If there’s any one preference my partners in feminism (friends) and I share when it comes to men (and I must say our tastes vary wildly, since I’ve never once been attracted to any of my friend’s boyfriends and neither they mine), it’s height. Tallness, to be precise. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m hardly conventional or mainstream by many stretches of the imagination, since it’s all a spectrum, isn’t it?
Besides, the heart wants what it wants, right? And attraction is attraction, yeah? We don’t control it. It’s coded into us. Like urges, cravings, daddy issues. If all this is true (and I’d never insist it was, but if it is), can we unearth the seeming roots of our desire? And are there any good reasons to do so?
I’ve given this question a lot of thought. Because problematic as they may be, I’m attached to the roots of my desire. Both literally and figuratively, dontcha know? My particular daddy issues have time and again led me down the path to the alpha male; tall, large, bearded, dominant, powerful. That’s a long list of qualities, all of which are open to interpretation, and all of which are inextricably connected to our pheromones—you know, actual chemistry, checked box or no checked box. For the purposes of this post, we’re focusing on “tall.” You know, versus short.
I didn’t start out saying to myself, “I want a tall man, or at least a man taller than I am.” But I know many women who do. We’re taught that it’s attractive to be multi-level smaller than men, after all, so it’s not that shocking that many of us are attracted to men who make us feel that way. As it turns out though, one of my first and still-favourite loves happened to be marginally shorter than me. True story. And he was the bar to which I raised all others for many years thereafter, never giving a second thought to his height.
Since I’m already a ripe old 35, I came of age pre social media, and I can remember our first computer. Hell, I can even remember our first VCR. For me, the total permeation of clickable, swipable, all-too- visual man profiles has been anything but hot. Will this one make it through my contrived outer ringer and into my circle of datable options? Will that one survive my current mood? Online dating’s near-total takeover has turned me into a pro-pruner—and one that has been known to weed out the shortest man-flowers first (please forgive the term), never knowing for sure how my body, mind, or heart would respond to theirs in an actual face-to- face.
Every woman friend I’ve ever engaged on the subject, be they online or voraciously offline, has expressed a marked, somewhat shamefaced preference for taller men. We feel like bad feminists for being so deterministic. Some will say it’s biological, and there’s always a study out there to back up any “fact” we choose to highlight. But I wonder: are we limiting ourselves? Maybe our (people of all genders’) collective dissatisfaction and even loneliness stems from this deep-rooted lack of ability to imagine beyond identity indicators like height (I know many men who prefer smaller women too)—which I would argue technology is exacerbating. And, in broader strokes, is women's preference for taller men a kind of internalized misogyny? Does it perpetuate and replicate shitty power dynamics, over and over?
Personally, I don’t take kindly to being told to check my desire, or analyze my attraction, or open my mind to someone I’m not really “feeling.” But, since I’ve started mulling these questions over, I think it’s really worth mentioning that I’m attracted to a broader range of men than I was before, many of them shorter than me. So I think what I’m getting at here is that attraction is at least in part learned, and that a good ol’ dose of reflection can often free us up to be more open to those who do not conform ideally to what we think we want. Once we’ve got that kind of freedom, there’s no telling what can happen.
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