Sunday, October 26, 2014
Shoes (this is not about shoes)
I have found the holy-grail - a pair of shoes which are both seriously comfortable (ie heavy walking for hours-on-end, day-after-day and feet-still-feel-great kind of comfortable) AND cute (as in I can wear them with girly summer-dresses and feel properly, Disney-princess-esque feminine.) My initial reaction to this find was to feel overwhelmed and practically disbelieving that something genuinely desirable existed in a shop, within my price-range, in my size, and was found in a single afternoon of the hideous activity that is shopping. My next reaction was to feel somewhat concerned to discover that perhaps I am as shoe-obsessed as any other girl - I'm just a lot more demanding. But then it struck me - being demanding is the point. Being as demanding as possible might indeed by the very definition of feminism.
The history of feminism (and indeed all activism) is the history of a select group of people being more demanding than the rest. Activists are the people who are never satisfied, not content to accept the status quo just because it is the status quo. They are the people who instead imagine how the world could be, should be, and then demand that this better world be brought into being. They have a radar for inequality, for oppression, and they cannot allow such injustice to continue. Not when something can be done. Not when a better way is possible. Not when they can demand change.
I tend to think of myself as an in-activist - I was born with that radar, but I'm not presently actually doing a lot to fight for the causes I believe in. My excuse right now is that I'm rather exhausted fighting the cause of getting my just-turned-one-year-old (!) to sleep and eat and learn and be happy, but that's really not fair - I was utterly lazy before he came along. I call myself political, but mostly it's all in my head.
But take me to the shops and that demanding nature comes out in full force. I have often said that I might be more interested in capitalism if it actually lived up to the promise of offering me the things I want. Instead what the glorious free-market produces is cheaply-made, lowest-common-denominator-pleasing, obsolescence-fuelled CRAP. And the majority not only accept it, they lap it up. They imagine this shit actually satisfies their desires, and learn nothing from the fact that they are continually having to consume more, more, more to meet their cravings. Maybe if everyone were as demanding as me we'd all stop buying the crap, the shops would go bust from having to meet our demands, and the whole hideous system would at last come crashing down? Maybe not. In any case, I'm not going to pretend that being a grumpy shopper counts as my contribution to activism.
But back to shoes (this is really not about shoes.) While contemplating all this, it occurred to me that shoes are definitely a feminist issue. There are the jokes about all women (all proper women) being addicted to shoe-shopping, and then there are the jokes about 'women who wear comfortable shoes'. As with every other aspect of our appearance and behaviour, women are policed by our culture to stay within some very strict boundaries. We should have a dear little obsession with pretty shoes - to stop us thinking or talking about anything too serious - and if we don't, then we're clearly man-hating, un-feminine (imagine!) women who don't deserve to have our voices heard by any self-respecting man. And I notice - if we're not allowed to wear 'comfortable shoes', then we must be meant to wear un-comfortable shoes. Our footwear is meant to be painful and to restrict our ability to WALK - because we are women.
I think the patriarchy might still be in operation. And I think I'll just keep right on being a demanding woman (in some very nice, very comfortable shoes.)