to the alleged sexual assault, and might usefully be contextualized by expert evidence so that rationales contrary to the rape shield provisions are not imputed to their behaviour.”

    The full essay by Jennifer Koshan, B.Sc., LL.B (Calgary), LL.M. (British Columbia). Professor. Member of the Alberta Bar at the ablawg website.

    • To the 3 complaintants.
      You have lost this attack on a good man.
      Mr. Ghomeshi had nothing to do with what your dad did to you.
      GROW UP and deal with it.

      • Good man??? You are as delusional as Kingston and our friend Adrian above.
        This case may not have been proven, and there is an argument to make that it should not have been brought, but you haven’t been paying attention if you use “good man” and ghomeshi in the same sentence.

        • Indeed, there are no heroes in this saga.

  6. MS. Kingston has used this story to stay alive on MacLeans.
    Trouble is she was very wrong.
    Ghomeahi will be acquitted.
    BYE BYE Kingston you twit.

    • Hurrah for Kingston’a articles on this Ghomeshi trial,er…witness trial
      Hurrah for the judge allowing another witness from Nova Scotia
      The judge will surely concemtrate on the slapping,choking and violence reported rather than the omissions construed by the defence as lies

    • Ghomeshi may will be acqutted, but remember that acquitted is not a synonym for innocent.

      • Gomeshi may be acquitted, he may not, but remember “alleged” is NOT a synonym for “GUILTY”. Whether you (or others) would have our court system changed in the favour or social justice, screaming for change because you may not like the outcome, the fact remains in our society that EVERYONE is innocent until proven guilty. While Gomeshi may or not be guilty does not give the right to you or anyone else to justify the removal of ANYONES civil rights to a fair and impartial trial. Do you not realize that the same rights that protect Gomeshi are the same rights that protect you? There is no sufferance between him or you I’m the eyes of the law. It is not his onus to prove his innocence, the onus us on the accuser to prove guilt. This is the way our law works. Otherwise we could randomly accuse anyone of anything and they would automatically be guilty. You take away someone else’s rights and you loose yours as well. Think about that next time you wish to make social justice the new court in this country.

  7. Some of the comments below are quite amusing. Well, to each his / her own, but I personally enjoyed this article. What a refreshing and lucid portrayal of an aspect of this trial and its vagaries that the mainstream (largely) tabloidesque media cannot aspire to reflect on, let alone observe. Regardless of her views on the trial itself, the observations made are stimulating, amusing, and informative. I find this series to be the most enlightening of anything out there really, again as compared to the simple “he said-she said” regurgitation. I don’t agree with everything, but reading her makes me think.

  8. So what she likes to wear expensive clothes and shoes. Sue her. Actually no dont do that, she will wipe the floor with you.

  9. Actually if there is anyone in this thing who deserves to treat herself to a nice pair of shoes its her. Unlike the police, crown, complainants and their lawyers, the only who seems to have been competent and actually WORKING on this thing diligently for the past 16 months is her.

    I feel like this particular writer is trying to grab at straws here and trying to find things to criticize about Henein. Her shoes really?? Sounds like this writer is bitter that the women have been humiliated on the stand and is taking it out on Henein. Actually these women did it to themselves by not being truthful with police and crown from the start, blabbing to every reporter that came knocking and talking amongst themselves about the trial. She just asked questions about it and then confronted them with evidence.

    If there are young girls out there, I hope that rather than be inspired by these weak, sympathy looking dimwit women who dont know the definition of accountability and whos actions show a lack of self respect, dignity, low standards and bad judgement, that they look up to Henein instead who appears strong, confident, smart,professional and who commands respect.

  10. The credibility of the accusers matters…how can it not? Their behavior before and after the incident is relevant. The trial’s purpose is not to prove that sexual assault is wrong,or choking is (usually) wrong…it already is wrong,and this is not the purpose of Ghomeshi’s trial.
    For a woman who is not captive,and is autonomous, to seek her “assaulter” is a detail that takes it back to “2 consenting adults-land”. Were the women scorned/rejected? I think Lucy felt that way. At what point did she feel “assaulted”? Before the 2nd email throwing herself at Ghomeshi?After the 4th email throwing herself at him? Im not sure…maybe the High Shoe Club has the answer.
    The coverage of the trial is a bit of a sideshow at this point,as evidenced by this article about footwear.Writers gotta write,I get it…being a creep is not illegal yet,and JG is certainly that.As for whether a crime has been committed or not,is up to the judge.
    For a female journalist to write about footwear at this point suggests to me that the gravity there at the trial is not very serious. If someone had gone through something truly harrowing,I doubt that this writer would submit this to her editor. So,yes…this is a creepy guy being institutionally pilloried.

