These pages are not legal documents. They are not intended to be legal documents.
The main purpose of these pages is to make the idea of going barefoot more accessible to people, especially people like me who have been forced to suffer needlessly in shoes, and who may not realize that there is another option, and also to make people more aware of the needless barriers to going barefoot, in the hopes of effecting change.
It's also a stress reliever for me, an attempt to be more proactive in dealing with these issues, an attempt to have some fun in the middle of all of it.
Some pages have had their links removed. The pages are still there, and will stay there as long as I am with my current web host.
May 20, 2014
It appears as though some people are misreading this website. This little essay is to clarify some points. It was very stressful for me to write and in a perfect world I'd never have to think about these things again.
There are medical barefooters, and there are lifestyle barefooters. (There are also people who go barefoot primarily for spiritual or other reasons, but these are the two main categories.) Medical barefooters go barefoot for medical reasons, while lifestyle barefooters go barefoot because they like it. Some people go barefoot because it is more comfortable - I do not know where to place them, but if shoes are awful enough, they might qualify for the medical category. Otherwise I guess it would also be lifestyle barefooting.
There is some conflict between medical and lifestyle barefooters. Medical barefooters may feel threatened when lifestyle barefooters say "We're reasonable people. We put our shoes on when asked", since medical barefooters aren't in a position to do that. Does that make us unreasonable? And lifestyle barefooters may feel threatened when medical barefooters use disability rights legislation to protect our right/need to go barefoot, because it might give the message that only people with medical reasons should be allowed to go barefoot.
What if medical barefooters were to say "I need to go barefoot for medical reasons, and cannot wait for the culture to become more barefoot-friendly like the rest of you, but at the same time I don't think anyone should have to wear shoes unelss there's a genuine safety requirement, and I will lobby for barefooting for everyone who wants it whenever I get a chance"? And lifestyle barefooters can say "I go barefoot because I want to, and I can always wear shoes in a pinch (though of course the shoes themselves shouldn't pinch), but I recognize that not everyone can be as flexible as I am, so please respect that. Just because I can put my shoes on when you ask doesn't mean everyone can."
The problem with this mutual support is that it can increase the chance we'll be discriminated against. If medical barefooters support lifestyle barefooting on priniciple, we run the risk of being labelled lifestyle barefooters ourselves. And if lifestyle barefooters support medical barefooters on principle, they run the risk of being seen as troublemakers who won't conform to social norms. So I can see why medical and lifestyle barefooters are at odds. And I find that my own stance, of being supportive of both groups, has put me in the position where some people insist I must therefore be a lifestyle barefooter. Heck if I know what to do about that.
And then you get someone like Steven Robbins, M.D., who believes that everyone should be able to go barefoot if they want, for medical reasons. (There are people who can't, but going barefoot is healthier for most people. Robbins thinks shoes push people into a sedentary lifestyle, which is a major health concern.) For some reason he gets labelled as a lifestyle barefooter lobbyist by some people. As if it only counts as medical if it's rare? If that's true then there is no obesity epidemic! It's too common to be a health problem. /snark Or maybe it only counts if it's potentially fatal. (Note: there are medical conditions that do not count as disability: they are temporary and/or not serious, like the common cold. Long term or permanent conditions with significant impairment count as disability legally, even if they aren't name-brand disabilities.)
And then the media seem to be uncomfortable with the medical-legal issues. They seem to want to slant all of it as a lifestyle choice. "Barefooting lite", if you like. I try to talk about discrimination in interviews and they're not interested. (No one likes an angry woman.)
I go barefoot for medical reasons. That is the only reason why I switched to bare feet in the first place. Shoes are and pretty much always have been agony for me, especially ever since I grew too old for kids' shoes, with their roomier toe boxes. I mean, I had overlapping toes. Can you imagine what it is like to be forced to spend your entire life walking on overlapping toes? You tune it out, because you have to, but it still takes a toll. And let's not even consider the bleeding heels, from shoes too long and too loose in the heel (but still too narrow in the toes). And the soft corn I got from wearing wider shoes. And it was only going to get worse.
