Los Angeles, CA

Do Women Discriminate Against Men Who Are Shorter Than Them?

Elle Silver

Women, as a rule, prefer tall men. Acknowledging this is the first step toward opening up your dating pool.

I’d been chatting with Aaron for a while when we finally decided to meet up. We matched on an app and had a great time talking for a couple of weeks. But now he had asked me on a date.

That’s when I finally remembered to ask him how tall he was.

Yes, this is an important question for me. I don’t like to date men who are shorter than I am. I’m five feet, eight inches — tall for a female.

Throughout my life, I’ve had trouble meeting guys who are my height or taller. And yes, maybe I’m traumatized by shooting up early in life.

By the seventh grade, I was taller not only than many of the girls at my school but the boys, too. I have some “height issues.”

Aaron told me he was 5' 8"-ish. What did “ish” mean?

I would learn when I met Aaron in person. Five-eight-ish actually meant 5' 4".

I was shocked. It wasn’t just the fact Aaron was shorter than me, but I didn’t like that he’d lied.

He’d led me to believe he was my height. Even then, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt by agreeing to meet him as I typically prefer to date men who are taller than me.

Though Aaron was lovely on our date, I decided against going out with him a second time. However, my refusal to see Aaron again also forced me to confront another issue:

Did I have a height prejudice when it comes to men?

Was it wrong of me to reject this perfectly fine gentleman (except for the fact that he lied about his height) all because he was four inches shorter than me?

Simply put: was I a heightist for dumping Aaron?

What’s a heightist?

Heightism can be defined as: “discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s stature, esp. discrimination against short people.”

Many women are heightists when it comes to dating short men. Studies show women tend to select taller male mates.

Writer Ena Dahl recently did a deep-dive into her own heightist tendencies in her essay, Preference or Prejudice. Does My Tall-Man Favoritism Make Me a Hypocrite? Ms. Dahl had to confront her heightism when she matched with a man on an app who wasn’t much taller than herself. When they met in person, Ms. Dahl’s heart sank when she saw that he was so much shorter than the men she typically dated.

She typically dates men who are 6' 3" even though she’s 5' 6". Ms. Dahl had to make a conscious effort to give this fellow a chance.

This is because she admits (ashamedly) that she’s a heightist.

In response to her own height prejudice, Ms. Dahl investigated the issue. She found research claiming evolutionary biology is to blame.

The female height prejudice toward shorter men is programmed into our DNA. As the child-bearers of our species, our female ancestors sought out taller men for protection.

This bias is the result of natural selection. What can any of us do about this?

It’s also culturally based. “The tall, dark and handsome trope has long been the near-universal measure of conventionally attractive masculinity,” Ms. Dahl wrote in her essay. Tall is simply viewed as masculine.

Women want taller men because they want to feel feminine, “which in turn makes [us] feel sexier and more desirable,” wrote Dahl.

Is this desire baked into our female brains? Would Aaron have even had a chance with me if he hadn’t lied about his height?

I discovered Aaron was shorter than me only after meeting him in person.

I don’t have bad memories of my date with Aaron — aside from the reveal that he was so much shorter than me and had lied about it. I actually had a wonderful time with him — at least in terms of his treatment of me.

We met in Downtown L.A. He found a parking structure for me to park in and paid for it. We got drinks at La Cita, a bar near Grand Central Market. They have a punk-rock room in the back of the bar.

Aaron paid for all our drinks. After that, we walked over to The Regent Theater and saw the band, Tijuana Panthers. Aaron bought the tickets.

It was a fun date. The only thing I didn’t like was finding out he was actually 5' 4".

I learned this when I exited my car and he was there, waiting for me in the parking structure. I was shocked to see that he was so short.

Five-foot-eight-ish? Hardly! The man was four inches shorter than me!

A wave of disappointment washed over me when I learned the truth about him. I knew right then I’d never fall for Aaron.

As we walked to La Cita, I felt so big beside him. Memories rushed back from my younger years. I was so tall in junior high and much of high school, it was so hard to find a boyfriend. I desperately wanted a boyfriend but so many boys were shorter than me.

Even a boy who really liked me, whom I liked too, was short. We never “went together.”

Because I felt so undesirable as a tall young woman, I just wanted to disappear! I didn’t want anybody to notice me. But I couldn’t disappear. I was so tall!

Everyone could see I was undesirable. Desirable was being petite. I was tall, gawky, unwieldy. It didn’t help I got called Olive Oyl around campus.

Here I was, reliving those memories and sensations with Aaron. No, he wasn’t picking on me. He wasn’t calling me names. He liked me.

I just didn’t like him back. But I think it went beyond my past traumas as a tall young woman.

I had a height bias against short men that I just couldn’t shake.

I rebuffed Aaron for his short stature.

Yes, Aaron treated me like a lady on this date. But I couldn’t respond to him physically. He was too short for me!

At the bar, he kept trying to put his arm around me. He had to stretch up his arm to get it around my shoulders.

That made me so uncomfortable!

At the end of the night, he tried to kiss me. He literally stood up on his tippy toes and lifted his face up toward mine.

I turned my face away. I didn’t want to reach my face down to kiss him.

I couldn’t bear it! That was so unattractive! But wasn’t this my problem? Was it so bad that Aaron was four inches shorter than me?

Was it even so bad that he had lied to me, telling me he was 5' 8"-ish? Couldn’t I understand why he felt he had to lie to me? This was exactly what he had expected — that I’d have a height prejudice.

I did.

But that doesn’t make it right.

Acknowledging our heightism is the first step toward change.

If we can agree that many women have a height bias toward short men and that this may even be biologically programmed in our female brains, is there any way to change this bias? What with so many women complaining in this day and age that it’s so hard to find love

Maybe if women judged men less about their height, women would have more luck in love.

And maybe acknowledging that women have this height bias is the first step toward changing it.

Then again, Ms. Dahl also argues that we should be allowed to have preferences. But is the female height preference for taller men less a preference and more a prejudice?

I think so.

Even after I wouldn’t kiss Aaron on our first date, he called me for a second one. I demurred, telling myself that I didn’t want to see him again because he had lied to me. But was that really the issue? Would I have seen him again even if he had been truthful?

Or more aptly put: would I have even given him a first date had he just come out and said he was 5' 4"?

Probably not.

A couple of months after my experience with Aaron, I matched with another man who admitted he was 5' 6" over the phone. I decided not to meet him.

And even after that, I’ve sometimes felt annoyed with myself when, after texting with a guy for a while, he’d ask to meet and I’d realize I’d forgotten to ask him how tall he was. This was after we’d already wasted a couple of days chatting. Sometimes I really wanted to meet the guy. He was so cool. But was he tall enough for me?

I’d have to steel myself for disappointment. And sometimes that’s exactly how I felt. What a letdown it was when I found out he was just that: too short.

By and by, I learned to ask much earlier how tall a guy was during our initial texts.

Still, it made me feel awful to ask this, like I was being superficial.

But at least now I acknowledge my heightism. Like I said, that’s the first step toward change.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA

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