One shoe could fit all — if shoes weren’t gendered

Editor’s Note: Author Christine Cox is a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

Why do we separate women’s shoes from men’s shoes?shoes

I work in a shoe store, and I’ve noticed how people behave when it comes to the whole gender issue. Our kids’ shoes are separated by size, with boys on top and girls on the bottom.

Parents are quick to ask if tennis shoes are “boys” or “girls.” Does it matter? If their child likes them, what difference does it make?

We only carry work and hiking boots in men’s, but some women won’t even try them on. They just leave in search of a store that has the exact same shoe in the women’s section, so they can remain safely in their gender zone.

Several men come in looking for women’s shoes, but usually bolt when anyone comes into the aisle they’re shopping in. We don’t bat an eyelash at a woman buying men’s shoes for herself, but a man buying women’s shoes seems to be something to snicker at.

Women pull their children closer to them as if the man has to be a sexual deviant to buy women’s shoes. Teens huddle together and laugh openly without concern for the man’s feelings or humiliation. Funny, these same teens don’t mind when the canvas high tops in style at the moment are only found in the men’s section.

Unfortunately, the customers aren’t the only ones who snicker. I talk to my coworkers about treating cross-dressers with respect and dignity. If I can’t appeal to their moral decency, then I appeal to the bottom line. The LGBT community spends more than $700 billion annually. Not an amount to be snickered at!

What if we sold shoes by size and style, instead of by gender? Modifications would have to be made to expand choices for everyone.

At the moment, kid’s sizes start at one for babies and go to size 13 ½ in kid’s. The process starts over again at size one for kids and ends at size 4 ½.

Kid’s sizes go straight into men’s size five, and proceeds up to size 15 or more. Women’s shoes are two sizes smaller than kid’s/men’s, and start at size five up to size 13 or more. In other words, a woman wearing a size seven could wear a size five in men’s or kids extended sizes, expanding her choices.

Starting at size one for babies and going all the way up to size 28 or more in men’s, with no difference for women’s would simplify the whole process.

Instead of the typical Brannock device used to measure feet, which has men’s sizes on one side,and women’s on the other, only one size and width would be necessary. This would be a larger version of the device we use for kids.

All shoes would have to come in regular, wide and extra wide. In other words, a current women’s size nine wide would be a size 20 wide. A men’s size 10 wide would be a size 23 extra wide. If a woman needs a wider size, she can choose an extra wide, and if a man has a narrow foot, he can choose a wide or even a regular.

All size 17 shoes would be together. Women’s, kid’s and men’s dress shoes displayed dark to light. All the sandals, casuals, athletics and boots displayed dark to light.

People with wider feet or bunions will find comfortable shoes more easily. Everyone would have a greater selection, and eventually we would stop stereotyping people by which shoes they wear.

Granted, it might take a while for pumps or pink sparkly tennis shoes on men to be accepted, but why are we so uptight about it?

And why stop at shoes? This same concept can be carried into all apparel. By simply having “fitted” styles on one rack and “loose” styles on another we can expand choices, while getting the right fit for out tastes.

We sell floral sheets next to solids and stripes. Why should we sell clothing any differently?

It’s time we get out of the gender box. I’m not suggesting we stop making pink sparkly tennis shoes, just that we stop worrying about who wears them.

Women athletes deserve a full stadium too

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Leah Taylor, a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

ua-womens-bballIn today’s society, men rule the world of sports and always have. Have you ever seen a full stadium at a WNBA basketball game? Probably not. But go to an NBA game and there is usually not a seat open.

Why is this? Some might say women just aren’t as exciting or aren’t as good athletes as men are. Others might argue that it is because women’s sports aren’t being advertised enough. Then there are those “brave” souls who might say that women belong in the house, cooking, cleaning, and popping out babies, rather than hitting or dribbling a ball.

I could agree with those who say that women’s sports aren’t being advertised enough or at all for that matter. You see advertisements all over TV and hear them on the radio for men’s sports and sporting events. You rarely see or hear anything about women’s though.

Even back in the early 1900s, women were being discriminated against. There were good years though. But of course they would eventually go bad again. It’s like a never-ending cycle.

Here is an example of women playing baseball in the 1900s. It is pretty lengthy, but you get the point. Discrimination has been going on practically forever. Women have always been looked upon as the “weaker sex” and “the second sex.”

