At the End, Say We

When Juan de Fuca jerks further beneath North America, and the ocean swallows itself before a roar of rock and water, say we had our share of scraped knees and punch-drunk giggles. Say we ate some popsicles, shared them with dogs and neighbors, and ran some good lemonade stands in our time. Say we got older and scrounged our pockets for change for lemonade and the power of a kid’s hopeful.  Say we each loved a tree to the best of our ability — with a hug, kiss, soft pat, climb, affirmation. Say some of us were whores for trees and we didn’t do it for the money. Say we were caterpillars in sleeping bags for the sun’s rise and danced naked once or twice for its setting. Say we noticed every phase of the moon, stubbed our toes, stumbled drunk or confused, bit our tongues, and got bad haircuts.

When Newberry caldera once again fills with lava, say we stood on the piles of pumice and obsidian before they were claimed. Say we smiled at strangers, ate watermelon and candy, and grew calluses. Say we were desperate and needy during some breakups, lost our dignity and dusted it off (yelling “5 seconds!”), and were gosh darned divas rocking the syllables of independence. Say we said thanks—a lot—and tipped our servers. Say we held some doors and walked through those held for us. Say we were lovers and fighters, and welders more than dividers. Friend, say we dined with our dead and laid them to rest, watching the candles flicker on the soft waves of their journeys. Say we risked embarrassment in other languages and were supportive when others were learning.

When hurricanes create tinder from our houses, say our hearts did not beat for our possessions. Say we learned the terrain of our homes like our bellybuttons—those mesas, mountains, rivers, desserts, canyons—or at least like our lower backs; we were aware of the land even when our eyes weren’t open. Say we made friends far more than enemies and spent some afternoons wondering what “enemy” meant. Say we lost some socks and sent sweet notes just for the heck of it. At the end, say we learned how to say sorry and breathe courage and forgiveness. Say we never stopped learning. When we go down, please tell me it’s after a lifetime of more celebration than mourning.

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what our words mean

I am writing a paper about my behavior change experiment in which I dressed in a way society considers feminine and rather sexy (tight disco pants, cropped top, high heels…), and I am struggling to describe any type of clothing as “feminine” or “masculine”. Who the heck puts a gender on clothing? I haven’t been able to call any clothing masculine because anybody can wear it and I don’t identify as masculine. But you know what? Anyone can wear a dress too. That’s just more taboo.

Screw gender roles and gendered attire. There is no masculine or feminine clothing. If there is, I want someone to first describe to me what masculine and feminine mean. I want them to tell me what “man” and “woman” mean.

I will continue to wear what I want. Carhartts, plain t-shirts, lacy lingerie, dresses, disco pants, blazers, and all.

 

Shapeshifter

I must be a certifiable shape shifter. A regular Caterpillar-Butterfly-Caterpillar-Dragon medley of gender, ‘cuz like I told the clerk at Crossroads Trading on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland and my friends in passing (I laugh when I say it): my gender changes with the seasons.

 

And maybe just like there is high couture there is high androgyny and that is what I wear during fall and winter seasons when my pants are bootcut jeans or carhartts and my tops are flannel and wool and my jaw is set and my body rejects air, rejects breezy, and skips and giggles if that means I will be seen as a flower. Because flowers are wonderful and necessary for bees but sometimes I am a goshdarned Maple tree without leaves, no frills, no “girl/lady/gal/female/woman”, and I wonder how much F-ing trouble it is for another genderqueer person to not say “I do what cute girls tell me to do” in reference to me.

 

I wonder how much goddamn work it is to understand chiffon, velvet, silk, and lace can be worn by any gender just like anyone can wear cotton, denim, wool, tuxedos, swim trunks, and Kevlar.

Yes, it does make sense for me to ponder being a girl for Halloween.

 

I wear what I want and am whatever I am and that is not “girl”.

I am sitting in the Memorial Union finishing my Liberal Studies application (because one major and minor wasn’t enough) about to head to the library to print, but someone is playing the baby grand piano in the lounge behind me. The music is so beautiful it breaks my heart. I cannot leave.

My (feet’s) Ethical Quandary: To Wear Toms Or To Not Wear Toms?

Is it better to buy an American brand pair of shoes likely manufactured in a sweatshop in another country or buy a pair of shoes manufactured in another country (in a sweatshop?) from an American company that donates a pair for every pair purchased…but potentially hurts the economies of the countries that receive the donated shoes?

My feet are picky customers. It is not easy to please the high-arched things nor the knees they are attached to. Moreover, because I like to be conscious of where my footwear and apparel is manufactured, I generally avoid places like H&M and Forever 21 which offer cute, inexpensive clothing at deplorable human and environmental costs. Shoes too. In addition to these limitations, I avoid flats and heels because I need a little more comfort than those styles offer and I also have strong feminist feelings about the unhealthiness of high heels. This makes it very difficult to find shoes that go with dresses, skirts, and slacks, and brings me to what is on my mind: Toms Shoes.

When Toms shoes first came out and every third female-bodied* person my age was sporting the simple canvas shoes, I found them very attractive. I was rather deterred by the cost but the “One For One” tagline engaged my curiosity. The company’s philanthropic mission made me think the cost might be permissible if I was also sorta donating a pair of shoes. Even then, however, I was a bit uncomfortable with the mission and did considerable Google-searching to further learn where these simple shoes were made and where the donated pairs were going. Eventually, because I had won an Amazon gift card, I purchased two pairs. The shoes were really comfortable and remain the most comfortable Emily-Is-Pretending-She-Has-Formal-Footwear shoes I have ever worn. I wore my two pairs to pieces over the course of a year and a half. After wearing a purple pair of Adidas fake-sporty shoes every day for a couple of months, I realize it is time to maybe buy a neutral pair of shoes and Toms came to mind. Unfortunately, now I know that Toms hurts countries its shoes go to by undermining shoe-making there I am not so keen on them.  I was also ticked when I saw its offensive “tribal” Toms. That’s cultural appropriation. Not okay. Strike 2. I am also uncomfortable with the idea of a [white] American loudly “helping” children in other countries. Seems like white savior stuff. International philanthropy is often a form of imperialism, whether intended or not.

I imagine Toms does a lot of good and many of the children who receive their new shoes are grateful and maybe even amused. But I don’t know if that justifies the purchase. In a globalized world, what kind of footwear should people buy if they want peace of mind? Is it possible to buy a pair of shoes that is not part of systems of social inequality? Is it possible to buy an affordable pair of shoes that offer the buyer peace of mind?

Do I buy a pair of Toms or not buy a pair of shoes at all unless it is made in the United States with fair trade and organic materials?

I did not intend to write a long post about what should be a very simple decision to buy shoes. How remarkable is it that we live in a world in which the cheapest pairs of shoes are produced thousands of miles away. Shouldn’t the cheapest shoes be manufactured locally? Prices should include external costs like transportation and environmental stewardship. What would an (affordable) locally manufactured, vegan shoe look like?

I am not sure what I am going to do about the shoes. I don’t know if there are any I can buy with any peace of mind. Does anyone have any recommendations? What is the most ethical thing to do?

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*I’m unsure what I meant by “female-bodied.” Probably individuals who were designated female at birth regardless of their actual gender identity. At the time I wrote this, I didn’t know many cis-gendered males wearing Toms.