I recently read a book on Mid-life where the writer was complaining about how women over a certain age suddenly realised they were being treated as invisible by people around them (mostly men). After that I came across a Blog post on a similar observation by a writer for an older audience, who mentioned that older women were being treated as Invisible, and this was followed by a comment from a lady (who hadn’t read either article) who warned me about becoming invisible when I reach midlife… It got me thinking… and I realised this is all too familiar a story for me as a short person, except I don’t have to wait till midlife to experience this!! ….this is more or less the “norm” that we short people face on a daily basis. It is not very obvious, so hear me out… however before we continue, I would like to emphasise that, this is my strong opinion, I am not saying this is the same experience for everyone, but it has been “my” experience, so no offence to anyone 🙂
As the owner of a very unique business aimed specifically at petite ladies, I do hear a lot of stories from customers who experience a lot of this type of discrimination. In today’s fast paced world, petite ladies find themselves swallowed up in the crowd, no matter how hard they try to fight it. They’re passed over for promotions, never asked for an opinion at a meeting, or at an informal gathering, subtly bullied in the workplace and slowly begin to withdraw into obscurity. I’ve actually heard someone say that it’s probably because they’re short that they never get noticed! Many would laugh at this and say it isn’t true, but I guess she had a valid point there.
I’ve experienced first-hand how people tend to treat you differently if you’re a short person. It is so subtle its almost not there but once you know the signs you will find it everywhere. They’re either too condescendingly kind (ever heard the phrase ‘the best things in life come in small packages’ repeated to you every time you get annoyed with someone’s snide remarks about your height!) or they treat you as if you’re an invalid, helping you physically do things you could’ve managed well enough on your own. In comparison, these are the ‘nice’ people, who try to make you feel better without realising they’re actually emphasising your ‘shortness’!
From passing things right over your head to asking you to walk under their armpits if they’re standing in your way, it is everywhere. Imagine the indignity of being used as an ‘armrest’ by someone taller than you and then being given an apologetic ‘oops!’ Have you noticed that anytime you’re asked to reach for something at the top of something high, you’re sure to hear someone else chiming in that ‘there’s no way she’s going to be able to reach that!’
To highlight how serious this is, a few years ago, a study conducted by ABC showed that in the work place both short men and short women are treated like children and hardly ever taken seriously. See the article here. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/MensHealthNews/story?id=8347950 I highly recommend you read it.
This is nothing short of bullying and this behaviour is not just limited to the workplace. I’ve suffered the embarrassment of being told that I was underage for a PG rated movie or too young to enter a nightclub just because I’m a short person!
People often don’t realise they’re being rude to a short person because that’s just the way it’s always been. As a short person you’re either being totally ignored (oh I’m sorry I didn’t notice you there!) or been pushed out of the way or almost walked right through because someone failed to notice you! The other day I was walking to Flinders Street Station and a tall teenage boy almost missed spitting down at me because he didn’t see me there.
Even in the fashion arena, as we all know, it’s never been easy for short people. In the not so distant past, when shopping for clothes wasn’t as easy as it is now, short women would often get directed to the ‘Children’s Section’ because the salesperson ‘didn’t realise they were an adult,’ or told them that nothing in the adults’ section would fit! Finding a fashionable pair of shoes too was a dream!
It’s a given fact that most short women have small feet too but the designers in countries with a ‘tall population’ literally gave the ‘petite people” a miss. A few years ago it was really hard to find fashionable clothes or shoes that weren’t oversized! Personally, I’ve had to shop for shoes in the ‘kids section’ when I came to this country because there really was nothing for me. I still meet customers who come to their fitting appointment with me, wearing kids shoes with bows and hearts all over them!
It’s not easy being forced to don the cloak of invisibility and you need to all call out this behaviour and stand up for yourself when it does happen to you. That’s the first step in claiming back our visibility. There are many things we can do to get back our voice and confidence and I will address some tips in future posts.
I would love to hear your comments on this topic so please feel free to send me an email if you don’t feel confident enough to put a comment below… As you might have guessed this is a bit of a pet hate of mine!
Oh! and if you are a petite lady with small feet looking for shoes to fit your beautiful petite feet, then visit our website at http://www.petitepeds.com.au or http://www.petitepeds.co (if you are located in the US)