Not Oprah’s Book Club: The Tall Book

Like me, Arianne Cohen is a woman over 6 feet tall who makes her living as a journalist. And dammit, she beat me to writing a book about life in the 99th percentile for height: The Tall Book. (I’ve blogged about some of my tall-lady experiences before, in response to an article Cohen wrote for Nerve.)

Much of the book focuses on the undeniable advantages that come with being tall — I’d venture to call it height supremacist, even. Because height is a product of not just genetics but good childhood nutrition, there’s a strong correlation between height and intelligence, and therefore height and wealth. (Ah, but a gender gap persists: tall women still earn 17% less than tall men.) Tall people are also more likely to attract attention (duh) and be perceived as leaders.

But the picture isn’t quite as rosy for tall women — especially those of us who are extremely tall — as it is for tall men. Cohen describes how, as early as age 8, she was offered the option of taking estrogen to stunt her growth so she would not reach her projected height of 6’5″. This practice developed in response to parents’ fears their daughters would not be able to find a husband if they grew too tall. Cohen said no to the estrogen, and today she’s 6’3″. It was a good choice — growth-stunting estrogen has been linked to fertility problems later in life. Yet some doctors continue to prescribe this “treatment” for tallness. A 2002 survey of 411 endocrinologists found 137 still offered height-reduction treatments. How fucking archaic is that? Cohen writes, “In the United States boys are rarely treated, because height is considered beneficial.”

As I read Cohen’s book and thought about my own
height, the more I came to think my physical self has had a lot to do
with me turning out a feminist despite a very conservative upbringing. It’s the social aspects of tallness — especially when it comes to gender dynamics — where things really get interesting…

“Tall women in particular,” Cohen writes, “at first glance, are perceived as more intelligent, affluent, assertive, and ambitious than short women.” When polled, men say they consider short women to be more “nurturing” than taller women. My sense is that this has a lot to do with the fact that we tall gals are man-sized, so to speak. Stature separates us from the other 99% of women, and consequently separates us from some of the stereotypes associated with them. Luckily, patriarchy is there to attach another set of stereotypes to us. Take it from me, being a tall, assertive, ambitious woman still doesn’t erase the experience of sexism.

While there are definite benefits to being perceived as having more “manly” traits, we also are punished for it. In middle school, as she was nearing 6 feet tall, Cohen recounts her
classmate taunting her: “You’re a tall hideous she-man
and no boy will ever date you.” 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.” This is something I
think about when I read about the harassment of transwomen.

Reading a section in which Cohen interviewed tall women on their feelings about their height, I recalled a post by M. LeBlanc
at Shapely Prose: “although I have made peace with my fat self, I can
not endure the thought of being any fatter than I am.” Just read what
tall women say:

“I’m 6’1″, and I’m at the cut-off height. I don’t know if I would feel as confident if I were 6’5″.”

“I honestly wouldn’t want to be any taller than 6’4″. I’m right at the maximum height of what I’m happy with.

I think my height is the absolute limit,” says a 6’5″ dominatrix. “…I think it would be really difficult to be 6’6″ or more.”

This is very different from fatness — which is something that people
are perceived as being able to change. But the sentiment is the same as M. LeBlanc’s:
I’ve come to terms with how I look now, but I could never learn to love
a bigger body. We’re taught that big women who take up space are grotesque monstrosities!

“Incredibly huge! With incredible desires for love — and vengeance!” is my new personal motto.

It’s fascinating to see these insecurities play out in the dating context — particularly the heterosexual dating context. Cohen admits that she only dates men her height or taller. Much of what she describes as the romantic plight of the tall, hetero woman rests on the assumption that no woman wants to date a man shorter than she is — and no man wants to date a woman who is taller. Cohen writes,

It comes down to a numbers game. Women at below the 50th percentile have the entire male population to choose from for taller mates, while a woman at 6’2″ is looking at 3 percent of the population. And men, by the numbers, rarely date up. A study of 720 American couples… showed that only one couple featured a taller woman.

