I Thought You Would Care

A few weeks ago I started messaging this cute Filipino guy on a d*ting a**. He told me that he grew up in “the boonies of California” and I liked him because of his sense of humor, his weirdness, and our perceived sexual compatibility. At one point in our text conversation he said “I’m 5’8”, kinda average, what about you?” I told him my height, 5’6”, and I asked him if he cares about guys’ heights.

“No I don’t,” he texted back, “I thought you would care.”

“I feel like height is pretty superficial tbh,” I wrote. “Like I’ve met a bunch of guys who are tall and also lack emotional availability and/or basic active listening skills.”

“If you have a face to [REDACTED],” I added, “you have a face to [REDACTED].”

“:) Where have you been all my life,” he sent.

Damn, I thought to myself. The bar is truly below the ground and on its way to the earth’s molten core.

This exchange triggered some feelings of sadness and anger within me because I have come across so many men who do care about the height of their potential sexual and romantic partners. On a personal level this preference for tall men feels ridiculous to me because you literally cannot control your height I mean maybe if you listen to “Lovesick Girls” by BlackPink and “Feel Special” by Twice 10,000 times each you could modify your height, it hasn’t worked for me though. Yet I see this preference for taller men so normalized on dating app profiles and in various articles and tweets, such as this random article I found after Googling “tall men dating.”

When I think through this issue from a logical perspective, I recognize the role of internalized patriarchy and gender roles in this preference for tall men. On an intuitive level, it makes unfortunate sense: people who possess anachronistic notions that men should function as “protectors” and “providers” above all else may view taller men as more able to serve in these traditionally masculine roles. Initial research suggests that some women prefer taller men because dating a taller man helps them to feel “secure” and “delicate,” which also plays into gender roles of women and femme folks as needing of protection by a more masculine partner. Furthermore, some scholars have written about how systemic heightism – the privileging of the tall body and the oppression of the short body, especially for men – reinforces patriarchy, by punishing men for taking up littler space and thereby embodying femininity.

On a personal level, this preference for tall men upsets me because of how it perpetuates patriarchy and oppression. I have dated and had intimate relations with shorter men who impressed me with their confidence and their toppish prowess in, you know. I have also had crushes on and gone out on dates with taller guys who masked their insecurity through their looks, lacked literally any ability to practice genuine active listening, or just did not impress me because of other reasons like a lack of compatible hobbies or lukewarm takes about social justice issues. Though I recognize short men can also perpetuate relational harm or come across as boring, it pains me that short men would face discrimination over their height, which is, again, literally out of their control.

Because I feel feelings strongly, I do my best to practice radical acceptance of heightism’s existence and then take values-aligned action to counteract this form of oppression. I think to myself, okay, what can I control about this unfortunate societal problem and situation I witness in my own life? Some actions come to mind: ensuring that I do not practice heightism in my dating life though, honestly, every man should gift me three novels by people of color just to interact with me, but, whatever or in other areas of my life such as recruiting research assistants, calling out/in people I converse with if I notice heightism in their/our statements, educating myself about heightism and incorporating it in future courses I teach if relevant, etc. Though heightism’s existence still pains me, I experience some sense of relief knowing what I can do in my own life to begin to address this issue.

In the end, I turned the cute Filipino guy down after our first date, though not because of his tallness or lack thereof. While I found him sweet, genuine, and good in ***, he had a lot of internal issues to address which I sensed would take at least a few more years, and I did not want to act as his makeshift therapist in the meantime. Based on his reaction to my rejection I could tell I broke his heart a bit, which I felt sad about because he had gone through a lot of rough shit in his life. I hope he knows that I still send him all my warmest and most compassionate vibes. I feel glad to have met him, another Asian man who values other characteristics more than someone’s height.

Okay hello it has been awhile! I appreciate my 1.7 readers’ patience – interview season for residency has really begun and it has been taking up a lot of my time. I have received some interviews from top sites in the country so fingers crossed I match somewhere. Anyway, how do you feel about heightism or have you observed it in your own life? What do you feel like we can do to counteract this form of oppression? I hope I can still blog regularly, at least biweekly for now. Sending lots of warmth and strength, until next time. Also I am about to Skype with one of my bffs and will respond to previous post comments right after that yay!

14 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

14 responses to “I Thought You Would Care

  1. priya

    that article on dating guys over 6 foot is actually so random?? idk as someone who literally doesn’t not care about other than my few close friends, this really prevalent preference/standard of tall men doesn’t make sense at all. i get where you’re coming from with the “tall men making women feel protected” idk the sense of protection/security always comes from someone’s personality and behaviour, not their height -which like you said, THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER.

    “1.7 readers” :O what do i have to do to count as a whole reader? interviews form top sites is so exciting, good luck!!

    hmm as for counteracting heightism, whenever someone says they want to date a tall guy or something similar, i just ask them about it and try to understand what they find attractive about tall guys and go from there?

