Archive for January, 2011

Shakira on Letterman

Sorry for the long hiatus. To return, here’s Shakira’s appearance on the David Letterman show last September:

Shakira does a lot of her performances barefoot.

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Michael Buttgen of The Primalfoot Alliance asked me about how this news story, Pregnant woman says she was kicked out of bar, might apply to barefooters.

The story is about a pregnant woman, Michelle Lee, in Roselle, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) who was kicked out of a bar because she was pregnant. A bouncer asked her if she was, and when she said “yes”, he made her leave. According to the story:

“He just said, if anything happens, if a fight breaks out and you get hurt, we are responsible,” Lee said. “That can happen anywhere. If I am going somewhere, I am taking responsibility.”

Sounds rather familiar to what we barefooters hear, doesn’t it? In this instance, the ACLU is concerned because of sex discrimination (since, obviously, it is only women who get pregnant, so far).

However, the part of the article that raises the question related to barefooting is this part:

According to the Illinois Human Rights Act: “It is unlawful to discriminate in the full and equal enjoyment of facilities and services by any place of public accommodation.”

* * *

Chicago lawyer Martin Dolan, who handles civil rights and personal injury cases, said that a private bar may set its own rules, including behavior standards or a dress code, but that those rules must be established in advance and be obvious to customers, such as a visual posting.

“The key to this is being able to justify the legitimate reason, not just (pull something) out of the air,” Dolan said.

And that leads to the question from Michael:

What does your experience tell you about how this applies to barefooters? Can a business legally discriminate against us if they don’t have “established” rules? In other words, can we share with managers or security that they have no right to discriminate if they are just making rules up on the spot?

The answer? It depends (doesn’t everything?). To a large extent it depends on the state that you are in.

As a general rule, businesses are allowed to discriminate however they want and can kick out whomever they want for whatever reason, as long as it is not because of race, creed, color, sex, sometimes sexual orientation, etc.. That is based upon states’ public accommodation laws. However, some states go beyond that restricted set of reasons. For instance, California has The Unruh Act, that has been interpreted to mean that you cannot be tossed from a public accommodation merely for unconventional dress. The seminal case there was In re Cox, 3 Cal.3d 205, 474 P.2d 992 (1970), from 1970. Since that time, California courts have been emasculating that ruling, and it has never been tested in regards to going barefoot, but it is at least something. (On a more pessimistic note, I wouldn’t be surprised if some court there would say that a barefoot ban would be “reasonable”.)

I am also aware that New Jersey has a similar state law. Now, from this article, I see that Illinois also has something similar, except that I note that the language for Illinois is the strongest I have seen: the right to be in a public accommodation doesn’t seem to be an afterthought to the other conditions (race, sex, etc.). The Illinois law is (775 ILCS 5/) The Illinois Human Rights Act, and as the article states:

It is a civil rights violation for any person on the basis of unlawful discrimination to:

(A) Deny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services of any public place of accommodation;

As I look at case law, I cannot find anything that even supports what the lawyer in the article says, that rules must be specified in advance and posted. It appears to me to be even stronger than that, and in fact there is language in a major court decision, Chicago v. Corney, Jr., 13 Ill. App.2d 396, 142 N.E.2d 160 (1957), (that opinion was in regard to racial discrimination) that says: “Persons seeking such accommodations, etc., cannot be excluded from the premises so long as they conduct themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner.”

Who knows how an Illinois court might rule in a barefooting case. I do note that the Chicago Public Library has a barefoot rule — in this regard I don’t see how it could be legal, but I also know that judges are extremely reticent to legitimize barefooting and they end up succumbing to the usual myths.

Finally, let me finish with my state, Ohio. I only recently realized that their human rights statute goes a bit beyond the standard race, sex, etc. It says, in the Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(G), that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice:

For any proprietor or any employee, keeper, or manager of a place of public accommodation to deny to any person, except for reasons applicable alike to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry, the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of the place of public accommodation.

I’ve added the emphasis. There are some court rulings that suggest that that phrase really does require the business have a consistent policy (such as a sign) for it to be enforceable.

That might be fun to test someday.

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Slap Me Silly

Here’s a story in today’s Boston Globe, Minimalist sneakers send runner limping away, also titled, “You’re crazy.” It’s about the authors attempt to use Vibram Five Fingers.

Now, I’m sure you are all aware that I don’t think much about Vibrams, simply because they are not really barefoot. But, when it comes to having something on your feet, they are almost assuredly better for muscle/tendon/ligament development than hard leather soles or super-padding. But I have also warned that you just cannot expect to suddenly go barefoot and do heavy lifting (so to speak) than you can suddenly, after years of couch-potatohood, go to a gym and do (literally) heavy lifting.

Anyways, the author of the article doesn’t seem to understand that, and he also doesn’t seem to understand the results of various studies that you DO NOT run barefooted the same way you do in shoes.

The clue? Right here in his third paragraph:

On my first run, the FiveFingers sounded odd as my feet slapped the pavement in the thin rubber soles.

He’s slapping his feet? Well, that’s your problem right there.

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Showing the Flag

On New Year’s Day, one of our local parks had a New Year’s Day hike. Aside from the fact that these are always fun hikes, they can also serve another function: letting other people see just how functional bare feet are.

Most people don’t even consider the possibility that we can hike barefoot for any distance. When any of us go on one of these hikes, we can be ambassadors for barefooting.

Saturday was part of our welcome relief from the sub-freezing weather we’ve been having around here. The weather was perfect for barefoot hiking: around 45° (7C) and rainy. When we started out the hike, the ranger even mentioned to folks that they would be getting wet feet, not just me. I couldn’t help adding, “But mine will dry immediately.”

I’ve been doing enough of these hikes that the regulars recognize me. One even mentioned to me that she’d seen me on TV as part of the Statehouse story.

Another interesting thing that happens on these hikes illustrates how barefootedness is starting to break into the public consciousness. I had a few people mention to me and ask me about Christopher McDougal’s book, Born to Run. I had a few people ask be about Vibram Five Fingers; I answered them much the way I did in this blog entry.

All in all, a great hike, and a great ambassadorship.

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