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Do you crave littleness? A sexism throw down and forays into World of Warcraft and Disney.

Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Blog, Self-love-spiration | 9 comments

Do you crave littleness? A sexism throw down and forays into World of Warcraft and Disney.

 

My body is designed to be little.  My hips are narrow.  My knees knock together.  My breasts are tiny.  At 5’2, 98 percent of American adults have to look down to speak to me.  Littleness has been unfortunate in many regards (having to stand on a bench to kiss people, for example), but it has also been a great delight.  I can completely stretch out on a sofa.  My clothing fits easily into small suitcases. And I can curl up in a seat on an airplane and fall asleep on myself without having to come in contact with people on either side.  Littleness genuinely kicks ass.

On the other hand, over the course of the last several years I have had to seriously take myself to task for all of the other reasons I enjoyed being little.   It was never just about the sofa or the suitcase or the airplane.   It was also because I fit into the sexist feminine ideal.

Being little means that I am smaller than just about every man.  I was once told in a bar that I am “5 foot fuck-all.”  Crude, but accurate.   Men are completely free to be romantically or sexually interested in a woman if she is smaller than he. It’s more of a gamble for the woman if she is larger: all of my taller or better built friends are far better women than I, but they get fewer hits on their OK Cupid profiles.   With a diminuitive frame, I have the potential to be universally desirable as a romantic or sex object.  Hooray.

Worse than that, it’s the same thing in the opposite direction.  We women will usually only date or be interested in men if they are larger than we are.  With obvious exceptions, humans all over the place are on the same page: men should be big, and women should be small.  

This applies to skeletal frame as well as to total volume, height as well as pant size.
Now, of course: males are bigger and women are smaller.  That’s how sexual dimorphism goes: its a fact of the species. But to be better because you fit into a culturally-conditioned sexist ideal that conforms to those standards? Gross.

As an example of how much the Western world desires physically smaller women, just for kicks and because my brain is overloaded on hermeneutic phenomenology this week, I’d like to point to World of Warcraft.   It’s a fun and unique example, and a powerful one because it is about deliberate construction.

In one of the original versions of the game, called ‘Alpha,’ female and male characters were the same size.  Players complained that the female characters were big and ugly, however, so game designers made some hotter and smaller ladies.  To be honest, I am surprised at how large the females are.  My experience and exposure to these kinds of games tells me that the female characters are horribly sexualized (see the last image), and also I know that they are smaller.

On the other hand, the WoW community is a bit more counter-culture and a bit less mainstream than, say, Cosmo or Shape magazine, so I am aware that the WoW picture is fairly complex and might even be laudably “progressive.”   Look to the left and the right for the differences in image 1 and 2, and then to image 3 for the smallness and lack of musculature of female characters in general.

(images from the link above, a great site, btw)

Is it just me, or is there a trade-off between absolute height and musculature here?

These are just female characters, notice the lack of musculature:

Sexualized female:

However, it is quite cool how terribly bad ass each of these characters is, and I have a feeling they do more to empower than a lot of other images women might associate themselves with in our society.

Ok, that’s enough for my nerd.  Moving on to the important part.

—-

This whole idea applies to more than image, however.  It applies to voices, to personalities, to muscles… to salaries… it’s all a part of the same paradigm, though here it manifests itself in our very physicality.  Men are supposed to be big.  Dominanting.  Protective.  Strong.  Enfolding.  The caretaker.  Women are supposed to be little.  Protected.  Held.  Dependent.   The taken-care-of.

I crave these things, personally. And strongly.  I was a princess for Halloween ages 4 through 9, with the exception of one year as a caterpillar.

I want my men to be large.  More importantly, however, I want them to be capable of holding my space, to take care of me, to be strong, and to enfold and embrace me — physically and otherwise. I want them to be big not just in physical space but in personal space.   The physical is important because it symbolizes and embodies the rest of it.  With my desire for big, hulking men (women is a different story, and I imagine this is because I am okay with women being the small feminine ideal) comes a desire for big, hulking protectors.  I want to be overwhelmed by the bigness of men around me and to be small in comparison.

I cannot figure out how much of that is the simple, universal human desire for love and protection in me, and how much of that is a sexist norm implanted deep in my brain.  We all want to be protected, right?  Is my desire healthy or normal? Or is it a sexist smallness that wants me to disappear into the dreams and power of a sex bigger than I?

This phenomenon is just as harmful for men as it is for women.  Just as we are forced to be little, needy, taken-care-of, and the like (though of course we may resist and challenge the paradigm, as so many of the women in this community relentlessly do!), men are forced to be strong, to support, and to be fearless providers.  The subjugation on one end and the pressure on the other are both enormous.  What about as women our abilities and rights to be strong providers and take care of romantic partners?  What about as men their desires and rights to be to be held and be taken care of by romantic partners?  These roles are actively discouraged by gender norms in general.

—-

As a species, females are smaller than males.  This is a fact.  That’s fine!  Sexual dimorphism exists across the animal kingdom.  But our abhorrence of female fat, female muscles, and any part of larger female stature is not a genetic requirement.

