Content Warning: Height dysphoria, transphobia
I recently joined the millions of users on Tinder, a social networking app that allows for mutually interested individuals to communicate if they are within a predetermined distance. Tinder functions simply. Users are presented one-by-one with other profiles—which include up to six photos, age, distance, and a brief text description—and are given two options: swipe left to “dislike” and thereby remove the profile as a potential match, or swipe right to “like.” If both users have mutually swiped right, the application allows for text communication between the two profiles to occur.
While the app can be used to find friends, Tinder is most frequently used as a dating services app. As I have swiped through profiles and read their short descriptions over the past few weeks, I have picked up on certain trends in the information users present to potential romantic and/or sexual partners. One of the most frequent descriptors used is height, revealing what many view as an important physical factor. This mark of importance ranges from implicit, such as simply listing one’s height, to extremely explicit, in which I’ve seen a profile’s description read, “Do not swipe right if you are under 5’10”.”
A recent national study showed that 48.9% of the heterosexual women surveyed wanted to only date men taller than them (Yancey & Emerson 62). Height preference was important to the heterosexual men surveyed as well, but not as important, with 1.3% wanting to only date women taller than them and 13.5% wanting to only date women shorter than them.
Height is clearly an important characteristic when it comes to choosing a partner, yet there has been some debate as to whether this is due to biological tendencies (evolutionary perspective) or social expectations. Ultimately, these gendered-height expectations are rooted in patriarchy. The women surveyed in the study often listed protection and security as reasons to why they prefer taller men (Yancey & Emerson 62). Others stated that a taller man made them feel more “feminine.” The men surveyed in the study who set upper limits for height were “not considering physical or sexual difficulties but societal expectations” (Yancey & Emerson 66). These men did not explicitly speak on traditional gender roles, but they did convey a desire to avoid possible stigma. Men were “reinforcing societal expectations with their higher height limit just as women reinforced those expectations with their lower height limit” (Yancey & Emerson 66).
Like many gender norms, height expectations have the harshest impact on the transgender community. Height dysphoria, an invasive dissatisfaction and discomfort with one’s height, is a frequently seen dilemma among online transgender support forums. Height is very difficult to amend, and because it is wrongfully associated with masculinity and femininity, transgender individuals suffer greatly. Posts in these online forums express a sense of futility. While it can be achievable to possess societally-deemed masculine traits such as hair growth, muscular strength, and body parts, height is nearly impossible to change. Some responders recommend shoes with platforms or boosters. Others simply recommend an attitude adjustment.
This attitude adjustment should not be the responsibility of the trans community, but rather those who have the privilege to actively challenge gender norms free from danger, particularly white, cis, and heterosexual individuals. It is human and understandable to have height expectations, as patriarchy is deeply embedded and can be difficult to unearth, but I ask the reader to truly consider their own expectations and from where they have been created. Just as we work to untangle the mess of patriarchy in our coursework, conversation, and minds, we must also work to distance ourselves from harmful gendered-height expectations.
Yancey, George, and Michael O. Emerson. “Does Height Matter? An Examination Of Height
Preferences In Romantic Coupling.” Journal Of Family Issues 37.1 (2016): 53. Publisher
Provided Full Text Searching File. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
Read Full Post »