A great post about “Why Heidi Fiscus Started Going Barefoot in Public”
No doubt a lot of us will find an echo to her thought.
A great post about “Why Heidi Fiscus Started Going Barefoot in Public”
No doubt a lot of us will find an echo to her thought.
This past weekend, some two dozen topless women protested in a New York City park as part of what they called “National Go-Topless Day” to draw attention to inequality in topless rights between men and women. Organizers say similar protests were scheduled in about 30 U.S. cities and 10 around the world.
According to the internet news article (Reuters), there are no laws against women going topless in public in New York City but the laws do vary widely across the United States. Activists claim the discrimination is unconstitutional and they’re asking for full equality.
After reading the story, my brain began to make the comparisons between the struggle for barefoot acceptance and the work these woman are engaged in. My internal thought processes even went a bit further: if women are legally allowed to go topless in public, the issue of me being barefoot at the mall shouldn’t even register so much as a “blip” on the proverbial radar screen!
I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say the protest didn’t register as much attention, either. Some might say, “It’s New York; stuff like this happens all the time.” Public online commentary, following the news article, doesn’t appear to take the organized protest all too seriously. I enjoy the occasional discussion when it pertains to civil liberties and human rights. Needless to say, the majority of public comments ammounted to nothing more than complaints by hormonally-charged men who were demanding photos from the protest.
I suppose the question I have to ask is: what’s considered “equal” when it comes down to the debate over No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service? Where does society draw the line of acceptance? As individuals, barefooters might be more open-minded to the ideals that these protesters are fighting for. The general consensus, however, probably isn’t as eager to embrace the concept of bare-breasted women in public society–at least within the parameters of North American culture. Here, nursing mothers are still subject to the controversial views on public breast feeding–with much of the criticism coming from women themselves. Bare feet are generally considered unsanitary but the female nipple is often labelled as erotic and pornographic.
In the United States, we want to believe that equal rights are consistently upheld from one end of the country to the other. History, however, is chock-full of examples where the rights within the same demographic widely vary from state to state. Consider same-sex marriages for example. Presently, gay couples are only free to marry within six states. While that might be considered a glorious victory on their behalf, there are still forty-six states that only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. How does that happen? Yes, I know; the Federal Government has handed that decision down to the individual states, but still…
Similarly, I can shop my local grocery store with bare feet but a guy at the same store in a different city might get stopped at the door. It’s a fact that human equality isn’t always black and white but various shades of gray. As much as we may cry foul, that’s just the way life goes.
But what happens should the bare-chested protesters decide to call attention to our bare feet? What happens if politicians and legislators should conclude that everyone must be covered from head to toe at all times, no matter the circumstance?
I know, the chances of that happening are rare, but still…
Since my last posting, I’ve had the opportunity to really experience the barefooter’s lifestyle. I’m not fortunate enough to have a career that allows me to go barefoot on the job–and I suspect that the majority of barefooters fall into the same category. Aside from the lifeguards at the beaches or public pools, I have yet to see an employee barefoot. Although it’s perfectly legal to go barefoot in public, most employers in the United States have some sort of dress code that require their personnel to wear shoes.
But this post isn’t about bare feet on the job. It’s about my experience of having two weeks of freedom from footwear. I recently took two weeks of vacation away from my job and it was my first opportunity to truly go barefoot for a period longer than the weekend. Instead of travelling to distant places, I remained local where I already go barefoot. Still, not having to put on clunky boots for two weeks was a pretty awesome experience!
It was also during my vacation where I experienced my first brush with barefoot discrimination. My wife and I made a trip to the mall one day, and I decided it was time to test the waters and leave my primal footwear in the car. I’ve been barefoot in several businesses, without any confrontation, but I’ve always been hesitant to try it at the mall. The presence of ‘mall cops’ is obvious and they tend to patrol their territory in pairs.
I never actually encountered any of them, this time around, but I did get a lecture the moment I stepped foot inside. Within my first few steps inside the entrance, an elderly woman, sitting on a bench a few yards away, felt the urge to warn me about going barefoot. Understand, this woman wasn’t necessarily within the area of my personal space–she had to raise her voice to make sure she was heard. She wasn’t about to be ignored either! Her attempts to catch my attention got louder and louder. “Sir! They may not want you in here with no shoes on!”
I simply turned to face her direction, smiled and said, “thanks for the warning.” I was about to continue forward but a mall maintenance worker overheard the woman’s shouting and decided to join in the conversation. “She’s right. If they catch you, they will escort you out of here.”
To make matters worse, my wife decided to side with them! “Love! Where are your shoes?!” My wife is still adjusting to my barefoot lifestyle but she’s been present with me every time I’ve ventured out barefoot. Perhaps it was out of her embarrassment that I got caught, but it was a bit painful that my wife was willing to treat me as though I had committed a crime.
