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The Barefoot Editors: Toes out on Eastern Avenue

30 toes vs cobblestone and a cold snap. What would happen if three students took up the barefoot on campus mantle?

Content Warning: Feet

As a radical student newspaper, Honi Soit has a responsibility to push the boundaries of campus culture.

When one thinks of roaming around campus barefoot, the people they have in mind are undesirable at best. Hippies, stoners, weird artists. But what would happen if three hot and normal students took up the mantle, sacrificing their sex appeal to discover what we’re all itching to know: what happens if you spend a whole day on campus, skin to the ground?

Unfortunately, editors have been met with severe pushback from conservative forces coming to the defence of footwear. Even in so-called progressive spaces on campus, we were met with intolerance. Feet, apparently, are the forgotten frontier of the body acceptance movement.

Despite courting up-and-down looks and a fair deal of controversy across campus, the journey was an invaluable experience, both on an educational and spiritual level.

So that you too can live like us, here is our comprehensive journey and guide to campus, barefoot. 

Art by Katie Hunter.

Eastern Avenue & The Quad:

The beginning of our journey was a revelation. Removing our foot prisons and experiencing the warm touch of campus beneath us, we set off across Eastern Avenue. One small step for an editor, one giant leap for the barefoot movement.

Our heavy footfall echoed across campus. The sun was shining, ibises were singing, students were handing out flyers for Law Revue. We felt free. Not only did we feel that we were on campus, but we could feel campus on us.

Our confidence on this walk was positively magnetic. It seems that the rest of campus was similarly charged, as they were positively repelled and kept a safe distance. The ground was smooth and safe, clear of debris and danger. We recommend any similarly intrepid explorers steer clear of the rocky edges.

The pot of gold at the end of Eastern Avenue was well-worth the trip. The warm pavement was replaced with the cold embrace of the Quadrangle lawns, where we sunned ourselves and tanned our toes. We were at total peace. Then the rain began to fall.

Barefoot Friendliness Rating (BFR): 9 toes out of 10 for flatness.

Courtyard Cafe:

In need of some rest and relaxation (and pizza), we journeyed to Courtyard Cafe for shelter. We put the ‘science’ in Science Road by testing our thermal endurance against the rapidly cooling and increasingly wet environment. We were brought to heel by this harsh reality, and quickly made our way inside the Holme Building. The student union will surely offer safety, we rationalised. How wrong we were.

Unnamed USU board directors hurled what could be described at least as abuse at 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 off is for home. Or the beach,” they added. It wasn’t hard to see their true colours. 

Despite attempting to mask their hatred as care, saying, “It’s a welfare issue… people can get diseases,” we could see the truth.

BFR: 6 toes out of 10 toes for boringness and prejudice.

Graffiti Tunnel:

As a site of public art and student expression, the Graffiti Tunnel was an obvious path for us to tread. Protected from wind, rain, and stares, we were invigorated by the colourful art around us, and felt that we were leaving our own mark.

The ground itself was smooth sailing, nary a pebble in sight to slow us down. Though years of paint and our lack of grip turned the floor into a DIY slip-and-slide, our only criticism of the space is its temperature. We would recommend that others on our path protect themselves with a beanie, AKA a sock for your head.

BFR: 7 toes out of 10 for psychedelic vibrancy.

Manning and Queer Space:

Of all our journeys, the Queer Space was certainly the most physically dangerous. Simultaneously though, it was the most emotionally safe. A place where all are accepted — tits out, toes out, everything in between. Even if the difference in our lifestyle was continually pointed out, the questions were mostly curious rather than discriminatory, such as: Why? Are you okay? Aren’t you cold? We were met, if not with open toes, open arms.

The Manning building was a horrible, horrible place. Stepping into the spiritual death place of student culture, we felt hopeful about our ability to spur on the revival Manning needed. But for anything to change, we need collective action. Collective sentiment. 2 dykes, 1 fag, 6 feet, and 28 toes was not enough. The dismay with which we were met was a reality check: most students are quicker to come to uni, join an Evangelical group in a Manning meeting room and go home, than engage in an idea with the potential to revive campus life.

For the most part, the poor treatment was left to unreturned smiles and looks the other way. When one of us went out to the food court on our own, it turned to discrimination. Stares. Dirty looks. Phones out. Just send the photos to USyd Rants already. It’d end the suffering sooner.

Queer Space: 8 toes out of 10 for the emotional safety net. 

Manning: 1 toe out of 10 for destroying student life. 

F23: 

Taking a leaf from radicals-gone-by, we stormed F23. In a feat of radicalism we took our feet to the bosses — like many progressives, we were disappointed to discover lobbying would be as ineffective as over-the-counter insoles. 

Unsurprisingly, the type of individuals the building attracts were quick to judge our appearance and even quicker to document it. iPhones were flying to capture our muddy little paws which sullied the otherwise pristine floors. 

Like any decent student journalist worth their socks, we went upstairs eager to seek comment from the University media team. What is the University’s official stance on shoeless students? The University claims 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 let us higher than level 2, resulting in a silent but firm ‘no comment’ from the University as we plodded away. 

BFR: 2 toes out of 10 for managerialism. 

City Rd: 

A long-time barefoot veteran warned us of the horrors of City Road but we were not prepared for what was yet to pass. Two roads diverged on Eastern Avenue, and we were sorry we could not travel both. One to the footbridge and one to the wet asphalt; our brave soles took 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 across City Road emphasised the no-mans-land that bisects our University’s shoe or not to shoe community. For the shoed community, City Road acts as a place of brief outside-world contact when on campus. For the un-shoed, it is a protruding flaw, an impasse, that shattered our inter-campus illusions and put us on the back-foot. The jagged terrain of the 14 metre wide road combined with the raging tempest overhead made it certifiably not barefoot friendly. 

BFR: 0 toes out of 10 for ones we lost. 

Hermanns:

We prevailed, and made it to the other side; our feet only mildly torn up. In the lead-up to this point, we had been regaled with tales of Hermann’s intolerance for the #BarefootMovement. So, with 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 margs at 3pm. To our surprise, they obliged us. We took our seats in the ever-empty bar, and let our toes fly in the wind. 

Sitting in the Hermanns courtyard as we write this — shoes off, of course — I am reminded of how fucking dirty the Hermann’s floors made our soles. Clearly they are allergic to sweeping. The floor was surprisingly non-sticky, presumably because students would have to actually attend Hermanns in order to spill anything.

BFR: 4 toes out of 10 for a shit marg.

The Rose:

For a long time, the Rose Hotel in Chippendale has been our place of safety. While not explicitly on campus, emotionally, it is. After a dreadfully upsetting reception at uni, we thought that we could find peace in a post-law revue barefoot beer. Our long-term favourite pub manager warned us that he had in fact kicked people out for less. Never did he, or we,  think that we’d receive such a threat. When the toes come out, so do the knives. Akin to losing a toenail, getting threatened out of the Rose left the deepest wound of all.

BFR: 6 toes out of 10 for a non-judgmental warning.

Conclusion

This journey was not about the friends made or enemies revealed, but the discovery of a life more full and a shoe more empty.

Sydney University is not the site of radical acceptance that we thought it was, as there is clearly a long way to go until the shoeless among us feel safe. For now, the pups are back in the kennel. Campus deserves more barefoot advocacy, perhaps in the form of something such as a FootSoc. Or more accurately, NoSoc. 

Peace.

Please direct all comments, questions, and foot fetishism to editors@honisoit.com or our anonymous tip form.