I believe this has a lot to do with the way that they are treated in sports. In general, women are not taken as seriously as men are. This is another reason why women continue to be discriminated against, especially in today’s world.

Men have always been applauded and recognized for their role in sports. Women, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong there are many people who love women’s sport just as much, if not more than men’s, but it is not as visable.

An example that stands out right away to me, is when I was flipping through TV channels one day recently and passed a men’s college basketball game. I noticed the stands were pretty much full of people. I then passed a women’s college basketball game and noticed there were hardly any faces in the stands.

I watched it for a little while, and just thought to myself,  “How sad is that.” Even my boyfriend said to me, “That is sad.”

They put just as much, if not more effort into their game as the men do, and this is the kind of respect that they get? It’s just heartbreaking.

Women’s sports is something that I feel very passionately about. Not just because I played in high school, but because women athletes deserve the same respect and equal treatment that men athletes have been getting their entire careers.

Hopefully, one day women can experience the joy of seeing a full stadium of fans cheering them on.

Gendered by purple pens and buzz cuts

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Jessica Hale, a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

Female Male SymbolsIt is too late to fix us.

Here I sit, twenty years old, and gendered as can be. My hair is long, my sweatshirt pink. My jeans are in style, and I write with a purple pen.

I look at the young man sitting across the room. A contrast-buzzed hair, his loud angry music pumping through the earphones. I, too, listen to music, but quietly. I don’t want to bother anyone.

Our genders are each firmly in place, this guy and I. Constructed since birth. If you told me tomorrow I should act like a man, I wouldn’t. I don’t want to. My gender, and all the little details of it, are too much a part of who I am.

I believe some of this comes from nature-I think evolution has probably rendered me more nurturing than my buzzed counterpart; he more likely to hunt up some meat for dinner. This would be survival if we were out in the world, a natural way to keep our species going.

But my purple pen? His baggy jeans? Not exactly propagating the human race.

I have a friend who is pregnant. Her baby knows nothing of purple, nothing of angry music. The baby’s gender cannot even be determined yet; it is still wrapped secretly in the tiny chromosomes that will surprise us with the details of this new human.

Soon, of course, it will develop sex organs-hardly necessary for now, until puberty hits-and even then, when it emerges from the womb to the world, this baby will behave the same way, whatever its sex.

It will be hungry. It will cry. It will develop love for its parents and learn to smile. It will begin to play, and if no one guides its choices, to play with the toys that it finds most pleasing. It will laugh, and it will one day speak. Babies are babies, no matter whether their cap is pink or blue.

How long does this androgyny go on? When do we stop relying on clothing color to determine the sex of an unfamiliar child?

I suppose until we start determining it by hair length!

The point is, until puberty, when obvious differentiations between the sexes occur, there is no way to tell a boy from a girl without being put in jail. Children cannot reproduce, and therefore, there is really no need for gender until the point at which they can. Self-segregated play and childhood crushes are totally the product of a gendered society, not the natural course of pre-pubescent life.

What if we raised children like Baby X from the popular feminist fairy-tale “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” by Lois Gould? What if there was no such thing as gender until gender began to matter?

If we adopted such a system, where children were treated neutrally until they began to mature, then people would get to know themselves as individuals before they get to know themselves as a member of a gender. They would be familiar with their own hearts and minds long before the angst and emotional turmoil of adolescence.

Adolescence would be the time to examine how individuals fits with their gender, and they would be more comfortable deviating from their peers, since the individual consciousness would have been established as more important that the gendered group.

Evolutionarily, there would probably still be differences between males and females as hormones began to kick in. Female strengths, such as community and compromise, would still emerge in due course. Male strengths, such as aggressiveness and competitiveness, would probably also continue.

But what about docility in females? Would the women of this kind of rearing keep her music quiet so as “not to be a bother?” This also applies to domination in males. They would not learn that men must be on top, simply because they are men. We would get to keep all that makes the separate genders fascinating and beautiful and eliminate the oppressive traits that society imposes upon us.

Well, not us. It’s still too late for most of us. We own our genders, and revel in them, even as they keep us from reaching our full selves.

Or perhaps we detest them, try so hard to break free of them that an attempt at separation is just as absorbing.

But the cycle does not need to continue. People do not always need to be defined by gender first and personality second. It is all a matter of teaching future generations what is important: the unique self, who may or may not like using a purple pen for reasons unrelated to biology.

If you seek Amy is negative influence on teen girls

Editor’s Note: This post was written by a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

Last month a friend and I won tickets to the Britny Spears concert in Pittsburgh through a contest on the radio. In spite of the fact that I have never really been a Britny fan, I humored my friend and attended the concert anyway.

Upon entrance to the concert I looked around only to realize that the majority of the people attending the concert were females between the age of 12 and 40. I also realized that the females walking in were dressed as if they were walking into a night club. They were decked out in tight, revealing outfits complete with high heels.

As I noticed these females, I was flabbergasted. My friend and I are in our mid-twenties, and we were the most conservatively dressed women there.

As we made our way to our seats, many things alarmed me; these young children — for lack of better words — looked like cheap hookers. These children were showing everything that no one wants to see on a twelve-year-old.

As the mothers stood close by admiring their daughters home-made tank tops with the phrase, “It’s Britny Bitch” on the front, I was appalled. I stood at the gift table behind the little girls and their mothers while they purchased thong underwear and boy shirts with the phrase, “If you seek Amy.”  The Pussycat Dolls were opening for Britny, so I thought maybe Amy was one of the Pussycat Dolls.

I soon came to find out the hidden message behind “If you seek Amy.” Apparently if you say the phrase fast, it spells F-u-*-K Me!

Completely taken back, I couldn’t believe it. My friend laughed and said that was the name of Britny’s new song. I whispered to her as if no one but us knew the secret message, “Does everyone know about this message?”

She said, “Yeah, its been all over the radio!”

I couldn’t believe that these mothers were standing there purchasing merchandise that promoted this message. I was devastated that these mothers thought this message and the other messages that Britny promotes were what they wanted their daughters to promote too.

These girls were being exploited sexually, and their mothers were condoning it! I am all for sexual freedom, but not for a twelve-year-old. Society is forcing our children to grow up before their time, and we just hop on the band wagon.

I have no problem with Britny Spears, but I’ll be damn if I’m going to let my child view her as a role model. Society should be promoting strong, healthy, intelligent women instead of Britny Spears.

Take action for pay equity for women

epd_ecard_photoOn June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay men and women different wages for the same work. Today, April 28, 2009, women still do not have pay equity.

Women in 2009 make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. And we are are still working to change that.

Today is Equal Pay Day 2009, the day when women’s earnings finally match what men made in 2008.  

Take action about the pay gap, which burdens women throughout their lives:

  • Find out more about this year’s Pay Equity Day.
  • Send an Equal Pay Day e-card.
  • Find out what the pay gap is in your state.
  • Watch a You Tube video about Equal Pay Day.
  • Contact your representatives in Congress to support the Paycheck Fairness Act

How will Octomom do it?

Editor’s Note: This post was written by a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

tdy_curry_octupletsmom_090206_300wThe way our economy is running today, most families may view it as impossible to raise one child, let alone 14.

Yes, we view these entertaining multi-child families on TLC like “Jon and Kate Plus Eight,” where their hectic lives seem to somehow come together and work. But what the viewers need to put into perspective is that the parents of these many children are stable financially and mentally. In these cases, the parents are married couples who are having children for the right reasons, not because they “need love” and are trying to fill voids from a dysfunctional childhood.

Nadya Suleman, the Californian who gave birth to octuplets on Jan. 26 and who happens to have six other children under the age of 8 at home, had no right to have all of those babies. I think what makes me so mad about the situation is that when all of these women’s rights activist stand up and defend her and say “Good for Nadya for being anti-abortion.”

I am a firm believer that women have the right to choose, but this is entirely out of context when we are dealing with an unstable mother who was implanted with six embryos and wasn’t financially stable to care for the children she already had.

It is not moral that Nadya had these babies knowing that neither she nor her family would have enough arms or cash to care for these innocent little babies. No matter the site I visited, it seemed everyone jumped to conclusions, dug up past events and labeled this “octomom” as unstable, and unable to take care of her 14 children.

But were they just conclusions because as Nadya’s past was looked into it is unfortunate that a woman of her stature is mothering so many children single handedly?