That’s pretty fucked. I know the conversation always gets messy when talk turns to people’s personal dating habits, and whether those reflect biases or just innocuous preferences, but 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. And I’m sure many men feel the reverse. Society teaches us men are big and women are small. Says a 5’8″ man,

“I generally do not like being dwarfed by a woman. I like to be powerful, and that’s hard. If I’m talking to a girl who’s, let’s say, 6’2″, I feel dwarfed and a bit awkward looking up. How do I keep myself comfortable and get her to feel comfortable, too?”

Thankfully Cohen turns to Betty Dodson for a big fucking reality check:

“Don’t think what you’re going through is so unique to being tall. It can happen if you’re short. It can happen if you’re disabled. It can happen if you are gorgeous. How many beautiful women say that people never see the real in them?”

Amen. There are many sections of this book, especially pertaining to fitting (into clothes, into planes, into crowds, etc.), where you could just replace the words “tall woman” with “fat woman” or “gender nonconforming person” or “disabled woman.” Cohen is simply describing the experience of navigating a society that does not accept difference very easily. What sets tall women apart is that height is almost always perceived as a good thing. People think they’re paying me a compliment when they stare rudely and say, “You’re so tall!” Really they are annoying the shit out of me.

One pretty blatant omission in Cohen’s book is her lack of examination of relationships between tall women and other women. The section on dating is ridiculously heteronormative. I would have loved to read
about tall lesbians’ dating experiences — since there is likely to be an even greater height gap between them and their desired partners. (Commenters? Help me out?)

And what about tall women’s friendships with other women? The average American woman is 5’3″, and for me, going
out to a bar with a cadre of ladyfriends who are at all close to that
average can make it hard to hear the conversation, which is
happening many inches below my ear level. (It’s taught me to empathize with women in the business
world who wear superhigh heels to hear the conversation between men
that’s taking place above their heads.) See this photo
of the Feministing crew for a visual — and most of my co-editors here
are over 5’3″. My friends come in a range of heights, but if I’m honest there are markedly fewer at the short end of the spectrum.

Reading The Tall Book as a feminist, it really struck me that the over-6-foot world is  dramatically different for men and women. I feel an instant camaraderie with tall ladies — who I know share the experience of being stared at, of shopping for pants, of being intentionally and unintentionally intimidating. Cohen describes Tall Clubs, where tall folks from around the world meet and mingle and hook up. Can we have one of those for women only, please? We can call it Attack of the 50 Foot Women. I’d be there in a hot minute.

Watch Cohen discuss her book here. For more on a variety experiences with height and gender, read the comments section of this post.

and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

47 Comments

  1. ItsJustMe
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I am so excited to get this book and read it.
    I am 5’9″, which isn’t exceptionally tall, but still tall enough that people make a big deal out of it.
    My husband is 5’4″ and we both had crushes on each other in high school. I was too embarrassed to date him because of our height difference and it wasn’t until after high school that I said screw what other people think, I’m going to be with him anyway.
    Sometimes in public I do feel awkward if we are walking together and I catch our reflections. On our first date a kid loudly whispered to his group of friends, “HOLY CRAP look at how huge she is compared to him!” I totally understand the part where you said a lot of tall women don’t like feeling “big” around men they are with. It does make me feel “unfeminine.” But when we’re snuggling on the couch or lying in bed he doesn’t seem any shorter than me and I figure that’s all that matters. We feel comfortable with each other so who cares what other people think?
    My husband doesn’t seem to have any of the insecurity issues with our height difference that I do. I think it says a lot about him though. He is a feminist, an amazing father and husband that doesn’t believe in the conventional gender roles and I think his security with our height difference is tied into that. He doesn’t have that need to adhere to the “rules” of masculinity.
    Anyway, I’m so excited to read this book.

