Confrontations about going barefoot

Why it matters.

I hear a lot about people who like to go barefoot, or have another non-conforming dress/appearance, and who are confronted in a store, restaurant or elsewhere. Some directly give in, putting on shoes, taking out piercings, etc. This essay is about confrontations like that.

Hypothetical situation:
You go into a store, barefoot. You have flops in you bag, you did have a long day of work and you're not feeling like a confrontation. Yet you didn't put them on before going into the store, only carrying them along 'just in case'. A little ways along in the store, a store employee spots you. '"Sorry, but you can't be barefoot here, please put on some shoes." Well, you were in a hurry, you did have a long day, so you take out your flops and put them on, without arguing. You can always write a letter, or come back to the store later. No problem, right?

What just happened?















Okay, how many of you said 'nothing'?
After all, you didn't have a confrontation, you did put on your flops, you didn't argue, you didn't make a big deal out of it... But something did happen. Not taking action is an action too, in itself. An important difference between people and (other ) animals is that people can learn from words, by argument, persuasion, etc. But that doesn't mean that we don't learn by the basic, 'animal' positive & negative feedback. Especially in the absence of more advanced input, you bet we learn that way.

This store employee has just learned how easy it is to confront a barefoot person. He might even think 'see, going barefoot is wrong, and he knew it, he even had his shoes with him'. Especially if the employee wasn't sure about confronting anyone (many are younger people, who may not be so confrontational themselves, or he wasn't sure about the store policy he was told about by the manager making sense, himself) he would be strongly reinforced in his feeling it's alright to ask barefooters to wear shoes. The next time you or someone else enters the store, he will probably stop you sooner and be more confident about it.

Also, any of the other customers who saw you put on shoes saw someone who put on flops without argument, what they saw was 'see, you can't be barefoot in here'. And even if you plan to return later and speak to the manager, those other people won't be there. It's only a small thing among all the 'nsnsns' signs etc, but still... I'd hate to be a part of reinforcing those kind of ideas, however small a part it may be.

What could be done differently?
Even if you do not want a real argument, do make it clear you are not happy with his request. You can say something to that effect even while putting the flops on, and it will help some (that's the thing about people, we can learn from words and not actions only, but those words do have to be said to be effective ).

Or put the flops on outside, that way you'll be one of the shod masses and no one will notice either way (that way really nothing will have happened). I have read simple 'no problem' confrontations on lists and newsgroups several times, and I have cringed every time, more than when people decided to wear flops from the start.

Or (my choice ) do take the time to argue, because it is important to stand up for our freedoms. Even if we are busy, or tired.

I can not make anyone more confrontational, and I can not make you argue every time, but I believe a lot of people simply don't realize that those perceived 'non-events' count, too. Please, do think about it.

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More barefoot links:
Index | Why NSNSNS signs are wrong | No bare feet by order of... | The dangers of bare feet are greatly exaggerated | Confrontations in stores, why it matters | Bare feet and colds | Driving barefoot and safety | Flying barefoot, comfort and safety | Bare feet, proper dress and respect | Dress codes in schools and elsewhere

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