by Aliza Barnett
Hi! I’m Aliza, and the first thing you would probably notice about me is that I’m a pretty short human. 5’0’’ to be exact. I’m the type of person who has to choose between asking for someone to grab me something on the top shelf of a grocery store aisle, or climb up myself (and risk getting yelled at for the sake of independence). I have never seen my height as a limitation or inhibitor to living my life; I have always been able to vocalize my opinion, take up space, to be seen as a leader.
During COVID, one of my favorite games to play has been “guess that height!” Which is a game of my own invention that I play with people I’ve only met over Zoom. On occasions where I finally meet a Zoom colleague in person, I like to see if I guessed their height correctly. I suppose I’m not the only one who enjoys playing this game, because when I’ve met colleagues in person, they often remark “I thought you were taller!” I wonder if people associate my vocally opinionated personality to a person who takes up more physical space, and therefore would be taller.
The feminism that I grew up with as a millennial focused on speaking up, on being heard. The idea is that to be fulfilled in my womanhood, I should be empowered to have the same physical presence as a cis man in any given space. Which, because of my height, was very rarely possible for me. While I take a different approach on feminism nowadays, I still think about this idea that our society rewards cis white men for speaking up and punishes or dismisses women, nonbinary, and trans folks for taking a stance or sharing an opinion.
This is something that is also reflected in body types. Diet culture and societal norms generally feed us messages of what womanhood (especially white womanhood) is “supposed” to look like; thin, small, dainty. To put it simply, the messages that we see shape what we want our bodies to look like. They may create desires in people socialized as women to take up less space with our bodies, to have a smaller physical presence.
Then I had a body liberation ah-ha moment: I came to the conclusion that I simply have no interest in taking up less space. I am loud and opinionated. I like being a leader. So why should I be tough on myself when my body fulfills that same passion and takes up more space?
Sometimes when I am feeling down about the way I look or notice a change in size of my body, this ah-ha moment can guide me through those feelings. Taking up space as a woman is an act of rebellion, and I should be proud of my body for manifesting this. I don’t try to make my presence smaller to appease anyone in my life. Why should I expect my body to?