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It's Time to Heel Our Soles This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

When I was six years old, I stood back to back with one of my close guy friends, Dylan, and discovered that I was taller than he. After internalizing this cold, harsh truth, Dylan threw himself upon the ground in a fit of manly shame. An appropriate response! How else is a boy supposed to act when a girl – a girl – of his same age exceeds him in height? He may as well have turned in his “man card” then. How would he ever uphold honor and dignity for his family if he could not jump high enough to make fluid basketball lay ups in games of 3-on-3? How would he ever be able to summon the courage to ask a girl to a dance if he lacked the stature for his chin to nestle above the poof of her hair in their Facebook photos? How would he survive middle school if the girls were tall enough to look down their noses at him? At that moment in his six years of life, all seemed lost for poor Dylan.
Fortunately for him (and for me, who had to endure his griping), Dylans’s height exceeded mine a few years later when his man hormones finally coaxed his spine to stretch. Around the age of 13, as I walked beside the boys I had grown up with since toddlerhood, I began to feel small. Dwarfed. Petite. I begrudged them the extra layer of atmosphere that they could enjoy breathing. These changes upset me. Then, in my freshman year of high school, my teenage friends pointed out the solution to my height woes: high heels. In my first pair of high heels, I stood eye to eye with my male peers. Yet this enhancement came with a cost – podiatric persecution.
My family lived in China during my junior high and beginning high school years. As a Westerner in China, the biggest pair of women’s heels I could find was still a half-size too small for my feet. I entered China a strong, relatively tall, independent woman – and willingly subjected my arches and toes to a torture reminiscent of foot-binding. All because I would be attending a high school dance, making my first appearance in society as a refined, mature woman by “gettin’ low” to the most dignified popular rap song about “Apple Bottom Jeans.” By that point of the evening, though, I had already discarded the heels underneath my chair and hit the dance floor in my naked soles. At 14, I recognized the senselessness of strapping my feet into the ball-and-chain of fashion, which boosted the lowliness of my ordinary woman height only long enough for my family to snap some photos. Appearance appearance appearance. The fun began when the heels disappeared.

Apparently, many women have still not caught onto that little secret I learned in 9th grade – you can’t dance the funky Electric Slide until you fling your heels under the table. Yet not all these women are as silly as I. Many, indeed, lead quite professional lives and believe the extra height accentuates their importance. Yes, business CEO, high school teacher, dental consultant with the 5-inch spikes, your quivering calves and stiffly tilted back increase my esteem for you ever so much.
Unfortunately, sometimes the strained posture does increase our esteem for women. Fashion has developed significantly in the stigma attached to a woman’s appearance, but we still have some potholes to pave over. These days, ladies no longer must tuck their kidneys neatly behind their gall bladders as they tighten the strings on their corset-and-hoop-skirt frames. Women wear pants daily, rather than only on occasion for pedal-pushing excursions. A hearty hand shake can be shared by both genders without the delicate lace of proper white gloves tickling the other’s wrist. Women have the opportunity to dress for functionality rather than feminality – unless the function discussed includes walking. Although many women have traded the “slim-and-attractive” secretary pencil skirt for slacks, high heels continue as an emblem for fashion and power. We cannot move past the remaining gender-based stigmas until we de-idolize the multi-inch spikes.
When a woman ascends to loftier heights, as I did for my 9th grade dance, she sends a message that this new height is more attractive than her normal stature and thus worth the pain of tottering. This fashion statement has a greater effect than flaunting dark eyeliner or dyed hair. High heels force a woman to stand tall, walk with stiff Barbie steps, and expand her entrance in a room. For the first hour or so of the night, this enhancement feels wonderfully powerful. Yet as the arches settle and toes go numb, a woman must grin and bear the pain, or descend to her lowly, ordinary height. The empowerment of high heels is temporary, limiting, and most importantly, artificial. A night taller always ends in a night shorter. Shorter = lower = hopelessly ordinary = the real you. This cycle is subtle yet affecting, creating height discriminations that are utterly preventable. By artificially boosting one’s stature to fit a model of power, high heels promote dissatisfaction with one’s inherent self and promote solutions as obviously false as the stilts under a clown at a circus.
Not only do heels damage women’s views of their inherent appearance, not to mention the health of their toes and arches, but they create an overall stigma about height that can lead to male insecurities as well. As Dylan’s manly tantrum revealed, most boys (and grown men) care about their height. Even at such a young age, they understand the perspective that men should be taller. Too bad for you, sir, if evolution failed you and natural selection deemed you inferior to the girls – there are no artificial enhancements available. While many men are confident in their short stature and partner with women taller than they, many other alpha-males find pride in a dominating appearance. When guys born with a height disadvantage due to faulty genetics enter the world filled with high heeled women . . . their struggle to fulfill the social stigma of “correct height proportions” could easily lead to grown men melt-downs of epic proportions. But we will never see such a vibrant degree of emotions, for American society also encourages grown men to bottle up their hysterics.
Science shows that contents under pressure will eventually explode. This artificial-height-phenomenon has been ramping up for the past few hundred years. Men and women alike are reaching full capacity for containing their height insecurities. Women should cast aside heels before their self-images and taluses erupt in a fiery burst. If we make haste this problem shall be avoided, society will advance to a naturally higher (moral, not statural) level of appearance equality, and gorgeous actresses in action movies may stop aggravating viewers by stumbling delicately away from three-headed slobbering aliens while wearing their four-inch Jimmy Choos.



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