Am I a bad person?

Candace, 26 January 2006, 5 comments
Categories: Canadiana, Culture, Feminism, Third Wave, Women's Studies

This past weekend I was in Ottawa for a conference. Ottawa is part of Canada. Canada is cold. And snowy. Especially in the winter time. Like the third weekend in January.

Even if the instructions say: “dress warmly and bring boots” there will be variation in how people interpret “boots”. My roommate for example had mukluks: very warm, and very dry, as well as reflective of her culture. I had above the ankle hiking boots (they were seconds at Columbia earlier this winter when my 11-year-old daughter shockingly grew into and confiscated my wonderful Sorels). Because of a killer blister on my heel that just won’t get better I alternated boots outdoors with birks and socks indoors.

Wondering where this is going?

On Saturday it snowed. All day. The sidewalks were covered in snow. I walked back to the hotel with two other conference attendees, one of whom was wearing boots with spiked heels. She was completely immobilized by the weather. She couldn’t walk down the sidewalk because there were no grips on her boots. She couldn’t dig the heel in like an ice pick either. She tiptoed along in the snowbanks because this was the only way she could keep from falling. She crawled along at a snail’s pace and people passed us on both sides. Laughing.

Eventually the man we were with took pity on her, and she clung to his arm the rest of the way back. We both chastised her for her ridiculous footwear. The walk back should have taken about 5 minutes but instead took nearly half an hour.

At one point the man asked me to take her other arm, after all, we were all getting tired of her dawdling, and I had on good sturdy boots. I wouldn’t though. She made the choice to wear the boots, fully aware that she was in Ottawa, fully aware that it was snowing that morning, and that it was likely to snow all day. She is from another Canadian city, not that far away, and is familiar with the weather conditions here. She chose her impairment, and by assisting her I felt I would be enabling her choice, instead of letting her experience the consequences of the boots. (Why anyone would own such disabling footwear is a whole other matter…)

I did offer to carry the man’s conference bag but he really was managing just fine (no doubt thanks to his functional footwear choice).

Boots like these render a woman helpless. Every bit of feminist effort towards independence for women is lost when a woman chooses to cling like this to get home. If you want to be a trophy, stay at home on the shelf. If boots like these are your usual choice then navigating the ice and snow in Ottawa in the winter will require you to do some strategic planning.


5 Responses, Leave a Reply
  1. leaf
    29 January 2006, 11:57 pm

    I think you are being a little too harsh.

    Making appropriate footwear choices is something people learn from experience (&pain). And there are some that will always choose style over comfort.

    In the end you punished yourself, by extending a 5 min walk into half an hour. If you had helped her it would likely have been somewhat faster.

    Like it or not, appearance matters – perhaps she was choosing to see it more as a job interview setting? and her choice reflected that (or maybe I’m giving her too much credit.)

    for what it’s worth. A.

  2. Administrator
    30 January 2006, 9:31 am

    I sure hope that next time she will make a differnt choice. She’s got the combination now of experience and pain, complaining when we got back to the hotel about how her feet were killing her (having had these on for 14 hours).

    I wouldn’t say I’d punished myself – Ottawa is a beautiful city and I’ve got great blog fodder now. It’s not the time that I begrudge, it’s her self-inflicted dependence.

  3. Sour Duck
    08 February 2006, 10:15 am

    Surprised there aren’t more comments attached to this one. I thought this was quite a good post in that it takes theory – the theory of feminism – and clashes it with a personal experience.

    From a theorhetical standpoint, I would not help the woman. But in “real life”, if she needed extra support (other than what the man was giving her), I *would* assist her. (I think!)

    Ugh! Not very good at commenting tonight, apologies. What I would do in that situation is beside the point.* What I really mean is: the reason I found your post so interesting is because I’ve come across similar scenarios in my own life, where my own values clash with a situation. I almost *always* cave in to convention. And being “nice”. I assume other women have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, too, due to convention clashing with feminism.

    What to do, what to do…

    But to answer your point: no, you’re not a bad person for not assisting your colleage – she had one person assisting her, and it wasn’t a life-or-death situation, merely an inconvenience, so it’s a safe assumption you aren’t a bad person.

    BTW, glad to see this included in the Carnival of Feminists (8). (Guess who nom’d you. :)))

    (P.S. – is there any way you can rejig your comment facility so there is a preview option? I re-edit my comments alot, usually…)

    * And besides, how can I really know, sitting comfortably at my pc? It’s a guess at best.

    BTW, Leaf:

    “In the end you punished yourself, by extending a 5 min walk into half an hour. If you had helped her it would likely have been somewhat faster.”

    What about the punishment M&F would’ve felt afterwards by betraying her feminist beliefs? Doesn’t this count?

  4. Tara
    08 February 2006, 9:30 pm

    If she saw it as an inteview setting then I guess she amptly demonstrated that she lacks skills at assessing situations, showing foresight, and implementing appropriate strategies…

    On the other hand, in our f*ed up culture there’s no way of being sure that competence in a female, as opposed to compliance, would be rewarded 🙁

  5. […] ure. Still on a ‘beauty myth’ tip, Candace of Muse and Fury fame wants to know if she’s a bad person for dissapproving of her colleague’s, admittedly […]

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