Don’t Ever Say You’ll Work for Shoes Again

will work for shoes

When poking around social media to find professional women to connect with, I noticed a trend. A disturbing trend: An alarming number of female businesswomen include in their social media descriptor: “Will work for shoes.”
Shoes. Shoes? Shoes?!

Who is actually going to work for shoes? Shoes cost, what? $80 or $200 or, maybe if you’re crazy, $1,000. I don’t work for $80 or $1,000. I work for a living. I work to pay my bills and give my kids and myself a good quality of life. I work to build wealth and security, maybe even to contribute to the world in various, meaningful ways.
But shoes? Please.
There’s nothing wrong with liking shoes. Shoes are a big thing right now. All those sexy gravity-defying stilettoes, charming wedges or bold, above-the-knee boots. But women’s shoes are not without their politics, and neither is devoting your public platform to their worship.
Footbinding in China aside, high heels have been a thing of controversy since their advent. The crippling footwear has been considered a handicap for women aiming to sprint away from, say, domestic violence or a cat call; an asset to the woman who wields with skilled, subtle power the intoxicating thrust of her bosom and bum; a showcasing of elegance that an elevated shoe affords.
But this paradox is not at play on a Twitter bio. No, what these footwear aficionados want to express is: Hey world, I’m kooky and fun! I like funky footgear! Like me! Work with me! Give me your money!
What they really relay is that they are worth little but an overpriced, bunion-making fashion statement. That they are materialistic and small-minded women. Yes, women. Because I have never heard a man say that he works for anything even remotely as frivolous as an accessory.
The terminology in and of itself is self-defeating. The phrase “will work for” more typically terminates with the word “food” — the most basic reason to work, beating out even clothes or shelter. Like you, when I hear, “Will work for food,” I imagine drifters with the saying scribbled on cardboard as they wait by the roadside, a homeless person crouched in a city doorway with an empty coffee cup inscribed with the same. “Will work for” signifies desperation, the offer to exchange valuable skills and effort for the most basic of payment.
Is this what you want to express about yourself? Your business and career? Is that how you want to live your life? Didn’t think so.
Thankfully, most of us in this country are far above that existence. And if you examine your business for even a quick moment, you will recognize that your goals are worth far more than a lousy pair of shoes. My goals are enormous — giant and scary. So big that a pair of fuchsia Louboutin crocodile pumps would be but a passing whimsy of a purchase (if that were my weakness). I want to express my ambition and the greatness that I believe make those goals a reality. When I tell you about my big dreams and successes, I tell you about my big mind and heart. But when you hide your greatness behind strappy sandals, you make yourself — and your dreams and your business — small and petty.
So park those pumps. Reserve them for hitting the pavement. Tell me who you really are. Your spirit and brilliance. I want to work with you because you are large and powerful, and we will do great things together. And then, when we’ve killed it and it’s all squared away in the bank, you and I will celebrate over lunch. And maybe we’ll treat ourselves to a shoe shopping trip afterwards.

Emma Johnson is a longtime freelance money journalist. Her popular blog and nationally syndicated AM radio show help women navigate the worlds of business, parenting, love and sex. This the debut of her new monthly column for DailyWorth: That's What You Think. Find her: @JohnsonEmma

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