I saw this post on height and masculinity and it clicked some memories in me regarding height and femminity. I have some thoughts on height and masculinity too, but that’s for another day.
I’ve mentioned this before, I’m six feet tall. I’ve had people stop me in the streets to tell me how tall I am, and I have even had people take my picture without my permission, and when asked, they said it’s because I was tall. Okay…
I’ve been told repeatedly that my height is a blessing, that tall women are “beautiful amazon goddesses” and have had the height of the average supermodel cited at me as proof that tall is valued in this society for women. Short women have expressed jealousy at my not needing to wear high heels (Nobody needs to wear high heels, unless they have some unique orthopaedic problem that requires them, what weird phrasing) and said that tall women are gorgeous, admirable, and model-worthy.
That’s great, and very true… If you are thin and beautiful as well as tall. For women who are tall and fat, or are tall and not conventionally attractive or tall and fat and unattractive, it’s not a blessing and not considered praise to be tall. More often, it turns out to be another feature that’s used to caricature us as unfeminine and comical. If you veer towards the butch end of the spectrum in your identity, or even just have one of those days where you don’t feel like wearing make-up or dressing up, it’s even worse. Taller women who do not make an effort at femminity have a harder time being accepted as women, but if we do it “the wrong way”, then the drag queen comparisons start. Tall women have tall feet, and I can still vividly remember someone telling me when I was looking for formal shoes to wear to nice events in my size that I would “fit in nicely at a tranny shop”.
A good example of this is the way that this works is to think of the adjectives typically applied to two different types of tall women: The ballet dancer versus the centre for a woman’s basketball team. The ballerina is “beautiful”, “graceful”, “elegant”, “swan-like”, “poetry in motion”. The basketball player is “tough”, “hands-on”, “aggressive”, “at the top of her game”, “a team player”. There’s nothing wrong with a woman (or a man, or a gender rebel) being any of these things, but guess which one is considered the epitome of feminine between the two? They are both tall, but one conforms to typical feminine ideals, is thus considered more attractive, and earns higher praise and attention as a result.
Being fat and tall has its own issues as well. For one thing, you can never find clothes, but another is that it produces one of the biggest backhanded compliments in the history of the English language: “You’re lucky you’re so tall, if I were the weight you are at, I’d be so fat!” I’m fat anyways, but imagine, if I were your height, my god, I could barely look at the scale! Thanks for that reminder! I’m so grateful now!
For me, my height is also related to disability. My scoliosis was signalled by rapid growth as a child (Growing like a weed, so true) and though I am fine with being tall now, and I’m pretty confident in my physical health, having height equated with athletic ability (You’re so tall, you should play basketball) was ridiculous and felt like a passive aggressive jab, even if it was in the best of intentions.
Femminity and height is complicated. As always, there’s more than one way for the patriarchy to use something arbitrary against nearly every woman (and man and gender rebel) and height proves no different.