Monday 20 January 2020

Katie Byrne: 'Love Island short-shaming highlights women's double standards'


Nas didn’t match the girls’ height requirements. Photo: ITV
Nas didn’t match the girls’ height requirements. Photo: ITV
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

Tall, dark and handsome was the order of the day on the first episode of winter Love Island. One by one, the first five men into the villa stood in front of a line-up of women for the show's first 'coupling up' scene.

The women were told they could step forward if they liked the man standing in front of them. As always, it made for uncomfortable viewing - especially when builder Nas Majeed was left standing there.

At roughly 5ft 7in, Nas didn't fit some of the women's strict height criteria. So he just stood there, long enough for the camera crew to capture him wincing with full-body embarrassment - and long enough for us at home to slide further down into our sofas as we cringed on his behalf.

It's not unusual for women to have a preference for tall men. Men too can have a preference for shorter women - or rather, women who are shorter than them.

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It's a well-documented mating pattern, which explains why tall people tend to partner with tall people and vice versa. But it doesn't quite explain the preference that many women have for a man who is at least 6ft.

Some women have very specific height requirements which they use to filter their potential matches on dating apps.

Some disregard the men who don't give the correct answer to the question of 'how tall are you?'. Others are more brutal, telling men to swipe left if they're under a certain height.

A statistician would probably point out that this isn't the best dating strategy - if the average Irish man is 5ft 10in, then we can assume that only about 10pc to 15pc of Irish men are 6ft or more. It's a small pool of men - with a large pool of women targeting them. And that's before we discount the decent and upstanding six-footers - i.e. the ones who don't want anything to do with women who unabashedly short-shame men.

But I digress. Later on in Love Island, we heard the woman that Nas was eventually coupled up with complain that he wasn't even the same height as her when she took her heels off.

A couple of days later, former Love Island contestant Amy Hart shared her 'dating deal-breakers' in a YouTube video for Grazia. "What do you call a man under 5ft 10in? A friend," she quipped, to the delighted cackles of the film crew.

You could argue that we all have unique dating preferences and we can't tell people who they should and shouldn't be attracted to.

However, in a culture of body positivity and female empowerment, we should at least consider how we might react were a man to indicate on his dating profile that he required a DD cup size or above.

There's a blatant double standard at play here but when you look closer, you begin to realise that it's one and the same thing.

Ask women why they prefer taller men and the honest ones will admit that it all comes back to gender stereotypes. Short men make them feel disproportionately big and thus unfeminine whereas tall men make them feel safe and protected.

Again, if that's their thing, that's their thing. It gets troublesome, however, when the same women have littered their social media accounts with quotes on female empowerment, body positivity and self-love.

We've done a lot of work in recent years to look beyond the male gaze and redefine what normal looks like. But perhaps it's time we considered the female gaze - and the impact that it might be having on the male body-image crisis.

Likewise, perhaps it's time we examined the gender stereotypes that inform our dating preferences, in the same way that we've dismantled certain ideas around gender, power and patriarchy.

After all, a woman who truly shirks gender roles doesn't buy into the idea that a man should always be taller than a woman.

A woman who is truly empowered doesn't need a man to look up to.

And a woman who is truly comfortable in her own body doesn't need a man to make that body feel smaller, lighter or more delicate.

Irish Independent

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