According to Wikipedia, the word pedicure refers to " a superficial cosmetic treatment of the feet and toenails." Oh, wiki, it's so much more than that!
I went for my first pedicure in 20 years yesterday. I know, I know, I should take care of myself more often. The pedicure was something I promised myself for my recent birthday, but had been reluctant to follow through on.
Until I sat down in the chair, I didn't realize why I was so uncomfortable about getting a pedicure. Here I was, sitting up on this queenly throne, with another woman kneeling at my feet. Really, being at someone's feet has to be one of the most subservient positions. At someone's feet. It has biblical connotations, yes, but as a feminist, I was more aware of the privilege dynamic. Someone at my feet. Like women are so often portrayed as being in regards to men. Less than. Humbled. Not worthy of recognition. Oppressed. I wondered how often women had been in this position and gone unrecognized, under-appreciated.
I was really, really uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. But, rather than call off the pedicure, I admitted my discomfort to Ann, who was bustling around the room, getting the water ready for my soak. Ann sat down on the stool and acknowledged that most of her fellow stylists refused to do pedicures because the subservient position made them uncomfortable, "though I don't know if they realize that that's what makes them uncomfortable."
And so began a really wonderful discussion - about women and our place in the world, how women's voices aren't heard and how scary this is in an election year. I shared how determined I am to talk to my Women's Studies students about real-life situations that they'll find themselves in, as future wives and mothers and workers. We both acknowledged how worried we are that young women are being raised to focus all of their attention on what they look like and the size of their bodies and how to attract a mate. How the white wedding dress and the one day celebration becomes the entire focus, not what happens after the wedding!
Ann shared a conversation that she had had recently with a family friend who was graduating from high school. When Ann asked her what she wanted to do with her life, the young woman answered, "I want to stay at home and take care of the house, get married and have babies." Ann replied, "As a woman, you'll do that. You'll take care of the house and the babies. Don't worry about that. But what do you want to do with your life?"
Now that's a powerful question.
And the conversation shows the danger that women are in, as another generation of women are taught to focus only on the immediate and the superficially physical, rather than being taught to think critically and/or deeply about their lives. To think about the careers and interests that fulfill them. About their educations. About the benefit of sports. About travel and having adventures, discovering things about yourself that you didn't know and that aren't determined by someone else. About their history as women, about being consumers and voters and policy-makers. About the importance of relationships that honor their strengths, thoughts, desires. About equality. About asking, on a regular basis, "What do I want to do with my life?"
It's very easy for women to become limited to a one-dimensional life. Men, too. We're taught to forget who we are as we shuffle through the expectations of others. I think that I've been caught up in this shuffle during the last few months, losing sight of my life and intentions. The distance to my dreams and goals built up just like the nasty calluses on my feet. Today, the calluses are gone. I have sparkly copper polish on my toes. And, I have a renewed purpose.
Pedicures. Highly recommend them. :)