Saturday, April 4, 2015

I'm more than meets the eye: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia Riyadh Al-Khobar Mathaq photo project blog
Hanadi is a 28 year old contract adviser from Riyadh and Al-Khobar.
I met Hanadi one afternoon while I was sitting down in a cafe working on my blog. She came up to me to compliment me on my boots and I asked her if she would like to be a participant in my project. We met up several weeks later at Mathaq to conduct her interview.
What are your favourite pair of shoes?
Wow that's a hard question. I don't have a favourite pair of shoes. I love all shoes to be honest. Mostly I love casual but funky kinds, like these ones you know? I mean I do love my heels, especially my favourite red satin shoes. I love covered shoes in general. I hate getting my feet dirty. I love boots, commando boots. The ones that you wore the other day? I love those. I love the really high rider boots too, but it's really hot to wear them in this country. Basically, I love comfortable shoes that make a statement.

Do you wear them when you go out to... the mall?
No no I don't. I wear sneakers.
What do you wear with your friends?
I wear these shoes.
Yeah I heard from a lot of girls that they wear sneakers and flats to the mall.
I wouldn't wear high heels or wedges to the mall. It's ridiculous, it's just the mall.
Well you're already older, you're 28, you're not a teenager. 
True, but I was a complete tomboy growing up!

How do they make you feel?
It makes me feel real. Like I'm in my most elemental self. They make me feel comfortable. They... even though some people don't think it's fashionable, I can wear it with a skirt if I want to. These shoes are who I am.

What do you do in your shoes? I mean, all of your shoes?
I have work shoes, obviously. Work out, malls, coffee. I have shoes that I wear when I go out to a cafe. Traveling shoes, boots. Weddings. Parties. Gatherings. Fancy outing shoes. House shoes, obviously. What else? "I don't care when I'm travelling" shoes.

How do you think about your shoes in relation to your overall outfit?
Some people might find this strange. but I base my outfit on my shoes. For example, I would buy the shoes and I would think, "This has to have a white dress with it." Because to me, a shoe can make or break an outfit. If you wear something pretty, but you wear flip flops - No, I'm sorry. Some shoes I just cannot not buy. My red satin shoes for example. I have designs in my mind.
How do you think about your shoes in relation to your abaya?
I don't? An abaya is like a plain canvas, I have abayas for work, for outings. It's a blank canvas. I do have abayas with drawings on it. With plain abayas, I would wear anything. I would have thoughts with the shoes and the bag.

How do you think others see you or judge you by the shoes that you wear?
If they see me at work they'll think that I don't know how to take care of myself.
That's terrible!
I've gotten that so many times. I'm not going to stress myself out about it to by honest, I'm at work! They may think that I'm practical. If they see these shoes, thy'd think that it's strange with what I'm wearing. In heels, they wouldn't want to see me, or be surprised that I'm wearing it! Whenever I wear heels, people always comment on it. One more thing, I notice that your personality changes for some reason. I'm the confident type, I'm used to being an outcast so I don't care.

How do you judge or see others by the shoes that they wear?
Obviously since I love shoes the first thing that I would notice is shoes. If I saw a girl wearing the stilettos in the mall I'd go, "Please, go home. You're making your feet hurt." They're just there to pick up guys. Maybe. I don't judge. There are like 1 or 2 girls that genuinely like wearing heels.
Like Victoria Beckham.
She laughs. But honestly it just looks so painful. They wobble because it's a very hard floor in the mall...
And the abaya is so long I'm surprised that they don't step on it!
Well some women keep their abaya open to show the heel.
Oh OK. 
They like to show off.
But some people may say that about your shoes!
Yes, that's why I keep my opinions to myself! I don't like to judge. They might see me in a heel one day and think the same thing. At the end of the day, when I see people wearing heels in the mall I think, "Change your shoes" and that's it. I stop there. I basically just compare the place with the shoe.

Do you make sure that you wear a different pair of shoes each time you go out? 
No. Whatever suits me or my mood.

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
That I'm versatile, I'm more than meets the eye.

Hanadi treats her abaya like my participant Sara does, like a necessity and not a piece of clothing that could be used to express their personalities. Not like their shoes.

Another thing I've noticed is that women here, just like women in North America, shame women who wear shoes deemed "inappropriate," "attention grabbing," or "flashy." In Canada or the States, this this shaming usually occurs when a woman is wearing a short or tight dress or skirt, but in a country where it's not really possible to wear such things publicly, the shame is transferred to one's shoes. The problem with labeling a woman's shoes as "attention grabbing" really shows more about the labeler than the labelee. In a country where both men and women are excepted to practice modesty and avert their eyes from one another in public, why is one giving such attention to a pair of shoes in the first place? Is it not possible that the woman wearing the "flashy" heels is wearing them because it makes her feel good about herself or that *GASP* she just feels like it?

Speaking of attention, a lot of attention has been placed on how men treat women in this country, but little to none has been placed on how women treat each other. While women shaming is certainly a universal practice, isn't it harder in a country where you already have to cover yourself in a blank canvas? 

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