WikiFeet, "the collaborative celebrity feet website," has a simple purpose. Famous women have feet, men (we're really just talking about men here) want to look at those feet, and here is an open-source compilation of 46,000 pages—shrines, if you will—dedicated to those feet. And not only do men come to look at the feet, they engage in lively discourses reminiscent of Plato's Symposium. They limn the inherent beauty of high arches, debate ideal toe length, imagine various foot odors, and fantasize about being used as a footstool by the feet at hand.
Like literally every forum, message board, chatroom, social-media network, and comment section, wikiFeet is also a breeding ground for pointless arguments. Regulars with names like Shoegazer69 and Pervert_Otis seem unable to help themselves from devolving into tiresome debates over things like celebrity foot rankings, sniping at each other over whether Taylor Swift's toes deserve four stars or five, or whether Jennifer Lawrence had bunion reduction surgery. Naturally, the rancor on wikiFeet seems to be most toxic when politics get involved.
Though wikiFeet is mainly concerned with actresses, models, and singers, there are also plenty of political figures floating about. You can find pages for senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kelly Ayotte, and Elizabeth Warren. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has a page showcasing her foot in a cast. There are former legislators like Michele Bachmann, Wendy Davis, and Gabrille Giffords (whose photos have been removed) and failed candidates like reputed witch Christine O'Donnell. And before you ask, yes, somebody somewhere thought to add Nancy Reagan's feet to the mix.
Women in politics are often judged by their appearances. The media fixates on their hairstyles, their clothing and makeup, scowls and tics. Any deviation from the expectation of ladylike propriety is a judgement on a female politician's ability to do her job: There are bags under her eyes—maybe she can't handle the stress of campaigning?
What one finds in the wikiFeet comment section, though, is not that subtle machinery of oppression, but rather a ridiculous distortion of it. When these fetishizing commenters objectify women, they do so in the most literal way possible: by considering a single part of their bodies as actual objects and debating how sexually arousing it is. The foot purists don't watch female politicians on TV looking for ways to demean or upend them—Oh, she's wearing white, that must be a desperate attempt to convey innocence, how crass—but for those fleeting moments when a woman walks to the podium, in the hopes that the cameras will provide a glimpse of some open-toe high heels.
Take Hillary Clinton's wikiFeet page, where the Democratic presidential nominee's feet are rated about 2.5 stars out of five, and her comment section is a hotbed of debate. She has her fervid supporters:
And her detractors:
There's one or two folks just here to have a goof:
And finally, I think this picture perfectly encapsulates the three central modes of thought in our current political discourse:
That's all to be expected. Some people love Clinton, some people hate her, so naturally same goes for her feet. But there are others who are just sick of the bickering, like Starbuckwylde, who wants to know what ideology has to do with the feet:
BigDaddyWhizz is also ready to end the fighting. What matters is not whether a foot is right or left, but whether they can be jacked off to or not. (He says Clinton's feet are "OK," so I guess the answer is… maybe?)
Donald Trump doesn't have a wikiFeet page, but his third and current wife Melania does, a pretty popular one with 184 foot photos. (Her feet are rated five stars out of five.) Even so, there are purists—the #NeverTrumpers of wikiFeet—who nitpick. The biggest objection is to her bunion. Perhaps they're pro-Hillary partisans who identified some flaw they could craft talking points around. Perhaps they get off on being incredibly pedantic about a woman's appearance. Or perhaps they really just don't like bunions:
Much like the alt-right nuts who posit that the elderly alleged billionaire is secretly a fellow otaku, one commenter leaks that Donald might just be a wikiFeet adherent:
Even higher ranking than Melania is Trump's daughter Ivanka, whose nearly 500-picture gallery on the site has earned 702 five-star ratings. Whereas the commenters on Melania's page are priggish and critical, the commenters on Ivanka's page are more, ah, submissive:
But Melania and Ivanka are non-politicians, and thus their feet are a little less charged with controversy. To find a reasonable comparison to Clinton, you have to go back to the last time a woman was a candidate for national office, a woman who is also perhaps the most overtly sexualized female politician in American history: Sarah Palin. The former governor of Alaska may have not done it for everyone, but she sure did it for National Review editor Rich Lowry, who wrote of her 2008 Republican National Convention speech: "I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, 'Hey, I think she just winked at me.'" I can't say for sure that Rich Lowry is a wikiFeet member, but if he is, he's probably one of these guys on Sarah Palin's page:
The wikiFeet commenters take the usually unspoken sexualization of women in politics and make it grossly, obviously explicit. But in doing so, they illustrate the odd relationship between admiration and attraction. I bet Rich Lowry doesn't sit up straight when, say, Palin impersonator Tina Fey winks on 30 Rock; likewise, GEMINISTALLION74 isn't just drawn to Palin's feet but her whole persona. It's no fun to worship the feet of a woman who you think is a traitor to the country. While some users struggle to put politics aside and maintain a consistent and fair aesthetic, the majority convince themselves, through compartmentalization, that the feet of their political opponents are not worth getting off to. As far as wikiFeet is concerned, the political ideology trumps the sexual one.
But ultimately wikiFeet is a site made up of everyday people just like you or me, people who want the best for their community and want sweeties to show them the feet. Some love Clinton, some love Trump, and some are just sick of a political landscape that will never give them what they want. "Goodbye America," Tff2184 wrote last month on Clinton's page. "Even the first female president will have the feet of an oxen (sob)."
Virgil Texas is a pseudonym. Follow him on Twitter.