Last week, a woman sent us a link from an afternoon TV show she was watching because of some language that was being used during a segment. I’m not talking about the kind that the FCC requires stations to bleep out or cut away from. I’m talking about certain types of adjectives that are often thrown out when describing tall girls.
Let me set the scene for you: the segment was set-up to have the two hosts of the show sit down with a women’s boutique owner to discuss floral fashion trends for spring. The store owner had brought models with her that would walk out one by one while she discussed the look each model was wearing. A few minutes into the segment, she commented on one model’s height and proceeded to call her a “giant.” And you know what? The girl was 5’5”, maybe 5’6”….HA! Fast forward a few minutes later and the last model came out who apparently is 5’9”. Yep you guessed it….another “giant.”
We aren’t going to disclose what city or show this appeared on because honestly we don’t want this to be about attacking anyone….that’s not how we roll. And frankly to be fair, she did not say it to be mean or insult anyone, she was trying to be silly. However, it’s actually a perfect example of situations that frustrate me because generally speaking, people use this type of language trying to be funny and don’t understand what it’s really like to be on the receiving end of it. In fact, words like giant, big, and huge have always been words that trigger me instantly. I HATE THEM. Do we think using dramatic language to describe people of different weights is funny? No…we know to have more tact than that.
So obviously….the concept of 5’5”/5’6” being a giant ….. maybe I need to get my eyes checked because I’m having a real tough time seeing that one to begin with, haha! The thing is, I don’t care if each girl was actually 10 feet tall, there’s just not a situation in my book where it ever feels kind or complimentary to call a woman a giant. These types of words, when used to describe females, have always been a complete annoyance and irritation to me, as I’m sure is the case with many of you. I’ve shared before that I played volleyball in college, and one of my coaches and I used to have this battle all the time. We would sit down to watch game film of an upcoming opponent and he would say things like, “Now, #15 is a BIG girl, we gotta watch out for her.” And I would halt the film session, climb up on my soap box and start lecturing him about how tall girls should never, ever, ever be described as big, huge, giant, enormous, gigantic, etc. Over and over again I would explain that by allowing him to use language like that about a fellow tall girl was the same as allowing him to use those words to describe me, which I considered to be very hurtful. I can’t even tell you how many times this episode occurred. After a while, my message eventually sank in, and he changed the way he described our opponents. It was another W in the win column because one more person that knows is one less to worry about. (PS- my coach is a really awesome person who would never intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. We have a great relationship to this day. He just didn’t get my point at first.)
What I’m about to launch into next seems to me could be filed under the “Captain Obvious” section, but as I’ve learned, it’s really not that obvious unless you experience it first-hand. My problem with using words like big, huge, giant, etc is that they have virtually no positive connotation AT ALL when used to describe the size of a whole body. I’ve never met a girl who enjoys hearing her body is any of those things. If you look up the definition of a giant in the dictionary (which I did), it uses phrases like mythical being and superhuman size. There’s nothing remotely feminine or attractive about that. Why would a woman want to have words like that used in a sentence to describe her? It doesn’t reinforce any of her positives. Instead, these are the types of words that start to form the foundation of self-consciousness. It takes the areas of self-doubt that tall girls can have and pours gasoline on the fire because it sends the message that they aren’t normal. And while I believe that everyone should celebrate their individuality and what makes them unique, it’s not right for someone to call out these differences in a way that makes a person feel bad about themselves. That’s why I go nuts whenever I hear someone use that type of language when describing someone’s height. To my knowledge, there’s not a footnote below the Golden Rule that says *unless you’re speaking with a tall girl. We as tall girls want to hear the same thing that all the other girls want to hear. Comment on our intelligence, our beauty, our capabilities, our grace, our humor, etc. Don’t compare us to Willie the Giant, please and thank you. If you are dying to use the word “big” to describe me, then please make it about my big personality or my huge ambition to make a difference.
Which brings me to the show My Giant Life on TLC. I have mad respect for these women because as far as I’m concerned, it is total bravery to open yourself up without any safety net or filter to let the world watch and weigh in on your journey. Alli and I have interacted with two of the cast members, Alicia Jay and Haleigh Hampton-Carvalho, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They are both genuinely awesome women. I love that there’s a stage for them to share our struggles with the world (we need as much of that exposure as possible!), but I would love it even more if the name didn’t directly contribute to those struggles. Actually Alicia has written a great blog post about her own mixed feelings about the show’s title, which you can read here if you haven’t yet.
Almost every experience in my height journey has reinforced for me that what we deal with on a day to day basis is a genuine lack of awareness. To combat that issue, we have to just all keep speaking out and keep supporting each other in the quest for change. I will continue to stand on every single soap box that I encounter to enlighten people, even if it’s one by one. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we might not have overnight success in this pursuit of life, love and not talking about our height on a daily basis …. but together, we’ll keep getting a whole lot closer.