  11. Well, this is much more enjoyable than the dreck she’s been writing. Yet still her bias is clear …
    “Women don’t have a uniform of authority that they can slip on and not have their attractiveness, sexuality, sexual appeal, or desirabilty commented on”
    Really Anne? But men do? Have you asked say … Bill Clinton or our own Justin Trudeau about that? Seems to me his desirability has been commented on. It’s a power thing, not a gender thing. (or maybe a hair thing?)
    I would also suggest that women in a police uniform can project authority without having their sexuality questioned. Probably more so than men, where there are any number of annual calendars of “men in uniform”.
    But that’s no biggie, because it’s about men, right anne?

    • I love that 35 years is picked as the cut-off age for wearing high heels, and thus that power that high heels confers has a very short shelf life. They’re like the ruby slippers or Harry Potter’s wand. Personally, I think authority comes from confidence, and part of confidence is preparation and hard work. Anne Kingston sees magic instead. But who sees their best days as being behind them at 35 anymore, besides Brigid Jones? Good grief.

      As for Jian Ghomeshi, who knows, he’s been through the mill and he might come out the other side a much improved person. Nobody needs to be written off yet.

  12. Hello Anne,
    It’s quite astonishing that you are much rather talk about shoes than how these three bimbos are making mockery of “sexual assault victims”. It is an colossal disservice to the real sexual assault survivors. I hope they will be prosecuted for false statements… and Ms.Heinen could buy a pair or two new shoes on Lucy DeCoutere expense.

  13. I look at those two women and wonder if they would complain about being slapped around by a punk radio announcer.

  14. Could you please write a column of how much $$ does Jane Doe # 2 get’s from the Ontario Sexual Assault Victims compensation Board funded by Ontario taxpayers for the alleged incident, after which she fondled assaulter’s genital organs?
    What kind of shoes she can buy? eh?

  15. Ms. Kingston did a great coverage – as always really enjoy your writing. Great article on M. Henein’s attire and shoes. Look forward to your future articles on this case – has been very detailed and interesting.

  16. Anne I’m not accusing you of being sexist, just of being a lazy reporter. I nominate you for the Margaret Wente Award.

  17. he first thing I noticed was how the lawyer Henein and Ghomeshi looked liked twins.
    Twins from the dark side.
    Why do women wear high heels rather than comfortable shoes to maintain healthy feet?
    Why do CBC TV reporters wear gobs of eye makeup and lipstick?
    Peter Mansbridge doesn’t .
    Surely everyone has noticed this : “The entire defence team, in fact, functions like one perfect glossy, raven-haired package attending a fashionable funeral” Darkness prevails.

  18. According to legal experts, Marie Henein’s fee for defending Ghomeshi will be over half a million dollars – so she can well afford to buy as many designer shoes as she wants. If a successful male attorney buys himself, say, a Ferrari, nobody criticizes him, so why all this faux-outrage that Ms. Henein wears $1,500 Louis Vuitton shoes? It’s interesting to note that this criticism is coming from another woman. Why?

  19. So Marie Henein – a female – defends, quite well I might add, Ghomeshi, and the trial seems to serve as a textbook law case based on the importance of the Crown’s burden of proof it needs to meet along with the accountability of witness testimony.

    Social media sees to Henein being pilloried as a woman whose work has had a detrimental effect for women.

    And yet these same harpies are strangely silent when puff pieces such as these on focus on Henein’s wardrobe instead of her legal mind, articles written by women.

    What does focusing on her wardrobe contribute to?

    A very heavy percentage of these articles written by women focus on the most trivial aspects of the trial. Wente and Urback are only a few columnists who infact choose to focus on the bigger picture. Is it possible for women see past clothing when they discuss the trial of the century?

    Garbage article – Macleans can do much better.