A couple of weeks back, I left a meeting and was called back to be politely told ‘you can’t wear jandals anymore at work under the new health and safety regulations – have you got sandals’? The irony of the meeting being about uniform mingled with confusion but I answered in the affirmative. Flip flopping my way back to my office in my very flash, Havaianas that I had especially brought to go with my new summer wardrobe I wondered about these new Health and Safety Regulations.
So I searched, and I put in the word jandals, I searched under footwear, I scoured documents for any reference to the hazards of sitting in my office with my toenails painted chrome to match the metallic look of my straps. A counsellors office doesn’t usually have hazardous chemicals, chisels, or hot glue guns. I understand there are some work environments where open toed footwear doesn’t cut it. I worked in a foundry for 4 summers as a student and accepted the need to wear steel capped boots in February. But I’m very happy for someone to point me in the right direction with the new legislation.
Then it dawned on me. The jandal is one of the few forms of gender neutral footwear out there. The idea that somehow my equally flimsy sandals might offer more ‘protection’ doesn’t wash. But they do look more ‘feminine’. Looking around at the large array of high heels worn hiking up and down stairs, in wet slippery corridors, I have to wonder how much safer they are. I know I am not safe to drive heels but they are apparently safe. They safely define feminine and give a clear coded sense of ‘professional dress’.
I am quietly cynical about this latest attempt to manage my footwear in the name of my health and well-being but quite frankly it seems like a back handed way of bringing in a professional standard of dress and one that pushes for a more coded form of gender. It will be interesting to see what happens on school camps. I know how painful it is kicking a tent peg in jandals. I hope there can be some transparency about it if indeed it is the case, up front and honest rather than half buried in rhetoric trip over.
Tuesday I will be at the first health and safety meeting of the year so will pitch some of these questions to the committee. Maybe I’ll wear knee high doc martins to be on the safe side.