Posts Tagged ‘short man syndrome’

Short Men Shortchanged

July 11, 2009

Females biologically programmed to prefer tall guys, documentary says

For a long time I was married to a short man.

This presented no logistical problem because I myself am not quite five feet tall.

My ex-husband was almost exactly the same height as Howard Goldberg, the Montreal-based writer/director of S&M: Short and Male, a film screening Thursday and Sunday at the Hot Docs Festival and set for broadcast on CTV on May 24.

When Howard Goldberg takes off his elevator shoes, which hike him an additional two inches, he’s 5-foot-3 1/2, he says.

My former husband claimed to be 5-foot-4.

In short, he and I were a perfect match – or would have been if we’d been, say, salt and pepper shakers.

But as human beings, our matching stature only fooled us into thinking we were made for each other.

Growing up, but not up enough, I was warned by my mother, herself not quite five feet tall and therefore in the know, that being short would be a problem. “Tall and pretty” were what was wanted, I was warned – tall being not only a preference but taking precedence.

For example, celeb chef Gordon Ramsay was asked recently which celebrity he’d want to cook for. Cameron Diaz, he replied. “She’s tall, she’s beautiful and she loves pink meat.”

Even with all her other attractions, including a fondness for flesh, tallness comes first.

But I was not destined to be tall, far from it, and therefore, I was advised, I would have to, er, lower my expectations.

Which brings me (and brought me) to the short man.

I always suspected it was even worse for a man to get the short end of the stick. And I was right, according to Goldberg. “It’s natural for a man to feel inadequate if he’s shorter than the woman. Or for the woman to feel as if she’s going out with a child if the man is shorter than she is.”

In his film, there’s a scene with a lineup of eligible men. Two women behind a one-way glass pick which man they’d like to date. It’s always the tall man with the most masculine features – even when he has only modest credentials and the short, nerdy-looking guy is said to be a pediatrician and an adventurer.

Goldberg, who says his wife is 1 1/2 inches shorter than he is (half-inches mean a lot to us short people), understands and forgives this penchant for tallness.

“It’s just a biological thing,” he says, “with origins in the evolutionary process.”

The filmmaker recalls, when he was dating, having to “end up being friends” with many women “because they were frank enough to tell me, straight up, `Look, you’re just too short, so don’t even go there.'”

It’s not just the dating scene that shortchanges short men.

“You reach a certain age, for me it was 47, you feel like you’ve been around, you know the ropes and you deserve some respect,” explains Goldberg, who is 50. “And you begin to notice that you’re not getting the respect you deserve …”

With both humour and gravity, the film makes it clear that height discrimination is pervasive and painful. Indeed, the prejudice against short men is so pervasive that even I was guilty of it.

I used to think my ex-husband’s way of being in the world, and therefore with me, was to a large extent shaped by his, well, shape.

But I was wrong in attributing some of his behaviour to a so-called Napoleon complex.

Goldberg says, according to a renowned psychologist he interviewed, “There’s no evidence a Napoleon complex exists, no evidence short men are disproportionately aggressive. Aggression is equal among all heights.”

We just notice it more when it’s coming from a short person, he says, just as we notice little dogs in the park yapping and pestering bigger dogs.

“There’s something incongruous about loud, aggressive behaviour coming from a short, compact package,” he says, “whereas you expect aggression and pushiness from a larger, more dominating person. When a shorter man, who does not in your subconscious equal dominant, begins to behave dominantly, it’s comical, memorable – and repulsive.”

Does that mean people are being unfair in attributing a Napoleon complex to French president Nicolas Sarkozy (like Napoleon, an estimated 5-foot-5)?

“They probably are,” he replies. “Sarkozy is feisty …” Goldberg stops himself mid-sentence.

“Feisty: that’s a terrible word. I just used a bad word. That’s a politically incorrect word in the circle of short male activists. Sarkozy is a fighter, how’s that? See, I myself have absorbed these stereotypes.”

Goldberg says making Short and Male has helped him reflect on and process what he’s been dealing with his whole life. He’s convinced that, in the end, height doesn’t matter. Because when two people are right for each other, both grow in love.

His evidence is a study correlating men’s height and libidinal stimulation in women’s brains. Although the women were instantly more attracted to taller men, when some of them later fell in love with shorter men and were shown pictures of their mates, the same stimulation was provoked.

“So love builds from complex intellectual and emotional attractions that can only develop over time, that have nothing to do with appearance. It’s just that, to allow those types of deep, meaningful connections to take place, we have to get over our hard-wired inclinations.”

As reported by

Judy Gerstel
Living Reporter
Apr 21, 2008 04:30 AM