  2. Ann
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Yay! That reminds me — did you ever see the VW ad (from 1999 or 2000) that featured a couple w/ a tall woman and a short man, and the caption “Height-Adjustable Seats”? I tried to find it online to link in this post, but couldn’t find a scan. It was one of the few sweet and non-comical portrayals of a tall woman/short man couple that I’ve seen.

  3. Gretel
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    ItsJustMe: I hear you! I’m 5’10 1/2″ and feel awkward at times when walking around with my boyfriend, who is 5’6″. He doesn’t have any issues with it, though (or so he claims). My mother, 5’10 3/4″ even said once that she, “wished he was taller,” which was devastating to hear. I mean, what if I was dating a woman? She’d probably be shorter since the average woman is shorter than the average man! Thinking about that made me realize how influenced by stereotypical gender roles and hetereonormativity I am.
    There’s something extremely special about men who are secure enough to date taller women. Now whenever I see a short-guy/tall-girl couple, I give them my widest smile. Can’t wait to read this book!

  4. Gretel
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh I realize I didn’t read the entire post before I commented. Whoops!
    My best friend (also female) in college was 5’3. We were inseparable, so one of our professors on our study abroad program started calling us Big Twin and Little Twin. So annoying!

  5. ElleStar
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded of how Steven King described reading “adult” books as a child. The best he could figure out, “bitch” meant “tall woman.” So tall women were (and still are) often portrayed as being taller than the more socially acceptable women.

  6. sarahlmac
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    It is always frustrating to read stuff like “Tall women in particular, at first glance, are perceived as more intelligent, affluent, assertive, and ambitious than short women.” I have always been the shortest of my friends, schoolmates and coworkers at 5’2″ (I had no idea that 5’3″ is the average but that seems low) and have never felt to be perceived as less ambitious or intelligent. I have been made fun of by many a tall woman, though. Or even someone who is 5’5″. My sister recently called me “diminutive” and didn’t think it was an insult. My mother will never quit singing the song “short people aint got no reason to live” when I enter a room. All that plus not being able to reach anything and then we have to read crap about being perceived as less intelligent than tall people. Total bs.

  7. Gretel
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    sarahlmac: Shame on the tall women who made fun of you! That’s terrible, and I can’t understand it at all. I feel like my short female friends and I are united in the struggle to find clothes that fit properly, avoid rude comments about our size, and the trials of finding a chair that fits. I actually have very few “average”-height friends!
    I’d talk to your family about how that hurts you. That’s not right at all.

  8. allieb87
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    As a “short” woman (I’m 5’4″ which is I guess an inch above average? Who knew…) who has been involved in sports my whole life I’ve been made fun of by plenty of tall women as well. I also always felt like I had to be extra aggressive just so I could stand out to a coach. I don’t know how many times a frustrated teammate has yelled at me to “be taller!” Yeah, ’cause I can just make myself grow several inches at will…

  9. Rob
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was incredibly interesting… I will be sure to recommend this book to several of the women in my family.
    My entire family is well above average, height-wise, and I grew up basically with the expectation that my sisters and I (I’m trans) would be of height with or taller than my mother (5’10″). It wasn’t until college/my sisters stopped growing that I realised that women don’t, in general, *want* to be particularly tall. I stopped at 5’7″, and always feel like I’m still a kid around my family.
    I’ve always thought the common hang-up about height and dating weird, too… of all things!

  10. Tricia V.
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a great review, Ann. I’ll definitely be picking this book up.
    One of the most salient parts of the post is the discussion of tall women’s femininity. It’s a paradox of sorts: tall women are models, tall women are beautiful….right? But tall women are often not the willowly types in the magazines and on the tennis court. We come in man-sized bodies, proportional to our length but vastly out of sync with society’s standards for femininity.
    The other part of this post which is rarely discussed (if ever) is tall women’s friendships. I had several shorter friends in high school and thought it was the norm….until my best friend in college was also over 6 feet!! We loved giving each other “tall hugs” and celebrating our great height. Strength in numbers, ya know.
    For the record: I’m 6’1″, wear at least 2 inch heels daily. My partner is 5’11″ and I love him especially because he’s not intimidated by my height. Yeah, I struggle to feel “feminine” at times. But so do women all over the planet, in bodies of different sizes, shapes, and colors.

