Amy and I recently saw this picture turned meme being circulated around social media, and we were shocked.
We found ourselves wondering about the events leading up to this interview and who was responsible for introducing the bucket into the shot. The caption: “Siri: Show me fragile masculinity” implies that Kike Hernandez (the baseball player) was the guilty party who wanted to appear taller than the female reporter Kelli Tenant, so our first reaction was *eye roll* what a loser – so typical of someone with short man syndrome. Later it struck me that maybe the meme caption was unfair; could it have been her who requested the bucket so that she herself didn’t feel self-conscious towering over a male professional athlete? But as I continued to see this post on various outlets, my wheels started turning and it made me start thinking – maybe neither person in the shot was solely guilty. What if it was the network pushing this imagery? If you don’t think the media is guilty of this type of thing, think again.
It doesn’t take much to come to this conclusion, or much research to back it up. After I saw this meme, my mind instantly went other female sports journalists, including Rachel Nichols, who according to Google, is only 5’5” tall. One of my first image searches led me to a picture of her interviewing Lebron James who is, according to Google, 6’8” tall. You can definitely see the staggering height difference between them in the picture below, which indicates that no bucket or box was used in an attempt to elevate Rachel. Isn’t it interesting that when the female is significantly shorter than the male, the shot is left alone?
We believe it’s extremely important to bring to light the issue of media manipulation and how it affects how we as women feel about our height. Often what we see of people in the media and in Hollywood is not an accurate representation of what they look like in real life. I’m not talking just about photo shop efforts to appear thinner or younger (although, that is also a huge problem in today’s culture). Networks, television/film producers and the like are still playing into and glorifying the old gender stereotypes that men must be taller and stronger, while women should appear to be shorter and smaller. Don’t believe me? Here are some powerful examples:
1) Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Depends on what sites you utilize for your research, but most will tell you that they were the same height, or a 1” difference between the two at the most. However, you will see in all of their royal portraits that Charles is depicted as being significantly taller than Diana. Why did this happen? Lisa Wade, a professor at Occidental College wrote, “The effort to make Charles appear taller is a social commitment to the idea that men are taller and women are shorter. When our own bodies, and our chosen mates don’t follow this rule, sometimes we’ll go to great lengths to preserve the illusion.” This has been a widely discussed topic, and if you want to read more, this is a great article to check out.
2) Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer.
Our homegirl Savannah is 5’10” barefoot (praise be!), so with any kind of a heel on she’s at least 6’ tall or taller. Before he got canned, for several years Savannah worked alongside Matt Lauer, and it has been reported that the network believed her height was an issue, as they didn’t love the image of her towering over him. There’s a popular photo shared on the internet originally tweeted by Jeff Rosen that shows a behind-the-scenes picture of Savannah standing at the news desk barefoot, with her high heels on the floor next to her. She once explained, “I always go barefoot, because I was told one of the first times I filled in that I’m too tall for the set.” She did go on to deny claims that NBC makes her lower her chair on set or wear shorter heels, but she did admit to sometimes taking her shoes off if she’s really towering over somebody she’s interviewing. Another interesting thing to note is that Google promotes Matt Lauer’s height as 5’11”, and Savannah Guthrie’s height as 5’10” – so her height shouldn’t really have been assessed by the network big wigs as an issue of “towering” over him…
3) Tom Cruise.
Sorry dude, but when I think of actors who have always been made to look much different on the big screen then they do in real life, I think of Tom Cruise. I’m pretty sure most of the general public is aware of his stature, but I’m here to remind you. According to Google, he is somewhere around 5’7”, which makes him shorter than the average man. However, he’s co-starred next to some lovely leading ladies who are taller than average, including Cameron Diaz and Nicole Kidman, and always managed to come out on top. Hollywood creates this false imagery multiple ways: 1) Shoe inserts; 2) Apple boxes for him to stand on; 3) Trenches dug out in the flooring for the women to stand in; 4) Different camera angles and techniques.
I love this article by College Humor that proves how his height is falsely depicted in film over and over again. My other favorite example is pictures of him and Katie Holmes on their wedding day, where they appear to be the same height – versus pictures of them in real life where she is most definitely taller than him.
I recently wrote an article about dating as tall women, and why we have a tendency to height discriminate against shorter men when looking for a potential partner. One of the major reasons? Because we still often see more traditional looking couples – especially in the media and in film – and this subconsciously weighs on us. The idea that height is associated with masculinity and power is still something that is deeply rooted into our culture, so much so that most of the time we are grossly unaware that it is happening all around us and that we’re mentally buying into it. As long as these types of images are still portrayed in film and in the media, our culture is still supporting outdated and unreasonable gender stereotypes and giving young girls the wrong message that women should be shorter than men in order to be considered feminine, normal or even dateable / marriage material.
How do we begin to combat issues such as these? First, make sure you are cheering on and supporting those women in journalism and on your screens that are helping to break down the stereotypes – beautiful women such as Maria Taylor (6’2”), LaChina Robinson (6’4”), and Erin Andrews (5’10”). May they always stand tall and proud in their height, and in their heels! Second, help this message be heard – share this article with women of all ages and empower them to understand the effects that the media can have on our self-esteem. We all need these kind reminders at different times in our lives. Remember that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with your height; it can take a long time for society to unlearn how it so wrongly feels about you, but it doesn’t have to take you a long time to change how YOU feel about you!
Thanks for reading! – Alli