Women overlooking short men
CBC News Viewpoint | November 10, 2003 | More from Georgie Binks
I was perusing the newspaper last week and came upon a story about a possible romantic link between Bryan Adams and Diana, Princess of Wales. In the course of the article, it was mentioned that Adams is 5-8. The writer went on to remark that Adams clearly had no stature hang-ups, which I thought was kind of an odd observation – until I remembered that when I'd heard the item on the radio the previous evening, I'd tried to remember if Adams was tall or short. How would he measure up next to Diana, who was tall?
And there it was: sizism, heightism, whatever it should be called, right there, in both the article and my head. What was odd, though, was the implication that Adams might have had a problem with Diana's height and not the other way around – that Diana might have had a problem with Adams' height.
After all, a number of men I've spoken with say they have no problem dating a taller woman. But women are split on the issue. And to some men that seems hypocritical and reeks of downright discrimination.
Recently, when I was speaking to a man about women's body images, he remarked, "If I tell a woman that I won't go out with her friend because she weighs too much, I never hear the end of it. But that same woman will tell me she won't go out with a certain guy because he's too short. Doesn't seem fair, does it?" He was tall by the way, over six feet, but he was still able to see that it was a form of discrimination – one that he benefited from, but discrimination nonetheless.
I wonder how many women really know what they're doing when they reject a man on the basis of his height. I've heard woman after woman say, "He's nice, but he's too short for me." In other words, he might have a super personality, be handsome, lots of fun and have an interesting job, but if he's short – forget it. And I'm not talking about men who are extremely short, either (although they don't deserve to be treated any differently, either).
Two American psychologists did a study in 1987 called Stature and Stigma, written about in The Economist by Jonathan Rauch in 1995. In various scenarios, they asked people about their perceptions of short men. In one case, out of 79 women who were asked if they would date a man shorter than themselves, only two said yes.
Why do women not want to date men who are shorter, the same height or even slightly taller than themselves? One woman I know says shorter men suffer from the dreaded short man complex (I say dreaded because short men must dread it when they hear it). She says to her that means that they're aggressive if they hear a perceived insult, and that they take offence at unimportant things.
But much of this is simply people's perception. In the same Economist article, a clinical psychologist, David Weeks, was quoted as saying that if a short man is normally assertive he's seen as having Napoleonic tendencies. If he's introverted or mildly submissive he's seen as wimpy. Everyone simply assumes your personality is going to be a certain way based solely on your appearance.
I spoke to one woman married to a man whose height is about the same as hers. She thinks the reason many women seek a taller man is because they want to feel protected, and they perceive a taller man to be more masculine. She thinks strong women, women who feel secure about themselves, are going to be fine with a man who's smaller in stature.
She says, "I don't want to be with someone who will take care of me. I don't want to be physically dominated and I especially don't want to be with a man who can win a physical fight."
Another woman who has dated short men notes that there seem to be different types of short. Some short men don't bother her, but others do. But wait a minute – could that be their personality and not their height?
Even Sex in the City's producers tackled the short man issue, pairing up lofty Samantha with a much shorter man. Once she overcame her short-phobia she discovered, much to her enjoyment, that size really didn't matter.
We always hear how short Tom Cruise is – various websites list him as between 5-7 and 5-9. It didn't seem to bother his former wife Nicole Kidman. But if you put Tom Cruise on an internet dating site, many women would simply look at his height and sniff, "Too short."
With all of this sizism going on, I have to say I think men take it pretty well and women, obsessing about their bodies, might have something to learn from it.
Instead of women asking the nearest victim, "Do I look fat in this?" – think of a short man. Is he running around asking people if he looks too short in a certain outfit or if he should be wearing lifts? Even though there are websites that offer the opportunity to grow (I swear I found one called www.growtaller.net, which claims its devices and supplements can add between five and 10 inches to your height), I'm not sure men are stampeding to them the same way women are embracing the Atkins diet.
So, Bryan Adams, if any of the gossip is true, I wouldn't have expected you to reject Diana on the basis of her height. But I must say good for Diana for not worrying that a musician of Adams' calibre, good looks and charm wouldn't measure up simply because of his height.
P.S. I'm 5-6½.
Usually I moan and groan when I read Ms. Binks' articles...this time I was really impressed! The thing is, I am actually a tall man, 6'5", but I too have become very aware of the way women look at men of different heights.
Just perusing through some dating websites (read Ms. Binks' last column), you will see that many women say they are looking for taller men. Personally, I find the women who are attracted to me are the type who need a man who "takes control", i.e. "controling" men.
As this is not my personality type, I find after only one or two dates of, for me, very stimulating conversation, the courting process just fizzles out and I am a hundred bucks less the better.
On the other hand, the women who I am attracted to for being talkative and intelligent usually don't want me for more than anything as a friend...why? Maybe it is because they are intimidated by such a tall and 'controling' guy?
Now if I were a big player or outlaw biker who didn't care for womens feelings, I would be having the time of my (sexual) life with these women who are instantly attracted to me based on my height alone.
The last girl I dated, who was quite beautiful and academically intelligent, actually discontinued our dating plans because she didn't like how well I got along with one of her male friends...I guess she would have preferred if I was slightly antisocial and moderately aggressive, and jealous that she has male friends?
All I know is that I am 25 and single, and single seems like it is going to stay.
First of all, bravo Ms. Binks. You have articulated well many opinions held by we "short" men.
Many "short" men wish women would finally overcome their fears of looking shallow by admitting that they are not attracted to short men only because of the lack of height, despite other great qualities being present in a man.
It's women's dishonesty and hypocrisy in this matter that irritates us. If I were to comment that I'm not attracted to a heavy woman because of her weight, I don't hear the end of it from all ladies present! Many short men have been told, after a date with wonderful, stimulating and animated conversation, that she "didn't feel a click" (??);the dishonesty in not being able to tell a short man he is unattractive because he is short.
This makes women seem weak, immature, and fearful of the opinions of others. And we feel that we just wasted another night and wasted more money on a date. You don't like me because I'm short? That's fine, really, but do not bitch at me because I think you or your friend is fat.
Ms. Binks is correct when she writes that we "short" men "take it pretty well". I accept the fact that in Western culture, I am short. Notice I emphasized Western culture. I do not have a problem with getting dates with women who grew up in the Orient or South America.
There is one group of North American women who do not care about my height: Single Mothers. It seems that after the heartbreak of divorce and hardship of single parenthood, women feel that the ex's image, as suggested by his appearance, did not contribute to her happiness.
Sincerely, and only 5' 5".