  11. WickedAnnabella
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m just under 6′ and I’ve started to really enjoy wearing heels just because people tell me I shouldn’t. I figure I can’t change my height, so I might as well embrace it!
    I admit that I am leery of dating shorter men- partly because of social conditioning, and partly because I’m more suspicious that a short man is trying to prove something about his masculinity by dating me.

  12. 76cents
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Bloomberg and Taylor come to mind. I always admired the two of them.

  13. Jennabun
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I always feel like I have to try my hardest to PROVE that I am smart or worthy of power because I am short. I am 5’0″, pretty much always the shortest one of the bunch, and people usually just see me as some silly little girl and never take me seriously (or they only begin to take me seriously after they acknowledge my existence for a long period of time). I HATE it. People always seem to overlook me (pun intended :P ) when it comes to leadership positions even though I have the same amount of skill.
    On another subject… I don’t think being short, or at least as short as I am, increases the chances of men wanting to date you. In my experience, a lot of men do not find short women as attractive as average-sized/tall women because they are seen as less mature/childlike because of their size (despite any evidence to the contrary).
    I think that any person who doesn’t fit the desired “average” height has issues in all of these areas just as tall women do, just as Ann points out. If you don’t fit in the narrow area of what is acceptable for women to look like, you are pretty much screwed.

  14. Femgineer
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree that tall women are generally portrayed as being taller than other women. ;)

  15. Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m 6′ tall, and the short one in my family, so for me, growing up I didn’t so much notice that I was tall. You get the extended family in on the picture and with the exception of one or two people, we’re all in the 6′ to 6’11″ range.
    However, once I got out of that sphere, I started to hate my height because it made dating seem like a hopeless task. To the extent that I dated male-assigned-at-birth people, I very much hear my experience reflected in this review.
    As for dating other female-bodied people, my experience is one of existing with expectations that reinforce a heteronormative bianary. Although I’m no longer dating, when I consider my time in the dating pool, I see how my height informed my partners’ expectations. As the taller one, I felt an obligation to be the “strong” partner and conform to deeply seeded expectations of gendered stereotypes.
    As a gender-nonconforming person now, and as someone who has a fair number of transgender friends, my height plays an interesting role. In a group of genderqueer folks, I often find myself as more likely to “pass” than some of the other people I’m with because of my height.

  16. Gretel
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Or to continue with the political theme: Sarkozy and Bruni! Or Elizabeth and Dennis Kucinich!
    If anyone else is a BSG fan, I’m all about Caprica 6 and Gaius!

  17. Zailyn
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I have my doubts about 5’3″ being average myself. Admittedly, I’m in the UK, but I can’t believe the average heights are *that* different – and at 5’1″ I am really unusually short.
    Personally, I can believe what’s been said about tall women being perceived as more assertive/ambitious/etc., although it does make me worry about my future (I’m horribly unassertive as is, I need all the help I can get.) I don’t particularly mind being short, though, and haven’t really been hassled about it at all.

  18. Ann
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Agreed that “you’re so short” comments are just as bullshit as “you’re so tall” ones. And I apologize that tall ladies have been shitty to y’all. For the record, in case it wasn’t obvious, I don’t think that tall women feeling good about themselves should come at the expense of short women.
    And for what it’s worth, despite what the book says about perception, I know just as many short women who are ambitious and assertive. Having had to fight harder for respect and attention often makes them amazing leaders.

