If you are female and 6’ or taller you may recognize some of these: Amazon, Giant/Giantess, long-legs, tree, THING, lurch, She-Hulk, different, big girl, stretch, monster, tower, wall, dinosaur, toothpick, string-bean, freak, Godzilla, Sarah (plain and tall), butch. For me, I think, “That” is probably the most common, as in hearing people say, “Look at that!”, along with the second most common “My God!” While I'm tempted in writing this to make some joke about people’s need to deify me, having people fall back in fear or be unable to contain their shock at this “unnatural” appearance when I stand up to get off a bus, or when a person turns around after bumping into me isn’t a joke or very funny to me at all.
I am 6’3.5” tall. Actually I might be 6’4” but I’m not in any hurry to check that; because 6’3.5” just sounds a whole lot shorter to me. Stupid isn’t it? Except that people tend to make assumptions, judgments and actions based on appearance and as one Professor put it: “Many people are turned off by extremes...I believe this is human nature.” But people are also fascinated by extremes, and for some reason, many people assume, that like celebrities, tall women have given up their right to personal privacy. Maybe when people walk up to shorter people, differently abled people, people in wheelchairs or other visible separators they start with a joke or nickname to emphasis the difference like “Hey, crip, what’s the gravel like down there?” Maybe other people go around making statements about what sex with other people would be like (“like a jockey riding a horse”), I can’t say. “How’s the weather up there stretch?”, “You sure are tall”, “How tall are you”, “You play basketball/volleyball”, “You sure your feet come all the way to the ground?” like any tall woman, I could retire if I got a $1 ever time I heard them (and YES, I DO know I am tall - just the fact that I have to bend down to check my hair in a public bathroom mirror might give me that clue). And if you don’t smile and make some inane comment of approval, people can get quite mad. It doesn’t matter that you might be in the elevator after finding out about a death in the family, or having just lost your job. Hey, you’re a public figure, you OWE it to them, don’t you? I wish I was kidding about this, but I have had people get quite hostile if I just stare at them or am otherwise occupied; "I was just trying to be nice!" they huff.
From 1950’s to the 1990’s doctors treated tall young girls to try and stop them become tall women: “Since tall girls usually become tall women, the biggest concern seemed to be that tall women would have a hard time fitting in, being comfortable in social situations, and, most importantly, finding a man to marry.” Many parents believed that having a very tall daughter would mean they would but unable to participate in society, get a job and find a partner. For those successful females under the treatment, both grades and social interaction immediately improved.
A study done on 10,000 people born the same week in the UK in 1958 found that the probably of a woman having children decreased the taller she was (along with the probability of her getting married). As Dr. Adam Eyre-Walker summed it up, "We are taught to look upon tall men and small women as desirable" Indeed studies in the US on mate selection have proved this out – based on the studies two scientist Gillis and Avis estimated that 2%, 2 out of 100 couples would have the male shorter than the female. In their study they found that instead it only occurs in 1 out of every 720 couples.
Because height is a key part of how our society determines masculinity, tall women are societally often viewed as unfeminine; one interpretation of female height and childbirth ratios goes so far as to conclude that tall women (because they have fewer children and later in life) must be “mannish” in thought (though the researcher covers by adding this doesn't mean taller women are unattractive). For those tall girls who excel at sports, they are accepted in society, but for others, until recently having to resort to the men’s department in order to find shoes and jeans long enough, there is a subtle to not so subtle attitude that they are somehow not entirely female, or female but not feminine, and certainly not normal. One “agony aunt” column told a 6’3” women who wrote in desperation saying men were threatened by her and she couldn’t find anyone to date her that she should perhaps try fetish and kink parties. As Seattle’s Dategirl says, if you are a guy attracted to a woman who towers over you, odds are, it’s a fetish, and that for a guy to have fantasies about tall women (you know, the way romance novels sell tens of millions of books a year to women based on the same fantasies of a tall handsome man) is “just creepy.” On that note, I was invited to a kink party a couple of weeks ago, assured that I would be “very popular” – errr....yeah. So it is surprising to find that major depression is twice as likely or more in tall women? (There is a theory that serotonin doesn’t work right in bodies this tall – insert hollow laughter).
This isn’t to say that being tall is all bad; I mean sure I can’t sit down on a bus or airplane, I sleep on the floor because I can’t find a bed long enough, and I pay two times what you do for clothes and up to 10 times what you do for shoes. That part kinda sucks. But, I’m me, unique (whether I want to be on that particular day or not). Like I tell my the salon that puts in my hair colours (currently red and purple), “It’s not like they’re not going to look at me anyway, so let them stand in wonder.” But, while everyone thinks that tall people are giants; full of unfeeling strength, and broad emotional shoulders that is often not the case. In the UK, a 60+ year old woman came up to me at church to thank me...for simply being alive; she was 6’1” – try to imagine what life was like for her in rural Britain of the 40’s and 50’s. In the special features of the film The Princess Bride, Andre the Giant had been asked how he liked making in the film. He liked it very much...it was first time in his life he could go around day after day without people staring at him all the time.
All this was brought home to me when someone recently jumped to an assumption and started chastising me as “brutal” and “brutish” in the same sort of chiding tone you would caution a 5’2” girl that she was being “clumsy” or that she should try to “be gentle”. The person calling me this thought nothing of using the term. The definition of Brutish: resembling a beast; showing lack of human sensibility, ruthless, sadistic, lacking of human compassion – an adjective from the word Brute: Having the physical powers predominating over the mental, An animal destitute of human reason. It’s the kind of term people apply to rapists. I am not brutish; I am not a bully; I do not intimidate; I am not trying to dominate anyone; I am just tall. I don't want you to fear me. What kind of woman would want people to be afraid of her just because she stands up?
It makes me thankful for having someone like Linda, who spent the time to learn that often big people have big hearts. Linda at her 5’10”, called “Amazon” and received joking about her height growing up, joins me as we march though society; we can’t stop people pointing, or nudging or yelling things out of cars, drunk guys mouthing off or people rushing up to compare their how far they come up but we have each other and we know that to at least one person in the world we are just the “right” size.
For other views, it turns out both Feministing and Nerve recently discussed life as a 6 foot plus tall woman.