By the way, in this year's (2014) barefooter survey, 39% (of 390 subjects total) said they went barefoot primarily for lifestyle reasons, while 31% said they went barefoot primarily for medical reasons. Some others combined medical reasons with other categories, so 31% is the minimum. In a sample that was mostly but not entirely barefooters.
In the past I have generally not emphasized how much agony shoes caused me, and how angry I was because of it, because no one likes an angry woman, not even me. But I am finding that a few souls seem to think that I am a lifestyle barefooter. I just do it for fun! Nope. Not me. (Though I do try to have fun while I'm at it, because why not?)
First of all, there is a very heavy cost to going barefoot in Canada and the US (where there is more discrimination than other Western countries). While most people, businesses and services simply do not care, there is enough discrimination here to make life really hard. And while having medical documentation is usually enough to get a medical exemption to "no bare feet" rules, sometimes it isn't. Some people refuse to believe that medical barefooting is a thing. Sometimes I wonder whether they think that shoes are such a privilege (sarcasm here) that we should be grateful for the privilege of wearing them no matter how much pain and agony they cause, because they mean we get to be civilized. Like bound feet. And corsets. Or that since shoes are bad for everyone, it doesn't count when they are worse for some than for others. I mean, we all have to suffer (why??? oh, right, civilized), so toughen up, right?
Many people experience medical problems that going barefoot would alleviate, but are unable to make the transition because they face too much discrimination. Many people don't even know going barefoot could help them (which I suppose makes it easier for them to not have that choice available in any real way).
Some people have to choose between treating their medical condition effectively or keeping their job. (Not an issue for me because I'm on disability.) And yes, you can look for other work or file a human rights complaint, but in the meantime . . .
Some people have to choose between treating their medical condition and being allowed to go to school. (Universities often don't care outside of some labs, but kids' schools often do)
Some people have to choose between treating their medical condition and being allowed to shop in stores, use public libraries, take public transit, or take the bus, train or plane around the country.
My choices aren't always that harsh in some ways (I don't work or go to school), but they are harsher in others.
I get to choose between living somewhere where I can afford both food and housing, but am not allowed to use transit (for the last 2+ years), versus somewhere where I have no problems using transit (no rule against bare feet) but housing is unaffordable so goodbye food money. (I am on disability and well below the poverty level.) Personally I find not eating more painful than not having transit, but why should I have to choose in the first place? Also, obviously, I find wearing shoes to be worse than not having transit, so I persist in going barefoot even though I'm denied transit. That's not stupidity, or sheer ornariness, but necessity. Theoretically I could choose the other way, but I wouldn't last long.
Do I need to point out I can't afford a car? Many barefooters can afford to drive when transit is a problem.
In Vancouver I chose to go without the public library for 7 months rather than go back to wearing shoes, because even after only a couple of months going barefoot, the thought of going back to shoes was just too agonizing to bear. I honestly didn't know what I was going to do if I was unable to get a medical exemption for the library, but at least I had internet. (I wasn't eating enough, and I had a wonderful inexpensive apartment the likes of which I may never find again (certainly not in Vancouver), so that helped with internet costs.)
In Montreal I also get to choose between living in cheap (terrible) housing and having enough to eat, versus better housing with maybe not enough money for all the food I need, plus what about internet? (Forget the phone - too expensive for the use I'd get out of it.) But at least with cheap housing I can afford food and other "non-essentials" like internet* (a boon for an autistic person). So what if the mold makes me sick? And the neighbours don't let me sleep at night? At least I have food and shelter.
*The internet is assistive technology for autistic people.