  19. Geneva
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    It bothers me to no end that clothes seem to always come in only one sort of body type, unless they’re “plus sized” which basically just means they’re larger in all dimensions.
    as a short runner who takes pride in her athletic legs, let me say, it is nearly impossible to find pants.
    apparently having any sort of muscle definition causes your legs to be disproportionate to your waist, and you deserve no pants.
    and if i do find a pair of pants that fit around the thigh, they’re bound to need a belt and some hemming.

  20. yamiblue990
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    it’s true that the taller a woman is the more intelligent people think of you. it sure does explain the difference in how intelligent they think my sister (5’7) is while they assume that i don’t know anything just because i’m the shorter one(4’11). it’s very annoying to have people assume that just because your small that they can treat you like a little kid.

  21. sarahlmac
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    allieb87: I had completely forgotten about the sports aspect! I was the first to be cut in 7th grade basketball and the last to be taken off the bench in soccer freshman-junior year of high school. When i’d get upset and ask the coach they would almost always make some reference to how it wasn’t my fault but I just couldn’t keep up with the taller girls. Maybe subconsciously they helped us less, thinking it would be easier to coach the taller girls? You think?

  22. allieb87
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I am so with you on this. I almost exclusively wear skirts and dresses because I am too lazy to shop for pants.

  23. allieb87
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, a lot coaches definitely have a bias. With soccer especially it didn’t matter how fast I was or how good my footwork was, I missed time on the field because a coach would opt to give a taller girl playtime (never mind that she just kicked around a ball for the first time yesterday and I’d been playing for several years).

  24. simonismycat
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t want to be a shit-stirrer here, and I am interested in hearing about a diversity of women’s experiences. But I’d just like to point out how the comment thread on a review of a book about tall women has turned into a discussion about short women. This reminds me very much of fat acceptance discussions where thin people chime in about how they have it tough, too! or when white people try to compare some discriminatory experience they’ve had to dealing with racism.
    It’s not like the experiences of short women are something to be discounted–I know several very short women who are fiercely intelligent, and who do need to fight to be taken seriously, and I think that sucks. But this book is about the experience of a tall woman, and it bothers me a little bit that the comments seem to be dedicated to devaluing that experience and instead focusing on the experiences of short women.

  25. strandedlad
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    They gave my brother injections to stop him growing when he was a teenager. He topped out at 6’10″. I’m 6’4″, so he’s one of the few people I know that I have to look up to. It freaks me out a little, because I’m not used to it, and every time I visit him I spend the first few hours thinking, this is how everyone else looks at me.
    I do prefer the company of tall women, however, as I think we can all agree that short people are inherently untrustworthy. It’s always, change this light bulb for me or get that off the top shelf, and never, let me pick those up off the floor or reach in the bottom of that cupboard for you. When there’s a high job, short people are your best friends, but when there’s a low job, they’re always down there scurrying around, scheming how to sneak into carnival rides.

  26. Shy Mox
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I always thought I was leery of dating shorter men too (I’m just under 6″) and said I thought it was unattractive, but then I met a cool guy who is 5″6, and I got over it. I actually found his height really cute ^_^

  27. Wren
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Coming at this from a shortie’s perspective (I’m 5’1 and three quarters) I hate assumptions based on height!
    Short ladies are “cute” “sweet”. I’ve routinely been told I’m “too short to curse” and it’s hard to get respect because being short IS feminine. (I can also see short guys getting a lot of flack because they’re not perceived as manly).

  28. anteup
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m 6′. I would absolutely KILL for an extra two or three inches! I don’t know why but I’ve never had an issue with being tall. I’ve never had an issue with dating short guys either. Maybe it is because my mom is a good 2-3 inches taller than my dad. Come to think of it, most of the tall women in my family have married men shorter than they are.

  29. anteup
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Re: Willowy
    Good point. For all intents and purposes I am a thin lady. I’m around 140lbs(at 6′). I have no problem dating shorter men but dating guys physically SMALLER than me really, really bothers me. The last fellow I dated was my weight and an inch shorter than me(it was barely noticeable) but since women and men hold weight so differently he was significantly smaller than me aesthetically. I felt like a whale 24/7. It really, really bothered me.