We know that it is less socially acceptable for women to be overweight than for men. That is in large part because we are still sex objects whose worth is somewhat predicated on the way that we look.  I believe another part of that is that women are not supposed to take up any more physical space than they absolutely have to.

We as women can be physically small without fetishizing it; we can be smaller than men without having to be smaller than men; we can have smaller frames without being small beings.  We can still be large or thick beings, can still walk with chins high up in the air, and perhaps most importantly we can still present large auras and big personalities and strong, vibrant bodies and souls.

Don’t let lightness norms fuck with your femininity.  Being small and light and waify is not more feminine.  Being healthy and fit?  Sure.  But little?  No!  Get out, I won’t have any of it.

To that end, I hope that all of us own the sizes of our natural frames and bodies, and own the sizes of our souls.

Let each of these be as they are naturally, and stand up defiantly against all that oppressive sexist crap that tries to make you small.

I know we cannot change the culture at large.  But we can in our own lives at least stop trying to fit into it in order to fit in.  The good girls and boys out there will never resent us making that choice.  They will, instead, be happy, and hopefully be liberated in turn.

I believe in my big, radiant, strong light of a soul that refuses to be caged, and I believe in yours, too.

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9 Comments

  1. I was talking to a friend about the stupid “thigh gap” thing that’s popped up recently. I was saying that it’s sad there’s another new beauty ideal that women think they have to live up to.

    My friend commented that I couldn’t really talk, since I myself am “lucky” (her words) to have a thigh gap.

    We’re constantly comparing ourselves to these beauty standards and looking for them in other women . . . my thigh gap doesn’t make my friend’s thighs any less beautiful. She was bitter because “They” choose me to be pretty, since my thighs don’t touch.

    But “They” have now effectively silenced both of us, because women who yearn for the beauty standards they find in other women, won’t let those women speak out against it.

    Thank you for taking a stand for all women!

  2. The #1 trait women cite as being vital to their male partner is “tall.” Even in her 40s and supposedly not so picky, with her clock screaming, with not many options: “tall” rules. The woman never wants to be smaller than her man, no matter what her feminist ideals, her salary, her career status, her age, her desperation, etc. The primal instinct is to be smaller/shorter than her man.

    When teens lament that they are petite, I have to tell them the truth: “You have increased your dating pool 100%… Good luck being 5’8″ or taller. The options are much less, because we all want ‘tall’…”

  3. @Sunny, I had a thigh gap, even when I gained fat, but lost it when I did squats and really developed my hamstrings. This is even more so true now that I use a standing workstation. Those muscles really popped after a couple of weeks of standing. So thigh gap = weak thighs/poorer posture?

    @Stefani, I am small, too, though bigger boned for my height. I was abused growing up though, so have generally not found larger men to be attractive. When I was younger, I was drawn to weak-looking men because of my fear of men. That wasn’t a solution either, and more recently I went through a phase where I found muscular men attractive. I still don’t like being towered over, though I would put up with it in exchange for a true meeting of minds. It’s the man’s mind that is protective or not, not his size, at least these days. But I can see women who have had good relationships with their fathers and other adult men growing up yearning for something that reminds them of that, and I wouldn’t criticize it.

    • I’ve started weight training recently because I’ve always been weak and unfit – my hamstrings particularly. If strong hamstrings close up that gap, then I can’t wait. :)

    • Yes! An excellent point. It depends largely on how we view men, what we want from them, right? I am speaking from broad cultural norms and the boxes we get painted into. That does not mean serious pain and problems lurk beneath the surface for – unfortunately – so many of us.

  4. Great article! I am small but I am tall. I have not had a thigh gap since I was about 20 but I am healthier and happier now than I was then. I grew up in a family with lots of big men. I always told them, “I’m small but mighty!” I have never let my size own me…I own it!! I try to teach my daughter to live like this too.

    • Yes! Down with the thigh gap!

  5. Thank you for your post. I have the opposite problem: I am 6′ and overweight/obese. I was bullied as a kid for both these reasons and never considered myself attractive. Even to this day I struggle with body image and not feeling feminine. On the other hand, being put in that position enabled me to explore other experiences on the other side of the gender barrier. I played trombone, basketball, and found myself volunteering to take on roles normally “reserved” for my male classmates (moving furniture, budget management, etc.) Now when I go to my crossfit classes, I am not going to become more feminine, but to be stronger, because I felt that was the one constant positive description I could use about myself.

    I have to admit I fell for the “Man must be taller” stereotype, but it ended up working out well for me. In every other aspect of my fiancé and my relationship, everything is equalized.

  6. I just found your website by searching IF for women (thanks for that article!) and had to comment on this post. World of Warcraft! I love that you play. :) I don’t often meet individuals in the health/fitness field that are gamers. So, yay you! This might be a new favorite site!

    Also…I’m 5’10″, big framed (and overweight), and size has always been in the back of my mind since I was little because I was just bigger than most men. I also seemed to attract the shorter guys… This is probably the main reason I don’t wear high heels (that and they are just not comfortable!). But, things have really changed since I was younger (I’m only 29, so I can’t flash the “when I was young” chard just yet). More shapes and sizes are acceptable as beautiful and normal. I have women friends who are as tall as I, a couple taller, and nothing is thought of it.

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