Before I met my boyfriend, I couldn’t imagine dating a shorter man. I usually fell in love with tall men — if I wanted to kiss them, I had to stand on my toes.
And that’s what women usually seem to want, isn’t it? Every time I watch the UK reality TV show Love Island, the consensus is more than clear: desirable men are tall, dark and handsome.
This phenomenon kind of makes sense because men are on average taller than women. The average male in the USA is 1,77 meters tall, while the average female is 1,63. This means that most women are paired up with men that are taller than them. The stereotype resulting from this is self-explanatory.
However, women don’t desire tall men just because they’re most likely going to date one, statistically speaking. After discussing this issue with multiple female friends, I’ve realised the problem isn’t about women accepting that most men are taller. It’s about women refusing to date men that are shorter, no matter how handsome or amazing they are.
This goes way beyond statistics. It’s time to face internalised misogyny.
This viral TikTok has a lot to teach us
Yesterday, I stumbled upon a viral TikTok that made me laugh because it reminded me of my own situation.
This is the TikTok. (Abbie Herbert says she thought she would never date a short man and then she ends up standing next to her shorter husband.)
Abbie and her husband make for a beautiful couple, and just like with my own relationship, it would have been a shame if Abbie hadn’t overcome her prejudice and had ditched Josh Herbert because of his height.
This TikTok shows women all around the world that they should throw prejudice out of the window and focus on qualities that are much more important than height. Abbie is standing tall and proud next to her husband and manages to make her audience laugh and feel at ease in the process.
The video also raises questions I’ve been asking myself for the longest time. Why are women so set on never dating shorter men? Why do we need an amazing attractive short man to appear in our lives so he can prove us wrong, instead of just accepting that short men, in general, can be just as attractive as the tall ones?
I have thoughts.
Ever since you’re born as a female in our society, you’re perceived as the weaker gender. Girls are led to be quiet, nice, nonproblematic, sensitive. Boys, on the other hand, have their own issues to deal with — they’re laughed at for showing vulnerability and sadness and they’re always told they need to “toughen up”.
Weak and strong. Sensitive and cold-hearted. Quiet and loud. Caring and violent. Nurturing and ambitious. We assign ourselves adjectives after adjectives based on our gender, and every time you step over the line, you’re in danger of being socially persecuted.
A boy in a dress? Not “manly”.
A girl who hates dresses? A tomboy.
A woman who’s tall and muscular? Not fragile enough. Not feminine enough.
And a man who’s short? You guessed it.
We are terrified of not being fragile enough
When I met my boyfriend for the first time, I thought he was gorgeous. We got on extremely well and I was looking forward to our second date. But I had my doubts.
“Will I be attracted to him even though he’s shorter than me? Will I still feel safe, taken care of, elegant and feminine?” I was asking myself at the back of my mind.
I didn’t let my fears deter me, and he ended up winning over every single man I’d ever dated when it comes to attraction. Turns out, I’m madly attracted to him, madly in love with him and he makes me feel like the most gorgeous woman on Earth.
What’s more, I love his masculinity. There’s no toxicity in it, no unhealthy lack of self-esteem that could be a potential strain on the relationship, no worries about his height whatsoever. He’s a beautiful man who is at peace with himself and he never feels “emasculated” next to a taller woman.
Later, as I started unpacking those doubts I’d had after our first date, I realised how toxic and unhealthy my prejudice against short men was. Why did I need his physical appearance to make me feel “safe” or “taken care of” or “feminine”? Wasn’t I all those things on my own? Why would I need a man for that?
Well, when you’re socialised into appearing weak, skinny and fragile your whole life, standing next to a smaller man can easily highlight insecurities you didn’t even know you had. Suddenly, your female ego is at risk — can you still be a fragile flower when you’re so much bigger than your partner?
And the answer is: Yes. Yes, you can be a fragile flower no matter how tall your partner is. His height has no effect on your femininity whatsoever because every woman is feminine in her own way.
But another, more important answer is: Do you even want to be one? Why should women be fragile? Why should we be weak? We can literally create life inside ourselves and then push it out while being in horrible pain for hours. Doesn’t sound so weak to me.
One of the problems I see here is that many women have internalised misogyny. It’s sexist to expect us to be polished, skinny, made out of sugar and to poop rainbows. Yet because we grew up in a certain society, that’s what we end up thinking about ourselves.
To quote the UMKC Women’s Center’s website:
“It can be difficult to identify internalized misogyny. As independent as we think we may be, we have many preconceived notions about how a woman should exist that stem from societal expectations and gender norms. It is important to be conscious of this, and to be conscious of your thoughts and ideas not only about other women but also in regards to yourself. Remember — empowered women empower women!”
I don’t care that my boyfriend is shorter than me. My doubts weren’t that immense to begin with — even though I had them, I was more curious than anything else — but many women I know struggle with this and deliberately reject shorter men.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need your man to be big and strong to feel feminine. It helps neither men, who feel even more pressured into appearing strong and protective and never showing any weakness, nor women.
Every woman is feminine in her own way. Femininity doesn’t have to mean weakness, emotional turmoil or fragility. Femininity is strength, too. So be your own woman. Your insecurities are something to work on, not something to project on potential partners. Let’s stop letting our society dictate to us what a woman should be.
And maybe give short men a chance. Many of them are lovely and make for excellent boyfriends. I speak from experience.