  30. medea
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I used to play rugby in highschool.
    What I remember about tall/short players was that the coach would always tell us (regardless of height) “Go for the tall ones – they go down easier”. It can be really good to have a shorter team for that sport – short players are generally much harder to tackle.

  31. allieb87
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    “Don’t think what you’re going through is so unique to being tall. It can happen if you’re short. It can happen if you’re disabled. It can happen if you are gorgeous. How many beautiful women say that people never see the real in them?”
    I just think that it says that a lot of people were interested in commenting on the issues raised in the post but wanted to do it from their own perspective. To me, that makes a lot of sense because your height quite literally effects the perspective from which you view the world.
    That said, my apologies. Certainly didn’t mean to hijack the comments.

  32. medea
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    I’m a taller woman. I dated a guy a few inches shorter than me (also a year older) when I was about 19/20. It bothered me a little at first, but I got over it pretty quickly – although I found that I really stopped wearing heeled shoes around him.
    It didn’t bother me at all, for the most part, except for one time, we were walking somewhere together and a bunch of obnoxious assholes started yelling pedophile and cradle robber at us (well – I assume me) out a car window. ‘Cause I guess that the fact I have about 3 inches on him means I must be an older sexual predator. We both kind of shrugged it off in front of each other, but I was pretty fucking mortified. I probably cried about it on my own, later, but I honestly can’t remember.
    Other than that one event, it’s never really been a huge issue before/since to be seeing a shorter guy. I feel like to discriminate against guys on the basis of height is pretty hypocritical of me.
    I really do hate going out and being told how I’m such an “amazon woman”, or else that I’d be attractive if I wasn’t so tall (still under 6′). Oh, and how pants and sleeves are almost always too short unless I get them too big. And yet I still kind of wish I was a little taller than I am.

  33. allieb87
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Good point medea. I’m a little intimidated by contact sports but that reminded me that even being out of another player’s line of vision is sometimes an advantage.

  34. William
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Without the comment about your family being above average height, that could be my life. I know how you feel.

  35. Ann
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I actually welcome the perspectives (literally! har har) of short women on this topic. Having never seen the world from a short person’s perspective, I am genuinely curious to hear about everyone’s experiences. The world loves to pit women against one another, and I love the idea of finding common experience at different ends of the height spectrum.

  36. aleks
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I’m 5’6″. It gets kind of depressing when so many women list “tall” as what they’re looking for in a man. Sigh.

  37. x-creepy-doll-x
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Hmmm? I’m five three and my (male) partner is five six. I really like it. I do not have to break my neck to kiss him nor assume weird and uncomfortable positions or else be smothered during sex. And I can borrow his pants for motorcycle rides. (girl pants never fit me right, because god forbid, I have thick, developed quads.) I like short men because they fit.

  38. earthling
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    My own personal experience:
    I’m 5’9″, was very tall for my age at school, and got bullied mercilessly for it. I then developed anorexia in my late teens because I felt I was taking up too much space. I felt ugly and graceless. It didn’t help that the sports teacher assumed that because of my height, I’d be good at sports! When in fact I actually suck at all sports, and this was a terrible disappointment to her. She picked on me for the rest of the time I was at school.
    So much for school… I’m glad to say that I’m happy with my height now, and that it has had a minimal impact on my relationships. Mainly because my mum is 4″ taller than my dad, and they’ve been married for 40 years and neither of them give a crap about their height difference. So they showed me a good example!
    I’ve dated men and women of a wide range of heights and have had times when a man shorter than me has had a problem, but that’s been a rarity. I’m with a man now who’s over 6′ so the issue never comes up!
    Another tall female friend of mine (now married to a man shorter than her!) said to me once: ‘Doesn’t it make you feel less feminine if they’re shorter than you?’ and this question confuses me, because I honestly have no idea what it means to ‘feel feminine’. Feeling attractive, feeling beautiful, feeling sexy, feeling happy with who you are, yes, I can get on board with that. You can have all that, and still throw that outdated concept of ‘femininity’ out the window. ‘Feeling feminine’ to me translates as ‘feeling like you are an acceptable example of your gender’… acceptable to someone else’s ideal, not to mine.
    I do think women are taught that they shouldn’t be ‘big’ (whether this means tall or fat or both), and feeling shame for being big is really painful – women should be able to take up as much space as they damn well please! :)

