Content Warning: Feet
As a radical student newspaper, Honi Let has a responsibility to push the boundaries of campus culture.
When you think of walking around barefoot on campus, the people they have in mind are undesirable at best. Hippies, stoners, weird artists. But what if three sexy, normal college students took over, sacrificing their sex appeal to find out what we’re all dying to know: what if you spend an entire day on campus, skin against the ground?
Unfortunately, the publishers were harshly pushed back by conservative forces coming to the shoe’s defense. Even in supposedly progressive spaces on campus, we encountered intolerance. The feet, apparently, are the forgotten frontier of the movement of acceptance of the body.
Despite up-and-down stares and much controversy on campus, the trip was an invaluable experience, both educationally and spiritually.
So that you too can live like us, here is our complete course and guide to the barefoot campus.
East Avenue and the Quad:
The start of our trip was a revelation. Removing our prison feet and feeling the warm touch of campus beneath our feet, we crossed Eastern Avenue. One small step for a publisher, one giant leap for the barefoot movement.
Our attendance echoed across campus. The sun was shining, the ibis were singing, the students were handing out flyers for Law Revue. We felt free. Not only did we feel that we were on campus, but we could smell the campus on us.
Our confidence on this walk was positively magnetic. It appears the rest of campus was similarly charged as they were positively pushed back and kept a safe distance. The floor was smooth and safe, free of debris and danger. We recommend all equally intrepid explorers to avoid the rocky edges.
The pot of gold at the end of Eastern Avenue was well worth the trip. The warm sidewalk was replaced by the cold embrace of the lawns of the Quadrangle, where we tanned and tanned our toes. We were at complete peace. Then the rain started to fall.
Barefoot Friendliness Rating (BFR): 9 out of 10 toes for flatness.
Needing some rest and relaxation (and pizza), we headed to the Courtyard Cafe for shelter. We put the “science” in Science Road by testing our thermal endurance against a rapidly cooling and increasingly humid environment. We were brought to heel by this harsh reality and quickly made our way inside the Holmes Building. The student union will surely provide security, we rationalized. How wrong we were.
The anonymous trustees of the USU Board of Trustees initiated what could be described at least as an abuse against us, just three barefoot soldiers on a mission.
“Why did I look down? remarked one.
“People eat here,” said another.
“I think people on campus should wear shoes…generally everywhere. Shoes are for the house. Or the beach,” they added. It wasn’t hard to see their true colors.
Although they tried to mask their hatred in the form of caring, saying, “It’s a matter of well-being…people can get diseases,” we could see the truth.
BFR: 6 out of 10 toes for boredom and prejudice.
As a site for public art and student expression, the Graffiti Tunnel was an obvious path for us. Protected from wind, rain and prying eyes, we were invigorated by the colorful art around us and felt we were leaving our own mark.
The ground itself navigated smoothly, barely a pebble in sight to slow us down. Although years of paint and our lack of grip have turned the floor into a DIY slip, our only criticism of the space is its temperature. We recommend others on our path to protect themselves with a beanie, AKA a head sock.
BFR: 7 out of 10 toes for psychedelic vibrancy.
Manning and Queer space:
Of all our trips, the Queer Space was certainly the most physically dangerous. At the same time, it was the most emotionally secure. A place where everyone is accepted – boobs out, toes out, everything in between. Even if the difference in our lifestyle was constantly pointed out, the questions were rather curious than discriminatory, such as: Why? Are you OK? Aren’t you cold? We were welcomed, if not with open toes, open arms.
The Manning building was a horrible, horrible place. As we entered the place of spiritual death of student culture, we were hopeful about our ability to stimulate the renewal that Manning needed. But for anything to change, we need collective action. Collective feeling. 2 dykes, 1 fag, 6 feet and 28 toes were not enough. The dismay with which we were greeted was a reality check: Most students are quicker to come to college, join an evangelical group in a Manning meeting room, and get home than commit to an idea that can rekindle life on campus.
For the most part, the mistreatment was left to unreturned smiles and looks away. When one of us went to the food court alone, it turned into discrimination. Regards. Dirty appearance. Phones out. Just send the photos to USyd Rants already. That would end the suffering sooner.
Queer Space: 8 out of 10 toes for the emotional safety net.
Manning: 1 in 10 toes for destroying student life.
Taking the example of the extinct radicals, we stormed the F23. In a feat of radicalism, we put our feet on the bosses – like many progressives, we were disappointed to find that lobbying would be as ineffectual as over-the-counter soles.
Unsurprisingly, the type of individuals the building attracts were quick to judge our appearance and even quicker to document it. iPhones flew to capture our muddy little paws that soiled the otherwise immaculate floors.
Like any student journalist worth their salt, we went upstairs eager to solicit comment from the University media team. What is the University’s official position on barefoot students? The University aims to be an inclusive space. Does this extend to barefoot students, even those with ugly feet? Personally, do you think our feet are ugly? Even those without ten toes? Do you think I’m hot?
Our swipe access wouldn’t get us past Level 2, resulting in a quiet but firm “no comment” from the University as we trudged away.
BFR: 2 toes out of 10 for managerialism.
A longtime barefoot veteran warned us of the horrors of City Road, but we were unprepared for what was yet to come. Two roads diverged on Eastern Avenue, and we regretted not being able to travel both. One on the catwalk and one on the wet asphalt; our brave soles have taken to the urban pumice stone. One word: sandpaper.
It’s one thing to be barefoot on the relative safety of campus, but the vulnerable journey through City Road has emphasized the no man’s land that bisects our university’s shoe community or not. For the Pavement community, City Road acts as a place of brief contact with the outside world while on campus. For the unshod, it’s a salient flaw, a dead end, which has shattered our inter-campus illusions and put us on our backs. The jagged terrain of the 14m wide road combined with the storm raging overhead made it certifiably not barefoot friendly.
BFR: 0 out of 10 toes for those we lost.
We took it and got to the other side; our feet only slightly torn. Prior to this point, we had been regaled with stories of Hermann’s intolerance for the #BarefootMovement. So, in a nervous splat, our soggy feet landed on the Bar’s geometric tiles. Expecting to be turned away, we had to make the most of our fleeting time. Naturally, we ordered margins at 3 p.m. To our surprise, they obliged us. We sat in the still empty bar and let our toes fly in the wind.
Sitting in Hermanns yard as we write this – without shoes, of course – I remember how dirty Hermanns’ floors made our soles. It’s clear they’re allergic to balayage. The floor was surprisingly non-sticky, probably because the students actually had to attend Hermanns to spill anything.
BFR: 4 out of 10 toes for marginal shit.
For a long time, the Rose Hotel in Chippendale has been our refuge. While it’s not explicitly on campus, emotionally it is. After a terribly upsetting reception at college, we thought we might find peace in a barefoot after-law review beer. Our favorite longtime pub manager warned us that he actually kicked people out for less. Neither he nor we would have expected to receive such a threat. When the toes stick out, so do the knives. Similar to the loss of a toenail, being threatened with leaving the Rose left the deepest wound of all.
BFR: 6 out of 10 toes for a non-judgmental warning.
This journey was not about meeting friends or revealing enemies, but about finding a fuller life and an emptier shoe.
The University of Sydney is not the site of radical acceptance that we thought it was, as there is clearly a long way to go before the barefooted among us feel safe. For now, the puppies are back in the kennel. Campus deserves more barefoot advocacy, perhaps in the form of something like a FootSoc. Or more precisely, NoSoc.
Please direct all comments, questions and foot fetish to [email protected] or our anonymous tip form.