Fighting with the Sky

A Feminist Reflection on Pedicures

Posted on: August 13, 2009

I love getting pedicures. But I’ve always felt kind of uneasy getting them (a feeling that I am slowly and surely overcoming). Even now that I am becoming more comfortable getting pedicures, I still feel the need to justify getting them; I always get them for a reason. For example, this morning I went to get a pedicure in preparation for my cousin’s wedding this weekend (see right). I’ll also get pedicures before I go on vacation, before I went back to school, etc. I never got a pedicure just for the hell of it, and even if that was really the reason, I would find some other reason to “justify” getting a pedicure.

Why do I do this? Why do I feel the need to justify doing something that I enjoy?

I think that part of it comes from the feeling that why would I have someone do something for me when I can do it myself.* Of course this doesn’t always hold. I go to restaurants when I could easily cook for myself. I get my hair cut at a salon when I technically could cut my own hair (even though I wouldn’t trust myself doing that). But for some reason, pedicures just really stick out to me that way. I could very easily paint my own nails. I’m not that good at it, I always end up with smudges, but I could do it.

I think I’m also uncomfortable getting pedicures because I see it as a very clear marker of middle class status. Yes, I am middle class and I have privilege because of that. But I am uncomfortable expressing that privilege in certain ways. I am 100% positive that my middle class privilege is written all over my actions and decisions, but for some reason, pedicures is one middle class status marker that bothers me. Why?

Getting a pedicure is also something that I have always done by myself or with my mom. My friends have never really shared in my desire to get a pedicure. In that sense, I have also felt kind of ashamed (I don’t know if I want to use that word, but it works…) of caring about what I look like because I sometimes feel like I care more than my friends do. And because of that, pedicures have fallen into that category of feeling “ashamed” of taking time to get them.

As @samsanator accurately pointed out when I brought up the idea for this post on Twitter, “Being a feminist doesn’t make you anti-girly.” I can still be feminine by getting a pedicure and be a feminist. Is part of my uneasiness a result of feeling that I’m being a “bad feminist” for being girly? It might be subconscious, because I consciously believe that femininity is not automatically opposed to feminism.

I have written before about how I reconcile my love for “high heels and lipstick” with my feminist beliefs. I think questioning the patriarchal standards of beauty are important, especially if you partake in some of them. But do I get pedicures for other people? I am kind of self-conscious about my feet, so I like pedicures because they make them look and feel pedicure. But I also like pedicures because it is something that I can do for myself. I go to a place where a pedicure also involves a foot and leg massage, so it is a nice way to relax, unwind, and have some time for myself.

There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and doing things that you enjoy. This is something that I am still trying to come to terms with as it relates to getting pedicures. I need to stop justifying getting pedicures with having a reason to get them other than I just want to. This same mentality also applies to other forms of “pampering” that people enjoy, such as manicures, facials, etc.

What are your thoughts on pedicures and pampering? Do you sometimes have trouble reconciling doing something for yourself that you enjoy with your feminist beliefs?

*I feel like an Office reference is necessary here. I’m reminded of when Dwight talks about refusing to tip people for things he could do himself. I don’t hold that specific belief, I firmly believe in tipping, but why have someone do something for me that I can do myself?

6 Responses to "A Feminist Reflection on Pedicures"

There is an element of expertise in getting a pedicure, though – I am just not good at taking care of my feet!

Two comments:One – my fem theory professor in college discussed this exact idea with me and brought up the aspect of racism along with classism. How often does one look at the person who is performing the pedicure (or manicure, for that matter)? Most frequently my mani/pedis have been done by non-white women. For an individual that dedicates blood sweat and tears to equality, even this simple act can feel like privilege/oppression when you're sitting on the receiving end of the table. Which leads me to my second point – being on the receiving end. I'm struggling with how exactly to put this into words, but I can't help but wonder if part of it comes down to self-value. As you mention, getting a pedicure is a treat, something that you could do yourself, but feels nice to have done for you. After being told constantly by our dominant culture (despite our feminist educations and ideals) that we as women have no value, sometimes it can be difficult to sit back and receive, and feel deserving of this receipt. This may not apply to you, or any of the readers, but I do occasionally need to directly remind myself that I am valued and valuable, and I deserve to take the time to treat myself to a pedicure… At a salon where the prices are fair for the skills, the employees are treated with respect, and where a good tip is often well-deserved for the woman on the other side of the table, too.

JT,Those are some really good points. I do agree that sometimes it's hard to remember that you are valued and valuable and therefore deserve doing something for yourself.I always try to have some sort of conversation with the person performing my pedicure for at least part of the time. One thing that I didn't touch on was that I feel really awkward sitting there in silence while someone rubs my feet. So I make it a point to try to carry on a conversation. Sometimes it's easier than others depending on the pedicurist. I don't think that they are used to their clients having conversations with them. I think some of the awkwardness that I feel probably has to do with the privileged/oppressed dichotomy that you discuss, as well.

I never get pedicures because I feel very uncomfortable with strange people touching me. I never even get my hair cut because of this.Your point about "privilege" in this context seems very strange to me, however. You are requesting a service that you are paying for. What's wrong with that? When you do to a restaurant or a stay at a hotel, do you worry that somebody does your dishes, serves your food, and makes your bed?As I recently wrote in my blog, this constant bringing up of "privilege" in every possible context often becomes self-congatulatory. It has become a kind of a marker of how liberal and conscientious you are. All you need to do is mention the word all the time and then feel good about yourself. (I don't mean you personally of course, I mean everybody who uses the word all the time).Here is my post on privilege:

Clarissa,My reference to privilege in this sense is that to me, getting a pedicure is a very middle class thing to do (at least the way that I see it) or is a marker of some small form of wealth. It shows that you have enough money to take care of yourself in this way. Whereas going to a restaurant or to a hotel might not be as much of a signifier (definitely depending on the restaurant or hotel, obviously). I also feel very uncomfortable in high end restaurants and hotels (maybe because I go to them so very rarely). This so-called privilege might just be more apparent in the instance of a pedicure because you are directly interacting with the person serving you where as at a restaurant or hotel, you only have contact with you waitress/waiter or management.It's an interesting thing to think about. Why do I see privilege in pampering myself with a pedicure instead of when I am at a restaurant or hotel (or what-have-you). It's definitely something to think about more. And I will definitely take a look at your post on privilege! Thanks, as always, for the great insight!

I've always been a "lipstick" feminist. The girlie feminist in skirts and tights, funky shoes not heels. Nails always painted. So I didn't know how you would approach this subject. Class thing: middle class thing. I have to say that I disagree. I see women of lower classes spending more money getting fake nails than on pedis. Working class, I'll say. Feminist aspect: I think that you'll rectify being pretty and looking good with having feminist ideals. I've been a feminist since I was 8. When I was in college I had to deal with fraternity guys and their inane remarks and even other women who said, "If I'm a feminist, it means I hate men." That's someone else's problem, not mine. Now that I'm older, I do get regular pedis b/c [hardly weekly but every month maybe] I'm too lazy to do them myself. Nails I can handle. I do not believe it is anti-feminist to get a pedi because you could possibly do it yourself. There are certain techniques i.e. the exfoliation and staying "within the lines" that I could not do on my own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: