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Keli Goff

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What Michelle Obama, Heidi Klum and I Have in Common (And Why It's Time for Us to Put One Gigantic Foot Down)

Posted: 08/09/2011 8:43 am

We ladies clearly don't have enough to worry about when it comes to our body image, so in addition to our thighs, our tummies, our rear-ends, our chests and our faces, the media has helpfully pointed out yet another body part we are supposed to feel insecure about: our feet.

In case you haven't heard we're getting bigger -- and I'm not just referring to the obesity epidemic. Humans are expanding both horizontally and vertically, with our height increasing right along with our waistlines. As a result our shoe sizes are increasing too. Though this development is affecting both sexes, it does not appear to be affecting both sexes the same way emotionally. According to a new study referenced in The Daily Mail half of all women now lie to both their friends and sexual partners about their shoe size. (Yes you read that correctly.) While two-thirds expressed embarrassment at asking sales associates for assistance in shoe stores, driving some to limit shoe shopping to online purchases only.

This means that shoe size has officially joined weight as one of those dirty little secrets we keep from everyone but our doctor. But unlike weight, which has a direct connection to our health and fitness, and which most of us have some control over, there is very little we can do to affect what size shoe we wear. So why do we care?

I'm no expert (although as a proud 5'll inch woman who wears a size 11 shoe -- with the heel, higher the better, thank you very much -- I guess I could be) but I do have a theory or two.

It's worth noting that the practice of making women feel insecure about having anything larger than a child's foot is not exactly new. For centuries the gruesome practice of foot binding took place in China, with the feet of young girls bound until bones were broken to ensure their feet remained small enough to attract a quality husband. The practice left countless women deformed and disabled.

While we may not go to the same extremes here (although plenty of podiatrists may argue that what we do to our bodies over the long haul by wearing stilettos isn't that much more enlightened) our own attitudes on this are probably not as evolved as we'd like to think.

Despite the tremendous strides women have made in higher education, employment and compensation, there are still some fairy tales that we are all supposed to buy into that reinforce age-old gender stereotypes. One movie reinforces the most enduring of these stereotypes more than any other. I'm speaking of course of the Disney classic Cinderella. Despite everything that we may accomplish on our own, we are still supposed to wait patiently for a Prince Charming to ride in and solve all of our problems -- but only if the shoe fits. And damn it that shoe -- no matter how small -- better fit before he moves on to someone more dainty, lady-like and worthy of the crown. My point is no matter how much we achieve there are still a few key boxes we feel like we are expected to check as part of being a lady. For some, that means not out-earning your man in the compensation department. For others it's not out-sizing him in the shoe department.

But as we get taller as a species, our fashion and beauty icons are getting taller too, which means there are now plenty of women who epitomize femininity who couldn't squeeze into Cinderella's glass slipper, among them supermodel Heidi Klum and our very own First Lady Michelle Obama.

So the next time your boyfriend, girlfriend or a sales associate asks you your shoe size ladies, say it loud and proud. Because if he's a real Prince Charming he'll not only love you anyway, but he will go out of his way to find shoes fit for his queen, instead of trying to force his queen to squeeze into that uncomfortable looking glass slipper. (Click here to see my personal list of favorite stores and brands that carry ladies sizes 10 and up.)

Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate. She is a Contributing Editor for TheLoop21.com where this post originally appeared.

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