The Ethicist Tackles the Tough Issues

If anyone doesn’t know, the Sunday New York Times Magazine has a column by Randy Cohen called “The Ethicist.”  I’ve never been clear on what makes one an Ethicist, or how Randy got the nod, but since he’s got his own New York Times column and I don’t, he has to know something that I don’t.

Today, Randy responds to two questions.  The first is about a roommate who has turned to prostitution to pay the rent.  Right, like that’s something new.  The second, however, presents an interesting question.  It is about the loss of 3 pairs of shoes that cost $2,000.

$2000!  Are we talking about bespoke shoes, made by some fellow in a grotto outside of London who has lovingly prepared a “last” of this woman’s dainty yet misshapen foot to conceal its orthopaedic demands?  No.  Apparently, these are just shoes.  No mention of Jimmy Choo or alligators or any of the things that would make one say, “Ah, so that’s why they cost so much.”

Since the exposure of Imelda Marcos’ (see how I work a little criminal law into this otherwise OT post) closet, women’s footwear has been a running joke.  Popularized on “Sex in the City,” where Carrie somebody preferred shoes to regular eating habits, I’ve wondered why.  No man that I’m aware of looks at a woman’s shoes.  No man that I’m aware of says to himself, “Sure she’s intelligent and witty, but would you take a look at those awful pumps.”

My assumption is that women judge each other by their footwear.  If a woman wants to be taken seriously, be well-liked, even admired, by other women, she must prove her mettle through her shoes.  Why do I assume this?  Because it makes no sense otherwise.  There are starving children in Darfur, and women spend $2000 on 3 pair of shoes?  No one can possible be this shallow and uncaring, right?

Wrong.  These are not twinkies who care about no one and nothing.  These are cosmopolitan women, women who will march for good causes (in sneakers) and who are well-educated and erudite.  But they have these deep, secret, need for shoes.  Do they all have a hidden desire to be like Imelda?  Is there a status issue that has been concealed by modern women from men? 

I don’t know.  I don’t get it.  It’s one thing to get a decent guffaw out of such silliness, but it’s not just a joke.  And if Randy Cohen doesn’t understand why, then how would a guy like me?

4 thoughts on “The Ethicist Tackles the Tough Issues

  1. shoe lover

    Why can’t a woman buy shoes for herself? Does it always have to be about other people? Maybe men – and even other women – won’t notice the difference, but expensive shoes can feel much better on your feet.

    Randy Cohen’s better question, I thought, was in asking why an _unemployed_ woman was buying $2000 worth of shoes…

  2. SHG

    Oddly, the fact that she was unemployed but had $2000 worth of shoes, in New York City, didn’t strike me as unusual at all.

  3. shoe lover

    …Not that she had them in the first place, but that she went out and bought them again with her reimbursement, at a time when she had no job. I think there’s a difference.

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