Em-URGE-ing Voices

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The Politics of Being a Tall Woman

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March 31, 2014

My height is political. It has taken me too long to write that sentence. I am 5’11”, cisgender woman.  The “average” female in the US over 20 years old is 5’4”, while for males it’s 5’9 ½”. Therefore, I am a solid 7 inches taller than your average female.

I also have big hands. Like, really big hands. I get comments literally all the time about them. They’re bigger than every boy I dated in high school’s hands. They’re almost as big as my dad’s, and he’s 6’4”.  I don’t know how to hide them. I remember when I was 14, I was a fan of those hoodies with holes in the sleeves, because I wanted to hide my hands so badly. Man hands is a phrase that was all too common growing up, and to this day my stomach churns when the conversation becomes all about Allie’s Magical Hands, waiting for that phrase to be thrown out there.

Shopping for any item for my body becomes damn near impossible. Pants? Eternally short. T-shirts are always accompanied by a long cami. RINGS? Don’t even get me started on rings. Not even those damn stretchy rings. I am bigger than a size 13 in rings. Did you know that they stop producing cute shoes past size 10? And if I find a cute pair in size 11, don’t even bother to look for a wide pair. All of my shoes are eternally worn in my pinky toe. And I can’t even tell you how many times my mom has brought home some snazzy bracelets to only not even fit over my hands.

We talk about a lot of different identities in social justice, but this experience of height and gender is not often broached.

Height is a weird thing when it comes to privilege and oppression. In some ways, as a woman, I’m constantly told that I should be really grateful for how tall I am. And yet, I still can’t find clothing that fits me, sometimes men find me intimidating, and people feel like they have access to make annoying comments about my body.

People who are taller have higher incomes than shorter people. This is well-known. Most of the statistics about height advantages are about men. This doesn’t mean that being a tall woman is a completely oppressive experience; I think that it’s more complicated than that. Models are tall, right? But they also weigh literally 100 pounds less than me. Being tall gives me advantages, like being able to command attention and being respected as an adult earlier in life. At the same time, growing up, I felt self-conscious about my height. As a child, I was often made to feel ugly by boys in school, and called all of the awful transphobic slurs you can think of. I’m sure that shorter-than-average women can attest to different types of issues around height and gender.

Because of my height, I identify strongly with fat politics and activism. One of the main ideas around fat shaming, particularly for women, is that we are fearful of women who take up space, whether that’s physically or in volume. The idea of a tall, big lady who has a lot of opinions can be scary for people.

Tall girls, listen here: Don’t be afraid of your body. Talk about your height with pride. Sometimes, it will put you in the center of attention and make you feel awkward. And other days you’ll just want to scream when you are trying on sundresses at a department store. Embrace your height and the space you take up.

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