Heightism is a Real Thing

I have a confession to make: I’m not attracted to short men. I know, I know, for someone who preaches equality and encourages people to embrace differences because we are all beautiful in our own way, I have some explaining to do. So, let me explain.

I am a tall woman. I was one of the three tallest kids in my primary school, and remained the tallest girl through most of high school, too. As a fully grown adult (closer to 30 than 20 – don’t remind me), I stand at 180cm, or as I like to describe it, “just shy of 6ft”.
And I like being tall, I really do. But that wasn’t always the case.

I was bullied every single day at school (until the middle of Year 10 when I took matters into my own hands, but that’s another story). I suspect my ability to overcome adversity has something to do with my less than ideal school life, as does my deeply ingrained insecurity and perfectionism about my physical appearance. But of the many things I was bullied for, height is the only one that has had a lasting impact on my life. A real, tangible effect. My heightism.

I was (and am) made to feel undesirable because I am a woman who takes up more space in the world than many others, and society fetishises small women. Dare I say it, childlike women. The picture of a desirable woman is one who appears youthful – small; soft; flawless skin; no body hair to be seen. And it doesn’t stop on the outside- they should also be subservient; quiet; even weak. Let me interject here by saying that there is nothing wrong with being or having any or all of those traits – but there is something wrong with telling anyone who falls outside of that rigid standard that they are not beautiful or desirable or, for goodness’ sake, feminine. Or telling them that they should change, whether through surgery or other means, unless it is something they truly want to do for themselves.

Obviously, obviously, the opinion of every single person who desires women isn’t exactly the same. And I am speaking anecdotally here, but I have noticed a trend: never in my countless friendships and conversations with women who date men have shorter women been made to feel unsexy or been rejected because of their height. Or worse, not even been considered. But for those of us who sit outside the desirable majority, it’s a different story entirely. And that goes for men, too.

For men who literally got the short end of the stick, you can find a similar tale of woe. Just as society paints the picture of a perfect woman, the perfect man is, among other things, tall. The more space a man takes up in the world, the better. Because bigger obviously means more powerful, more successful, more virile. At least, that’s what we are made to believe. In no way am I denying that society conditions people who date men to want them to meet a certain set of criteria as well, but there is simply no denying that the value society places on women specifically is tangled up far more in looks than it is for men. Men are encouraged to be strong; competitive; outspoken, while women are told to look after their appearance. But, you know, a lot. So they look more like the idea of a woman than an actual human being. Hot.

While these expectations are slowly but surely shifting over time to be a little more neutral, the binary is still, sadly, very.. much.. alive! Like Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets. Hopefully one day the collective will finally realise that life is a spectrum.

My “heightism” differs from the standard definition in a few ways: firstly, I have absolutely no problem with short men in general. Secondly, I don’t want to date men who are a specific height, I just have a strong preference for them to be at least as tall as me. Hell, I’ve even gone as low as, say, 176cm (shocking, I know. Absolutely minuscule.) Finally, I have absolutely zero preference when it comes to dating women. None whatsoever.

Because of my history with bullying, if I am physically bigger than a man (unsurprisingly, I was bullied about my height by boys, and have only ever been rejected over it by men) I feel unattractive. Undesirable. Unlovable, unworthy. Just put “un” in front of every positive adjective you can think of, and you’ll come close. And it’s something I couldn’t change even if I wanted to. There are no reverse-heels. You’d think that seeking out men taller than me to date would ensure I never have to feel this way, but even then they are sometimes put off by my being tall in general. It’s a hard-knock life.

I will finish by acknowledging that I, like everyone else, am a product of my experiences, but also of society as a whole. And that I am utterly imperfect. I don’t deny that this is something I need to work on, and I admit that my height in relation to my partner matters not at all in the grand scheme of things. Also, having preferences is okay – to an extent.

Or maybe I’m just shallow.

Have you experienced heightism before?


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As usual, please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or email me at contact.isobellawolfe@gmail.com

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4 thoughts on “Heightism is a Real Thing

  1. Like you, I am also 5’11 and experienced bullying throughout my school years. I don’t think I was ever portrayed as unfeminine due to my height but definitely undesirable. Unlike you, height requirements in the opposite sex was never in my thoughts. Growing up in a small town around a lot of short people and going to a small college, demanding a man taller than me would have narrowed my choices considerably. I, in fact, fell in love with and married a man 2 inches shorter than me. You think the story would end there, but it doesn’t. Marrying a man shorter than you will open you up to more bullying and heightism as an adult. If you have a thin skin, I would be cautious of this. If you have a thick skin, them like me you will live a fabulous life with your hubby.

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