Feighan: Forget power suits. Try power socks in 2018

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Power suits may have been the iconic image of working women in the 1980s, but there’s a new fashion accessory these days that makes a statement about girl power: power socks.

My power socks of 2018 are red, orange and purple. In big letters, they boldly declare, “I’m a girl. What’s your superpower?”

Power socks are that little extra something you wear, hidden carefully under your clothing, that reminds you of something that no one else can see: You’re braver than you think.

I found them on Black Friday at a little candle and home decor shop in Ferndale, part of an entire display of snarky socks for men and women. They all had cheeky messages; some even had a little profanity. One yellow pair featured a girl on a bike with the words, “Hellraiser.” Another said, “This is what a feminist looks like.” I bought the “Superpower” socks for my kids’ teachers, aides and female friends.

Surprisingly, Green Daffodil co-owner Siouxsan Miller says their biggest sellers are actually the ones with the swear words in them.

Cheeky socks are hardly radical. But for girls, especially those taught to always be polite and not make a fuss, they’re a good reminder — or better yet, a nudge — that it’s OK to stir things up.

And 2017 was certainly the year for stirring things up. From the “Me Too” movement to the droves of women who stepped off the sidelines last year to make their voices heard in politics, women are asserting not just their voices but their power.

But it’s hard to shake up the system. If anything, silly socks are a starting point, a quiet form of rebellion. But don’t underestimate their power.

A good friend of mine who has a son with special needs like my daughter recently sent me a text after her little boy had extensive surgery that required several days in the hospital. The day of her son’s procedure she wore her own girl power socks — with a little expletive thrown in. Every little bit helps.

Are socks going to change the world? Hardly. Still, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little hidden encouragement.

And retailers seem to be latching on to that idea. Self-esteem messages have now permeated girls’ clothing. Visit any girls’ clothing department these days and you’ll find shirts with bold messages to bolster self-esteem. Old Navy has girls shirts that proclaim “Future Leader,” “Girls Run the World” and “Love is All Around.”

One of my daughter’s favorite shirts features all the female she-roes of “Stars Wars,” young and old, emblazoned with the words “Girl Power.”

But shirts and socks are one thing. If we really want our girls to feel brave, bold and capable of really big things like changing the world, we need to show them women who are doing it. And we need to support women who want to do it.

My family was in the Lansing area for a few days during Christmas break and decided to tour our state’s lovely Capitol. Hanging on the walls of the main dome are portraits of most of our state’s governors over the years.

Of the dozens of portraits of our past leaders, only one depicted a woman: Jennifer Granholm (wearing a power suit). And when we visited the galleries of the state House and Senate, our guide told us that the same number of women now serve in the Michigan Senate as did in the late 1990s when he became a guide: four.

But four is a start. Maybe 2018 will build on the momentum of 2017 and more women will continue to assert themselves in ways big and small. We have to start somewhere. And if you need a little encouragement, grab your power socks.


Twitter: @mfeighan