Suleman admits that more than half of her income is government-funded, and she has hopes that she can get a television show like other multi-child mothers or through donations Suleman may be able to properly raise the children financially. Rumors of TLC offering her a show have been cleared up; Suleman and her 14 kids will not be appearing on TLC.

And in all honesty, I don’t blame the channel for turning her down. She just doesn’t have her priorities in order, and America may have predispositions, but it’s certain that Nadya is not the most stable mother. Take into consideration that she is unemployed, poor, living with her mother, admits to having mental issues, and has six other children.

For a single parent it is difficult to juggle two children let alone fourteen. I just can’t configure any possible way this mother is going to be able to care for all of her children.

From my perspective, Nadya is to blame for this, and she should be shunned. Nadya was fully aware that six embryos were being implanted into her. Strict guidelines are set by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, and they require that no more than five embryos be transferred to women 40 years and older and only one or two embryos be transferred to women 35 years old and younger.

So why was Suleman, a 33-year-old, given six embryos? Who are we to blame for this event, Nadya or the doctor who implanted her? I’m sure the mother of fourteen will have her mothering skills closely watched.

And with help coming from every angle, let’s all just pray that these children are cared for properly and Suleman gets her act together.

What’s in a name anyway?

Editor’s Note: This post was written by a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

marriage20certificateI got married when I was 21. Though I was rather young, it was something that I felt compelled to do, and I was completely accepting of all the commitments and responsibilities that lay ahead of me, save for one: the changing of my last name.

For most brides it’s not usually a big issue. Many women take pride in taking on their husband’s name, but I didn’t.

I thought maybe there was something wrong with me for feeling that way, like I was a bad fiancé for wanting to keep my name, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was losing a part of my identity that I had held onto so strongly for 21 years. I took pride in my name and really didn’t understand the tradition of changing it. The whole tradition just seemed silly and chauvinistic to me. It didn’t seem fair that I had to change a part of my identity and my husband didn’t.

There were countless arguments about this topic, and I was told that if I didn’t comply with the name change I could forget about getting married. Red flag number one.

Being young, stupid and in love, I reluctantly gave in, and as I signed my marriage license with my new identity printed on it, I couldn’t help feeling contempt and as if I had just sold out on my beliefs. Not exactly the common reaction a bride is supposed to feel, right? Red flag number two.

A lot of people made me feel like I was making a mountain out of a molehill, but I didn’t understand why so many brides adhere to a tradition that is reminiscent of a time when women were treated like a man’s property. As a feminist, I felt as though I was taking a step backward in my life instead of a step forward.

Why was I letting my new husband choose what I was going to be called, instead of standing up and choosing it for myself? Why couldn’t he understand that it was just as insulting for him to ask me to change my name as it was for me to ask him to do the same?

To me, regardless of what our last names were, we still loved each other and we wouldn’t be less of a married couple if we chose to keep our names just the way they were. It wasn’t a big deal for me or something that I felt I had to do to feel truly connected to him.

I even went as far as asking my fiancé to change his name to mine, hoping that by reciprocating his actions toward me, he could understand where I was coming from. But no. He told me that I was ridiculous for asking a man to take my name because “that’s just not the way things are done.” Red flag number three.

I just don’t understand why people conform to traditions and practices just for the sake of tradition. To me, doing something like changing a piece of your identity just because “that’s the way it’s always been” is just plain ignorant.

I know I probably sound like a hypocrite because I complied to this tradition as well, but love makes us idiots and causes us to act without logic a lot of the time.

It’s now three years later, and I am divorced and have gone back to my old name. Though the name issue was not the reason for my getting divorced, it definitely generated hostility and contempt that contributed greatly to other existing conflicts.

I feel as though I’m a lot smarter now, and I don’t regret anything because with experience comes wisdom. I’m still open to marriage, but I’ve realized that if a man isn’t willing to respect you who you are and what you believe in, then it’s not worth it, nor is it okay to change yourself just to appease your significant other. That will just make you miserable and angry with yourself.

Looking back I think I would have been open to accepting my ex-husband’s name if he wouldn’t have given me an ultimatum. I don’t condemn women who change their names either, as long as they made the decision on their own and weren’t forced to by their spouse.

And I might be open to changing my name one day if I ever remarry, but only if the man I’m with realizes that it is my option to do so, and not my obligation. I think it means more that way anyway.