My sister posted a photo in our family Whatsapp group of her daughter and her friends walking down the road in their 'Leavers' hoodies. Nothing remarkable in that. However, my sister said "spot little M". I, being surprised at the height difference, responded with the comment "her friends must be giants".
A comment then arrived from another family member. "The best things come in small packages. Also there is a better range of boyfriends to choose from...".
Clearly a message sent with much love and a desire to make her feel okay about being shorter than average. But wow! It made me stop and think.
Although very familiar to me, today I can't help but hear the unspoken assumptions contained within those two statements. This isn't about making anyone wrong but it is about paying attention to what we say and being curious about the impact it may have, or the assumptions that are hiding within what may appear to be a factual or humorous statement.
"The best things come in small packages". Really. Why does size even have to matter? This statement is effectively saying small is better than big. I want to live in a world where we are not in competition with each other over who is 'best', or what's 'right'. Tall or short, black or white, gay or straight, fat or thin, we are all of value in our own right.
"there is a better range of boyfriends to choose from..." First assumption - she'll be looking for a boyfriend. Maybe, maybe not. That's not for us to predict and by sharing that assumption it reinforces an expectation of how things 'should' be. Secondly, the implied assumption that the man should be taller than the woman. Is that true? I accept it is most common for a man to be taller, but it doesn't have to be that way. Why should it even be a matter of comment? Just as why should an 11 year who is smaller than her peers even have her height mentioned - is this not just body shaming?
There is so much judgement, and so many assumptions that we make, based on our upbringing, social norms and conventions, and our beliefs. It can feel like it is true. 'This is how it is'. It's only when we stop and become curious about the words we use and consider the assumptions behind them, that we can begin to change what we say and become more accepting of difference.
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