  39. Dilan Esper
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    In addition to what betty dodson said, it isn’t really a great idea to impose artificial constraints on who you will date and then complain about how hard it is to find a partner. It’s reminiscent of the women who insist on dating an older man, or one who makes more money. Indeed, this sort of thing probably reifies the patriarchy to some extent.
    Obviously, one can’t tell someone who to be attracted to, but these sorts of self-imposed constraints have real implications that people who care about gender equality should examine.

  40. Dilan Esper
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    And to clarify my last comment, men who care about gender equality should examine their preferences for younger, shorter, lower earning women too.

  41. allieb87
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    This reminded me of a scene from The West Wing where C.J. (Allison Janney, 6’0″) turns to Annabeth (Kristin Chenoweth, 4’10″) and asks, “Are we even the same species?”
    I wanted to post the video but I can’t find it…

  42. sarahlmac
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I sincerely hope you are joking.

  43. Ali
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know… I would like to say that I am a pretty intelligent person and my mother was neurotic about healthy foods to give us growing up.
    But… I’m 4’11″ yea… 4 feet eleven inches.
    And really I am constantly disrespected… I get the “O you know one more inch and you can get a handicap parking spot” or “What are you 14?” (I’m 23) And people treat me as if I’m 14…. plus I also get the “WOW you’re short!” Then subsequently they decide to use the top of my head as an arm rest and lean on me.
    Before my boyfriend no one would date me because I don’t look “womanly”.
    So ladies… Be thankful you are tall. But realize it is also extremely difficult to be short.

  44. Ali
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know… I would like to say that I am a pretty intelligent person and my mother was neurotic about healthy foods to give us growing up.
    But… I’m 4’11″ yea… 4 feet eleven inches.
    And really I am constantly disrespected… I get the “O you know one more inch and you can get a handicap parking spot” or “What are you 14?” (I’m 23) And people treat me as if I’m 14…. plus I also get the “WOW you’re short!” Then subsequently they decide to use the top of my head as an arm rest and lean on me.
    Before my boyfriend no one would date me because I don’t look “womanly”.
    So ladies… Be thankful you are tall. But realize it is also extremely difficult to be short.

  45. Ali
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the double post… internet was flaking out on me.

  46. sherunslunatic
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m 4’11″ as well, Ali, and can relate to the same things–the tall friend who thinks it’s okay to constantly refer to me as “pocket-sized,” the friend who can’t fathom why I didn’t apply for the little person scholarships for which I technically qualify. I’ve been known to get physically violent with people who pull that using the top of my head as an arm rest shit.
    Thanks for this post, Ann–I think I need awhile to process my reaction to it, which initially was blinding anger at tall people for not being grateful that they’re tall–an insensitive and unreasonable reaction, I know. From childhood taunts to daily inconveniences to the difficulty of being taken seriously as a college instructor when you can’t use half the chalkboard, I seem to have some Short Person Anger Issues to deal with. (And short angry people, as we all know, are hysterically funny.) Thank you for giving me a different perspective. :)

  47. Gnatalby
    Posted August 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    My family is tall, and I somehow didn’t notice. I’m 5’10″ and until a couple years ago (I’m 27) I believed that I am short because my sister is 6’1″ and my Dad is 6’4″.

Feministing In Your Inbox

Sign up for our Newsletter to stay in touch with Feministing
and receive regular updates and exclusive content.

236 queries. 1.154 seconds