Much like many American women today, I have a healthy (or not so healthy) affinity for shoes. A few years ago I had upwards of 150 pairs of shoes, and believe me when I say, I loved every pair. De-cluttering my closet one day I looked at each pair and asked myself, “Does this bring me joy?” And you know what, 150+ times I was filled with joy.
So, let me explain. I am picky about my shoes (as many of us are) and I have to be in absolute love before I purchase. However, I am not just picky about buying, I’m picky about keeping them too. Growing up in the lower-class Idaho farm country, I learned at a young age the importance of taking care of my things. How to hem, patch, and repair all of your wares was a must-have skill, and one I still use to this day. Yet, I fear that this frugal habit was my downfall in the end.
It began simply enough. Only the basics for me; only one pair of sneakers, boots, flats, and heels each. But one pair turned to two and then to three, and then, well, we all know where this rabbit hole goes. So on the front end I was falling in love with shoes like a crazed cupid cobbler, and on the back end I was caring and repairing my shoes to have a shelf life akin to the family pet. I even stored them in hard plastic shoe boxes to protect them from dust and deformation.
Now you may be thinking that it sounds as if I was going about this the smart way. I wasn’t being wasteful, and I wasn’t making big ticket purchases for designer brands. At least, that’s what I told myself over the years as my shoe hoard grew, until the day I realized the price I had really paid for my shoes.
The day in question was a payday. I was working in retail, as many of us do in our early twenties. I had spotted a new pair of shoes during my shift, and I had fallen in love. I told myself the lie that we all tell ourselves; I have enough shoes already. Yet, as the day progressed the power of those words lost their muster and I had resolved by the end of my shift that they would be mine. After all, it was payday.
And that’s when it happened. A co-worker dropped these words on me, “just work an extra hour and the shoes will be paid for.” An hour, my brain latched onto that word. She was right, based on my pay at the time, that pair of shoes would have cost me what I make in one hour. Suddenly, the price tag on those shoes did not have a dollar sign on them, but an hour hand. The true cost of those shoes was one hour of my life.
One hour of my time that I would not spend studying for finals, walking my dog, or laughing with my friends. It was one hour that I would not longer spend living, but that I would spend on those shoes. Now, you may be thinking that this is just the way that the world works, but in reality this is one of the tricky ways this world has skewed our perception. Instead of asking myself if those shoes were worth the dollar amount listed on the price tag, I should have been asking if those shoes were worth an hour of my time.
Now on some level we are all aware of this concept; time is money. But what are we, as women, really spending our time on, and why?
The US spend upwards of $180 billion on advertising annually, and as we all know, a majority of that advertising is geared towards women. The average woman will be exposed to between 400 and 600 advertisements within a single day. This must be effective, as women account for $20 trillion of consumer spending per year. That is more than 80% of overall consumer spending! So, what does that mean to you?
Well, let me ask you this… what was the last advertisement you saw today? How did it make you feel? Now, if you are like me, it didn’t make you feel all that great. Maybe it made you feel ugly or bad about your body. Maybe it was trying to sell you something ridiculous, like a scented credit card or lipstick for your vagina. Whatever it was, chances are you didn’t need it, but maybe you wanted it. So, why? Why did I want 150+ pair of shoes?
I told myself I wanted them because they were cute, because they practical, because shoes always fit. But at the end of the day, I had to take a more analytical look into my reasoning. I had to admit that I had bought these shoes for other reasons. I had been sold the idea of the shoes; convinced by the banners, commercials, and billboards that there was such a thing as ‘fashion’, and that I needed to be ‘fashionable’. I had been persuaded that these shoes were worth my money, worth my time.
So, as I stood in front of my closet and looked over my 150+ pairs of shoes, I started to do the math. My high-heeled hoard was worth a year and a half. That was their real price. A year and a half of my life, my time. And even though I loved my shoes and each and every pair brought me joy, their worth suddenly became very minuscule compared to what a year and half of my time was worth.
While every individual defines their worth differently, we all know how a majority of media and advertising defines a woman’s worth, and something tells me they don’t seem to think we are worth our weight in gold. It may seem as though all they are selling us is spandex, anti-wrinkle cream, and full coverage foundation, but what they are really selling are ideas. The idea that we are too fat, too old, and too ugly. They are banking on their ability to make us feel worthless.
If every woman in America woke up tomorrow and loved the way she looked, just imagine how many companies would go out of business the next day. Imagine if every woman in America added up all the hours in her closet, in her make-up vanity, and on her bathroom shelf, weighed them against her time, and decided she was worth more than that.