And there are tougher choices, like choosing between poverty on welfare and the possibility of abuse with my family. Once you leave an abusive relationship and taste true freedom, it's very hard to go back. (But some people might bite the bullet, apologize for standing up for themselves and saying bad things, and go back, just because they might not have a chance of staying alive otherwise. It happens. I respect that, even if I couldn't do it. And people stay in abusive situations longer than they want to so that when they leave, they're in a better position overall. Again, I respect that. I did stay with my family until I was 21 when I wanted to leave at 16, for that reason. Not that I was that self-sufficient at 21 either.) [Note: No one in my family will endorse this paragraph. They think I had bad therapy or something. Abuse? Nope, not here. And I really hate mentioning it because it might stress out people who don't deserve it. Everyone loses.]
Choices. Aren't they wonderful?
Sometimes people have easy choices, and the only problem is that there are too many wonderful possibilities to choose from. Others face hard choices, where there's a high cost no matter what. I guess the simplest choices are where one path leads to suffering and the other to happiness, but we don't always have it that easy. (I actually thought it was sort of that easy when I started barefooting. I had no idea how bad it could get, and it seems to be getting progressively worse rather than better.)
Obviously, if someone put a gun to my head, I would choose to wear shoes rather than be shot. Just as I would submit to rape (if I really really really really really had to) rather than be killed. But it would be painful, dangerous (risk of injury wearing unfamiliar/poorly fitting shoes - it happens!), humiliating, and traumatizing.
When I say I chose to go barefoot, that means that five years ago, I faced two possibilities, one of continued suffering in shoes, the other of possible freedom from messed up feet, and I chose to end my suffering in shoes. It doesn't mean that I was choosing between one lifestyle choice and another. I was making a medical decision, and I thought I was doing the right thing by choosing the possibility that led to medical improvements. Had I known how much opposition I would face, I might not have had the courage. I'm glad I didn't know. Also, I'm glad I was in Vancouver, where there was less discrimination.
Of course, once I started going barefoot, there was no going back. It would take a gun to my head, or some other dire, equally powerless circumstances, to get me into shoes again. And then only long enough to get somewhere safe.
It's not as if I choose to go barefoot now. That choice happened long time ago, and there's no turning back. I do choose to stand up for myself to the extent that I can, though, because what else can I do? Realistically.
Another issue is how one talks about one's situation. I have been a victim plenty of times in my life, and face ongoing discrimination in all sorts of ways, so out of necessity I tend to focus on the positive (including my ability to make some sort of choice even when I lose no matter what I do) rather than play victim. I am not well enough off to be able to cope with the stress of playing victim. It would remind me of reality too much. Playing victim is for rich people. They can afford it.
Let me spell it out further. Playing victim would trigger my PTSD, making it worse. I have a medical reason for avoiding playing victim as much as possible. Sorry if that bothers you.
Besides, I don't know how to play victim. I'm always getting it wrong. You'd think being a real victim (with PTSD even) would be enough. Nope. (It might be because I'm autistic and lack social skills. There's probably some social skill involved.)
I suspect that I am not credible as a real victim because of this.
And even though this page is to correct misunderstandings about my situation, I'm probably getting it all wrong. Seriously, play the game properly, girl! (Sorry, don't know how.)
Did you know that holding a positive attitude can be held against you when you seek help for problems? Even when the positive attitude is to protect your sanity? (Some of the most positive people I have ever met are people who grew up disabled or abused. It's a coping strategy.)
Of course it's possible I'd be judged just as harshly if I had a more negative, "poor me" attitude, too. Sometimes it isn't about you, it's just that there's nothing you can do. They've already decided you're not going to win, because??? (Like the assumption that disabled people can't or shouldn't be able to participate equally in society.) I try not to think about that too much, and try to keep things positive, even though people will probably use that against me. What can I do? I need to get through each day somehow.
I guess what I'm talking about is limited choice versus true freedom of choice. Some people can choose between good and better. Some can choose between good and bad. Some of us are stuck choosing between bad and worse, because we lack reasonable options. And that's not fair.
Oh, and I consider forcing people to wear shoes that hurt because of a dress code abusive. But maybe that's another essay.