    • okay yes exactly about how someone’s personality and especially their behaviors are what can provide a sense of security and protection, not something as arbitrary as their height! so well-articulated, thank you.

      haha okay you and all my commenters (and even readers who do not comment) can count as 1 whole reader, my math might just be off (: thank you for the well wishes re: the interview! and yeah I think the active questioning and encouraging of introspection from folks who state a height preference may be an ideal first step. sometimes I’ve been more direct in just stating that height preferences are patriarchal and problematic though it is unclear whether that method actually promotes change. appreciate your thoughtful comment so much!

  2. Ha – both Priya and I clearly think we’re the 0.7 reader – but what if there are like two 0.6s and a 0.5?!

    Anyway, I always laugh when I see that thing about women wanting a tall man to help them feel “delicate” but I can see some women would. Maybe. Not any that I know. I’m really quite small (5’2″) and I have dated tall (one 6’7″ and yes, people did stare) and shorter (husband is 5’6″ with the light behind him and a strong prevailing wind) and it honestly doesn’t matter. Neither of us is good at changing the lightbulbs in our tall house, but I can borrow his trousers … But it is seriously an issue to many and he feels a bit crappy among taller men, still, esp when he was doing running, even though they were not as far as I could see discriminatory towards him.

    • Haha at this mathematical imagination ability on your part re: the two .6s and the .5 as well as “the light behind him and a strong prevailing wind”! Yay for how it honestly doesn’t matter. That sucks though that he may even feel a bit crappy among taller men, height literally should not be associated with someone’s kindness, intelligence, active listening skills or any other value-based metric. Hope you are well and thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment !

  3. I really like the title you picked out for this post, ‘I thought you would care’. I think many of us feel this way more often we like to admit. In your interaction with the cute Filipino guy: he doesn’t care much about how tall someone is but you do. It’s one thing to not judge someone based on their looks and height, but a completely different thing to take note of a topic or a characteristic about them and realise how important it actually is – caring while also not caring about something in different instances.

    Generally speaking, it hurts when someone doesn’t care about something you thought they’d care about. It hits hard especially if you’ve invested in deep conversations.

    Heightism has affected me all my life. I am a short Asian girl and one of the first things people say when they meet me in person is, ‘Oh, you are short!’. There have been quite a number of masculine figures in my life who treat me as passive because of my height. I have mixed feelings about people bending down to hear what I say. On one hand, I may have a quieter than usual voice but on the other hand, it emphasises how I’m on the shorter side.

    Take your time with blogging, Thomas. Good luck with your interviews and you get to go somewhere. Most importantly, take care of yourself 🙂

    • Hi Mabel, thanks for this thoughtful comment! I actually also don’t care about height and I relayed that to the guy in my interaction with him. I appreciate you sharing about your experience with heightism, the examples you describe do sound rather paternalistic especially assuming you are passive. I am curious if you think the best approach is for folks to not mention your (or anyone’s) height at all?

      Grateful for your compassionate words, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead of you!

      • That’s an interesting question. I think each person has a choice in what they want to say, be it pointing out someone’s height or not. But I think if someone’s height doesn’t matter, then there’s no reason to mention it in casual, social contexts. Heightism is something really tricky.

        Wishing you well, Thomas 🙂

  4. I actually have been thinking about this lately myself, as I do tend to prefer a guy be my height, though it is definitely for stupid patriarchal reasons relating to taking up space, as you mentioned. I go into more detail below, but it deals with weight, so I understand if you want to not read it.

    I’m on the taller side for girls (5’9), and I’m fat, so I take up a lot of space. I’ve never felt like I’m allowed to want to be feminine because of my size. I feel like thats why I generally like guys who are at least my height – I don’t feel as giant and out of place. The bigger the guy is, the less tall he “has” to be, since he would still take up the same space as me, just in different proportions, if that makes sense.

    That’s not to say I would turn down a guy for being shorter than me. I also 100% know this is a hang up of mine that I need to get over. Fortunately guys aren’t interested in me anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. 😀

    • Appreciate your self-awareness in this comment about what motivates your desire for your potential partner to be of a certain height, as well as how you articulate its clear connection to patriarchy. I feel like ideally you would be able to take up as much space as you want or that your body desires; fatphobia is such a pernicious force in society that should be eradicated. I’m glad you wouldn’t turn down a guy just because he’s shorter than you and I hope that we all can work to dismantle heightism, fatphobia and other forms of oppression. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. (:

  5. I always thought anything over 5’10 is too tall. Height is more of a North American obsession. In Old Europe, taking up too much space is hugely impolite 😉

  6. Ahem… now I see asterisks? (Am I the only that notices your strikethroughs and redactions?) Perhaps you could illustrate your stories with pictures?

    I’m remember at some management course an instructor warned us that managers will sometimes pick tall people to be in leadership positions because they look the part.

    I’m not a tall guy – about 170 cm (5’7). I remember as a kid wanting to be taller and was told playing basketball would help. It didn’t and I sucked at basketball.

    Sending you lots of warmth and encouragement on your interviews.

    • Haha I suppose other readers may notice the strikethroughs and redactions and roll their eyes without saying anything. (: And omg that sucks about heightism showing up in the job selection process in that way! I hope you feel okay or better than okay about your height now. Thanks for the warmth and hope you are doing well overall with physiotherapy and other life matters.

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