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.

    • It’s been my experience that while men have various preferences for boobs, butt, thin, fat, etc., none of those preferences are as rigid as the often unspoken preference that women have with regards to height. It doesn’t bother some, and I know it makes some others feel guilty, but I’ve not seen any other preference that is so universal.

      I first learned this back in college from a group of girl friends and didn’t believe it at first. Over the next few years I confirmed over and over it was true. I’m not a short man and maybe that’s why many women didn’t feel reserved in telling me their thoughts (they knew they wouldn’t hurt my feelings).

      At any rate, once I accepted it, I no longer felt guilty for being attracted to hourglass hips or big boobs. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a woman who wasn’t so well-endowed on that basis alone, but I know literally dozens of women who never gave a short guy a chance.

  3. Joe Bob McGee says:

    I don’t think sexual preferences need to be rationalized or justified.

    Other preferences don’t seem to come with that requirement. I like the color blue and also ravioli. Do I need some kind of intellectual grounding to justify that, or can I just admit that those things have an innate appeal to my personality?

    Personally I like women with fair skin and I have an aversion to tattoos. Should I go after a lady with tattos and a tan just to prove how open minded I can be, or let her find a partner who just naturally appreciates those things? I say the latter option is best.

  4. Youre not a bad feminist, just a big hypocrite. Not dating someone because of their height is like those men who say “no fat chicks” or “d cup and above” . Youre basing a mans worth and masculinity off of his height rather than his personality, so youre just as bad as those “misogynistic men” youre so against.

  5. A Feminist who says she prefers to date taller men is screaming against the feminist argument of equality.

  6. I’m a tall man, believe me its not that great for attracting women…maybe that’s because I’m weird and not particularly aggressive. Regardless, I can’t stand it when anyone is taller than me, man or woman, I think most men feel this way and its not based on sexism. I don’t understand why women write essays explaining why they find men unattractive, your sexuality has no bearing on your politics or worth as a human or any of that junk and it mostly seems patronizing. I agree that women’s standards are very rigid, if I ever met a woman who was taller than me I’d rather not be attracted to her but if I was I would be obliged to pursue in my weird way.

  7. manwishing for true love says:

    I am 5’1.” I am well past 50 and have had only one serious, wonderful, intimate relationship in my life – it was in my early 30s.
    Growing up I had friends in grammar school who were girls – these friendships (and other life values) are contributing reasons to why I became and remain a complete supporter of all feminist goals. I was around 20 when second wave feminism hit, in about 1970. I read all the articles and “got it” immediately – everything women were writing about made absolute sense. Even if many women will only date taller men, and it’s a kind of double standard, I still am a feminist supporter. Feminism – the movement for equality for women in the home and in society, throughout the world, is the most important issue ever. i may be hurt, frustrated, and even angry due to the frustration of being rejected, possibly, due to the women almost always only dating men who are taller (interesting comments from the tall guys who have posted here, that that’s what women have admitted to them); but I am never going to turn into one of those angry MRA troll chauvinist guys who blame women. I will never waiver in my commitment to supporting all feminist goals. Men and women both look for attractive traits in each other, and for whatever reason it seems that women prefer men who are taller. …

  8. Whatever says:

    I guess feminists are as free from double standards as anyone else.

  9. Hi Kate

    There’s nothing wrong with your preferences nor does it make you a bad feminist. Feminism is about respecting women’s autonomy (both mental and physical) so your preference are perfectly ok.

    while a lot of preference are indeed patriarchal in nature, these applies to what women “should” look like for the most part. If anything: the traditional patriarchal view is that women don’t care about look. So if anything, it is very feminist to go for look in a male partner. So, indulge in good looking men, girl ^_^,

  10. Do women ever forget that when a man gives out his height he’s talking about his height without shoes? So if you are a 5’5″ woman who is 5’9″ in heels you should know a man would be at least 1 inch taller in regular shoes.

    Also if women feel protected with a tall man that is a mere illusion. So if a man wears lifts he can still create the illusion of the woman feeling protected. And I know women are way more insecure about how their man looks while they are in public so once again get the man in lifts. Nobody is going to tell him to take his shoes off

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