With three against one, I lost my courage, turned around and went back out to my car to retrieve my Skele-toes. We did go back inside and my wife immediately forgot the incident but I was sulking the entire time I was there.
It wasn’t so much that I was sulking–I was actually in touch with a few different emotions all at once. I was pouting, like a child, because I had to wear shoes. A cool, shiny granite tiled floor covers the entire mall and my soles were dying to touch it! I was angry because a stranger felt the need to call attention to my bare feet to anyone within an ear shot. I was offended because I truly believed I was being discriminated against. I felt betrayed because my own wife was willing to feign shock at my bare feet because a stranger finally confronted me! All of this left me feeling vulnerable. The confidence I had stored up inside, drained away quickly and I was left with the question of whether or not I’d have the courage to go barefoot in public ever again.
To make a long story shorter: the answer is yes! Once my nerves had finally settled, I came to several conclusions. After three months of going barefoot in the grocery store, retail establishments, and various restaurants, ONE minor confrontation actually relates to a tiny percentage of rejection. Despite the majority of popular belief, barefooting is not illegal. Even though the experience was difficult to face at the time, I need to remember that I’m not the first person to go through it. Dozens of barefooters have experienced similar situations in the past and I need to remember that I’m not alone.
I’m still barefooting wherever I can. Although I doubt I’ll ever make it past mall security, I did take it upon myself to write a letter to mall managment in an attempt to plead my case.
As of today’s date, I’ve only been barefooting for about a month. I’m still not over that fear of being rejected by a store manager but I’m happy to say that it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve visited the regional grocery store chain (Food Lion), Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, McDonald’s, AT&T Cellular and Old Navy (“Sir, would you like to borrow a pair of flip flops? You’re not required to wear them but I can get you a pair if you feel the floor might be too cold.”) I’ve even picked up pizza from Papa John’s.
The point is, I have been barefooting for about 4 weeks and I have yet to be rejected because of it. I suppose the stigma of going barefoot in the United States will vary from region to region. At the same time, however, I don’t see those “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs like I used to. Perhaps the general public has more things to worry about than a pair of bare feet but I allow myself to assume that I’m free to go barefoot unless it’s clearly posted at the door that I can’t. I admit that there are still a few places where I’m hesitant to trod barefoot but I figure I can play dumb if I should get caught (“Oh! I didn’t see the sign requiring shoes”). My wife and I recently had dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant. Feeling a bit nervous, I walked in wearing flip flops but kicked them off under the table once we were seated. Although I prefer the openness of flip flops vs. a pair of sneakers, my first choice is always to be completely bare.
As it’s already been stated: it is not illegal to walk barefoot in public areas in any state. There is no state in the U.S. that imposes any health laws. A popular barefoot group in the U.S. conducted an experiment where they wrote letters to each and every state’s Health Department to uncover the truth about going barefoot. They received a response from every state and ALL of the state’s Health Departments have confirmed that this is merely a myth and that it is NOT against any health code regulations to go barefoot in public areas–including restaurants and grocery stores. Likewise there is NO evidence shown where it’s illegal to drive barefoot, either! I’m sure there are some police who still believe in the myth; but challenge them to recite a code or regulation and you’ll find them at a loss for words.
The truth, however, is that business’ can enforce whatever dress code they expect from their customers. What they cannot do is have you arrested and thrown in jail solely because you’re caught barefoot! They do reserve the right to ask you to put your shoes on. Should you refuse to comply and create a public disturbance, they could have you arrested for tresspassing. So far I have not been approached by anyone but I leave my flip flops and Skele-Toes in the car–I don’t carry them in hand (“But Sir… I didn’t bring any shoes with me”).
Do I like the idea of of being rejected because I’m barefoot? Of course not! I’m willing to take a chance and bare my feet wherever I feel comfortable. But should I come face to face with the uneducated store manager or that stubborn mall cop I plan to smile and comply. I’ll do my best to educate them but I believe, as a whole, barefooters share a common goal of making friends as opposed to enemies. All we want is nothing more than to be accepted with our bare feet. We all assume the “risks” of going barefoot in public. It’s our choice. We all know that no upstanding judicial system within the U.S. is going to grant us a multi-million dollar reward due to stubbing our toes in Walmart.
Becoming a public nuisance just because we might be asked to put on footwear only perpetuates the stereotype that we’re nothing more than a group of uncivilized, uneducated rebels who don’t deserve respect. Besides, by whose definition of “footwear” are you complying with? A lot of barefooters have discovered creative ways of presenting the illusion of wearing shoes or sandals.
Personally, I don’t understand it… it’s perfectly acceptable for my wife to wear sandals with soles that are a less than half a centimeter thick; but I have to put on shoes because a concert piano might fall out of the sky and land on my toes!
There is no law against driving without shoes: your manner of dress must simply not impair your ability to drive (no clown shoes for example)
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