Sorry, Man, You’re Too Short (Am I A Bad Feminist?)

“He’s a nice guy. But he’s, like, two inches shorter than me.”

Heard that before, either from a friend or your own mouth? I am a feminist, but as a heterosexual woman I prefer to date guys who are taller than me. I’m not the only one. I’ve automatically dismissed many a potential date because he was shorter than me. Various studies say women in general prefer tall guys, and attribute it to evolutionary preference for big, healthy, protective mates.

It’s a dilemma. I don’t believe in any of that patriarchal “he-man” protector crap. I’m an independent woman and I support myself. I certainly don’t need some six-foot muscular hunk to protect me from bears.

A big part of my height preference is, of course, what I’ve unconsciously absorbed from society. I grew up with the standard Disney princess model of relationships. Disney princesses do not marry the short guy. Hetero couples where the man is shorter often get mocked. I’m ashamed that the thought “If I marry a short guy, I can’t wear heels on my wedding day” has actually gone through my mind. I don’t even plan on getting married.

Part of it is that I’m a tall, broad-shouldered person. Standing at 5’7 in my socks, I am a fearsome sight to behold when I wear heels. I’m a few inches above average for the American woman, but I’m not even that tall.

Feministing’s Ann Friedman wrote an excellent post last August about being a tall woman in the dating scene. Friedman, who’s over six feet, wrote:

I think it’s inseparable from the narrative about how tall women are constantly made to feel insecure about their femininity (and short men made to feel insecure about their masculinity). I have heard many a tall ladyfriend say that she doesn’t like feeling “big” around a man she’s dating.

I get hit on plenty by shorter guys, so I never thought about whether men are intimidated by my size. But maybe my issue with shorter guys is that I’ve internalized the idea that I am threatening. Friedman said:

Women who are tall enough to look men square in the eye (or look down on them) are gender transgressors by their very stature. Here’s a fact that tall women learn very early in life: Men don’t like being looked down on by a woman. This reaction–men feeling threatened by my height–seems rooted in the fact that I do not fit neatly into what they think of as “woman.”

I see what she means, especially when I read Yahoo! Answer comments like:

I prefer petite woman [sic] to tall ones. My dad was 5’6″ and remarried to a 6’1″ tower of horror.

I’ve only recently started to ease my romantic height requirement. The last few guys I’ve dated have actually been a tad shorter than me. I’m not being any more progressive, though. I still try to correct for the difference by wearing flats and slouching. I was actually a little pleased with this Jezebel post on “meels”, heels for men. I don’t think any of the guys in my Montana hometown are going to start wearing stilettos, but maybe this trend will trickle down until mens’ shoes in the mall will have a little extra lift, which would solve a lot of my problems.

But at what point do we draw the line between our political/social views and what we prefer sexually? Lesbian separatist feminists, like ’70s DC collective The Furies, used to argue that just being heterosexual was perpetuating the patriarchy.

And I haven’t even gotten into gay and lesbian height preferences. I only have conflicting anecdotal evidence for that–I know some gay people who prefer tall partners and some gay people who just don’t care.

I also want to make clear that no matter a man’s height, it’s still most important to me that he be smart, progressive and interesting. As they say, the brain is the biggest sex organ.

What say you, dear readers? Do you have a height requirement? And do you feel bad about it?

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/padsbrother/2766681720/ CC BY 2.0

Comments

  1. I am encouraged that this author was at least willing to question her own ingrained sexism. I also am heartened by those who stressed the harm caused by this form of gender discrimination to men, as well as the hypocrisy (from a feminist standpoint) of rationalizing it as a mere individual “preference.”

    If feminism means support for women’s liberation from male dominance, then feeling discomfort about only being willing to date only taller men does reflect some feminist consciousness. Trying to feel safe and “feminine” through the validation of dominant appearing men does contribute to women’s being perceived and treated as subordinate. How after all will a group be seen if it routinely acts like it needs to be protected by another group, or if it needs to have qualities like sensitivity, gentleness, and delicateness, constantly confirmed? Certainly less powerful and capable in many ways. For that reason, being willing to resist rather than accept the “big man addiction” would display even more feminist consciousness. So would perceiving it as an orientation that is heavily socialized and coerced by our patriarchal system, not just some personal taste.

  2. I’m a short guy. Only 5’8″, I get this sort of discrimination all the time when it comes to finding women. Even some women who I thought had more insecurities than myself and were looking for a more personality oriented man declined on the grounds that I was too short. It’s strange. I personally have never declined a woman’s advance on something so shallow. It’s the equivalent of me saying oh you’re a c? I only date a dd.

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