For as long as women have dated men, they have wanted to date tall men. It’s become a trope, oft-repeated in popular culture like “Sex and the City” and reinforced by staunch “NO UNDER 6FT” declarations on dating apps. It’s led to the term “height-fishing” — when a man shows up to a date a few inches shy of what he claimed to be. It’s something even we ourselves mock: remember when we posted an April Fool’s joke announcing the launch of the Height Verification Badge?
Although many women have never questioned why they feel negatively about shorter men, it partly appears to be because we have been conditioned to equate size with masculinity. Tall men, we believe, will make us feel protected, as we conflate height with strength. But why, in 2019, does it matter at all if a man is “masculine” or a woman “feminine?” It’s high time we reconsider our “type” and where we get our preferences so we can meet people who don’t quite match our arbitrary requirements, but who are ideal in other aspects.
“This all has to do with the cultural and social programming we grew up with and adopted without realizing it,” says relationship coach Olga Frankow. “It’s not widely acceptable for a woman to be taller than her man, so these women have beliefs around this like, ‘it looks silly,’ and base their search criteria on it.”
You can’t help who or what you’re drawn to, but you can make an active effort to be a bit more open-minded. If you Nope based on an arbitrary number of feet and inches, you might be passing over men who, on every other level, are a great match — men who are still funny, kind, strong, sweet, and hot. Even men you might feel a stronger attraction to IRL than someone who is 6’5” but with whom you have little to no chemistry.
Nonetheless, Bex, 24, “refuses” to date shorter men and says that her 6-feet-rule only applies if they have a nice personality. “For every red flag, you have to add an inch, so I definitely won’t even consider under 6’,” she says. Her own height also has something to do with it. At 5 ‘7”, she feels bigger. “It’s the perception that we’re meant to be small and dainty, and if you’re not that naturally then you look for something where you can at least feel [that way],” she explains.
The societal pressure for women to be diminutive is a common factor in women’s restrictive height requirements — one that isn’t our fault but hurts us as much as it does the feelings of shorter dudes. Clara, 25, who is 5’11”, used to believe she couldn’t date men shorter than her. “I had it in my head that I needed to date someone significantly taller than me for me to feel like the cute, small girl that I grew up thinking I should be.”
She’s now reconsidered. “Discounting people because of some weird, arbitrary criteria was kinda fucked and stopping me giving some genuinely lovely people a chance.” She’s also seen the flipside of the coin. When she glossed over her height on her dating app profiles, she found herself ghosted by men when they found out. Ultimately, Clara found that “the person who has treated with the most respect is someone an inch shorter than me.”’
Dating coach Hayley Quinn understands it can be difficult to reconsider what you believe you’re attracted to, but believes that “if that height signifies someone who is protective or masculine,” you can think about other ways that can be expressed in a relationship.
Frankow encourages us to start thinking about internal qualities: how you want to be treated, how you want love to be shown, and what you want to do with someone. None of those things really have much to do with looks, let alone height. She believes that by doing this, you can shift your focus to choosing a good partner.
While the odds have always been stacked against short men, it seems we are going some way toward opening up our minds. Last year, comedian Jaboukie Young-White tweeted that “short kings are the enemy of body negativity,” opening up the floor for a slew of think pieces and tweets about 2019 being the year of the short king. But what is a short king? He is not simply a man who is short — he must be at peace with his shortness and happy to joke about it, even own it. Some famous short kings include Zac Efron, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), and even Tom Holland by a lot of women’s standards at 5’9″. Are you really about to Nope Spider-Man just because he’s vertically challenged?
I’ll admit: I’m not entirely unbiased. My boyfriend, like me, is 5’5”, and it’s been the source of some comments from friends and even strangers — especially as he’s not insecure enough to keep me away from heels. At best people think it’s cute, but at worst they tell me they could never date someone so short. It’s never been something that bothers me, and I can’t fathom that I would have skipped over someone so in line with my values and perfect for me just because he needs a chair to get stuff down from the top shelf.