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  • a happy, ordinary, middle-aged, suburban woman who paints odd pictures, gardens in a straw hat, lives with the love of her life, is owned by one cat and the ghosts of several others, and walks a little funny 'cause she has a fake leg. She started this website because there's more to life than what we lose, and we need to let each other know what's possible, even if it's only a happy, ordinary life.

November 2011

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    sara at saraarts dot com

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Good reads, grownups only

« These Boots Were Made for Walking (c'mon, you knew I'd have to call it that) | Main | Name That -uh- Well, Just Name It! »


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melissa b.

I love this post.

The foot thing? Yeaaaaah. In every class I teach I make sure to point out fashion along the way, especially women's clothing that hinder or bind or diminish or harm in any way. Which, ha, we can do in any time period. Ugh.

Also, I hate high heels generally. I'm a mary-jane flats addict. If there is a heel, then by god it's going to be a sturdy heel, there will be no teeter tottering for me.

Ron Sullivan

I'll probably be more articulate later, but this is, um, a kick. You know what bugs me most? That everyf*ing thing f*ing signifies. I think it's worse outside the Bay Area -- or at least I get more funny looks there, even in my normallest clothes. And shoes.


Melissa, I am sure you are a great art history teacher and that your classes rock. I hate school, yet I envy your students.

Me, I have three pairs of mary-jane-style shoes. There are feminists who would decry this choice, too, as being too "feminine." I am told, as we are all told, over and over, that every time we choose gender-specific clothing, we are feeding the patriarchy by submitting to gender divisions. And I see this, and I know they're right. Still, I love me some mary janes, and a lot of the "nice" shoes an amputee can wear on a prosthetic tend to be in this style. So, again, what's a woman to do? What is available is what's available, and not all of us have the time, strength, or other resources to be out making people respect and value us even though we're not wearing the "right" clothing.

Besides -- and I know that saying this will make some feminists cringe -- I grew up with a copy of Pinocchio in which all the little boys -- including Pinocchio himself! -- were wearing mary janes. TUK, the maker of two of my mary jane pairs, refers to this style as "sandals," and I have heard or read this name for them in older British literature. So the gender identification thing? Totally new. Regardless, it, too, has become the truth.

And Ron, you've actually been quite articulate, and I'm glad you get a "kick" out of this; I did start practicing kicking -- to go with my screaming -- almost as soon as I got my new leg, but not that kind of kicking. I hope you will always feel free here to be as articulate or not as you feel. I do not grade comments. I only weed out abusive or spammy ones.

And yes, you're right: everything signifies something to someone. Every bloomin' little thing. And it is tiresome. And it is worst for us noncompliant types in places like New York and L.A., but even out in the wilds of Kajakhstan I am sure there is something, some code, some set of details that means "This is a woman and therefore worthy of the amount of attention due a woman" vs. "This one's out of the running and isn't a man so doesn't need to be paid attention at all." This is because of sexism, sure. This is also because humans are tribal and we are also innate classifiers. We need to know what boxes to put things and each other into, all the time. We get uncomfortable when we can't, because it usually means extra work, and sometimes even danger.

When I say "we" I am speaking very broadly, of course. Some of us are more willing to do that extra work, or take an extra risk, at least in selected cases, and seeing how other people comply or not ironically helps us, too, to figure out to whom we will give extra. Some of us in fact find our lives richer among the noncompliants, easier and safer. Noncompliance, too, consists of many levels and many tribes.

We can drive ourselves crazy worrying about trying to answer all the unspoken questions the "right" way every time (impossible), or we can choose our goals, identify ourselves only to people whom it shall profit us to know (and I use the word "profit" very broadly; I profit by your acquaintance, for example, even though no cash is involved). Young people, especially young women, end up putting so much more effort and expense into all this because they haven't formed those goals yet and are more afraid of being left out or denied something they don't even know about or have not yet learned to value appropriately. The thing they most fear being denied is esteem.

Regardless, we have all been conditioned to obey the codes to some extent. Me, too. And I admit that I am not inclined to buck these codes, and I do comply to the extent I am able, because I don't need yet another frickin' complication in my life on top of the complications of just trying to go about every day as "normally" as possible. It is some kind of ironic that it is harder to opt out of the complications that reduce complications because the very complications have created and stocked the marketplace in their own favor.

And I personally like girly stuff, lace and velvet and mary janes and sweet little heels with sparkly things on them. Of course, I also like them on men. But going there is a whole other exercise in tooth-grinding, no? And in spite of my reference to Pinocchio above, this is not a "But what about the men? They suffer, toooooo" discussion. Honest.


Great post. I just posted a comment about your LL Bean shoes and how they're the only things I wear now. So of course I don't wear high heels. I've always seen them as oppressive, putting yourself through torture... why? So your calves look nice and men stare at you?

I wrote a post about baby feet, actually at Interesting how feet are so important to us. Remember all those children's stories about shoes, about the cobbler's children or whatever? Cinderella.... Shoes have been important because parents worry they won't have enough money to buy shoes for their children. Bare feet symbolize being primitive or poor.... So many interesting things about feet and shoes! :)

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