Well, I imagine the Robo-Caller thinking (and the campaign manager behind him), at least a shoe sale is safe. When they’re shopping for shoes, they aren’t off fomenting dissent and organizing the masses. Let the girls have their shoes … and then give money to the police…. No force is more responsible for this image of women as shoe-loving fiends, I think, than the TV-and-movies series Sex and the City.”

To read this feature in full, please click here:  “The Robo-Caller’s Lonesome Wife; or, Women Who Don’t Love Shoes That Much … Carrie Bradshaw, the Police Department, and women who don’t care about their footwear.”

Or start by reading the opening below …

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“Hello!” Somewhere at the end of my landline, a man’s voice chuckles at me. Bothersomely, in that way that annoys for no reason but also for every possible reason, because something worse is sure to come.

It’s the middle of a weekday and I’m working at home in Richmond, Virginia. I’m fairly sure this is one of those recorded telemarketing ploys meant to convince you that a real person is calling and deserves your attention.

But the call might be important (that’s how they get you), and it might be one I’ve been waiting for, and anyway that chuckle has irritated me enough to want to hang up on a real person if I get one.

So I wait for the robo-caller’s next line. And it’s awful:

“You’re as hard to reach as my wife at a shoe sale!”

At the end of Season 4 (2002) of  Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw cooed through a shop window to a prospective foot date, which would complement her last-date-in-the-City with Mr. Big. And ended up splattered with Miranda’s birthing fluids.

Now I’m barely able to contain my outrage, but I hold the line, clutching the receiver in my fist. I have to know who, in 2018, would approve a call script with such a message. The company that designed the campaign was expecting perhaps a housewife of privilege, a vulnerable senior citizen— anyway, a woman — and, as a woman, I feel duty bound to tell whoever-it-is off.

“You’re as hard to reach as my wife at a shoe sale!”

I keep hearing it echo in the deep parts of my brain.

And here’s my answer: The Voice is calling on behalf of the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department, seeking my donation for —

I hang up. Without the satisfaction of speaking to a real person. I’m too mad.

What I would say to the caller and those who designed the campaign is this: Really, Robo-Caller, in 2018, do you think it’s okay to call god-knows-who and chuckle over female excitement about a shoe sale? As if all women, particularly whoever married the cop-in-a-can — the voice that represents all policemen and policewomen in this particular city — are so amazingly swept up by the excitement of shoe shopping that they can‘t be found by the men who keep tabs on them?

Shoe fetishes are well established in The Culture, from Freud to Pornhub, mostly expressed as a man’s sexual excitement over a woman’s footwear. Okay, maybe there’s a tiny bit of that fetish speaking through the robo-call, the male’s titillation at the thought of women tearing shoes out of each other’s hands and slipping them onto their feet.

Carrie exclaims over Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes, which she’d thought were “an urban shoe myth.”

I’d rather look at it from a more apparently harmless perspective. The cultural roots of this campaign run deep in movies and books and other ad campaigns, ones that have convinced shoppers that they do in fact love crippling shoes bought at prices steeper than their stiletto heels.

No force is more responsible, I think, than the TV-and-movies series Sex and the City, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this week (mid-June 2018) — though shoe obsession is part of other cultural artifacts, such as Jennifer Weiner’s 2002 novel, In Her Shoes, and the movie made thereof.

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To read this feature in full, please click here: 

“The Robo-Caller’s Lonesome Wife; or, Women Who Don’t Love Shoes That Much … Carrie Bradshaw, the Police Department, and women who don’t care about their footwear.”

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Susann Cokal‘s previous essay on pop culture for Broad Street considered the friendship between Mattel’s Barbie and Midge as a model for female friendship. She is Broad Street‘s editorial director.


True stories, honestly.