THE BLOG
03/02/2013 12:06 EST | Updated 05/01/2013 05:12 EDT

Why Don't Petite Girls Get Criticized

It really bothers me that mainstream body image activists tend to pick and choose their battles, focusing primarily on larger sizes and sexuality while ignoring the small. When being small is ever even mentioned, it's often lip service. At best, they acknowledge that it is an issue, and then never discuss it again unless someone else brings it up.

Watching the red carpet during the Oscars on February 24 made me cringe. This wasn't because of the many "misses" when it came to gowns (or the grungy chic look the men seem to be sporting by not shaving), but because of Kristin Chenoweth. That woman was seriously annoying and the ultimate stereotype of a petite. Note to Ms. Chenoweth: Just because you're short and small-framed, doesn't mean you have to act like a little girl.

Short women are expected to be cute and adorable, as long as they can pull it off. Once they age, they're still supposed to be "cute," but in more of a grandmotherly sort of way. There's no "regal mature" here. Instead, one is expected to be more like, say, Sophia from Golden Girls.

Rarely, do we hear body image activists and feminists, including Toronto model agent, Ben Barry, websites like Jezebel and organizations like Endangered Bodies criticize this "cuteness."

Instead, they seem to concentrate on the image that larger women (whether petite in height or not) and how THEY are portrayed while at the same time, promoting "body acceptance" and "size equality." Other times, said activists discuss how women are sexually victimized in ads and editorials. If those two topics are so often on their mandate, why is the "cuteness" factor so infrequently mentioned? Do people not realize that accepting this kind of behavior is saying that a woman, no matter her age, can't be a "real" woman, but a little girl, because she is tiny? Please note that Ms. Chenoweth is in her forties. If we as a society criticize sexuality and violence, why isn't infantilizing on the plate as well?

It really bothers me that mainstream body image activists tend to pick and choose their battles, focusing primarily on larger sizes and sexuality while ignoring the small. When being small is ever even mentioned, it's often lip service. At best, they acknowledge that it is an issue, and then never discuss it again unless someone else brings it up. Other times, it's entirely dismissed -- especially in fashion (but that's another story) being small isn't as bad as being fat -- it's considered a "compliment" when one is tiny and delicate, after all (it isn't when it's constantly in your face). This is part of the issue. In our society, small = can't be taken seriously, so no complaints. And the lack of complaints means that the topic won't be discussed.

I understand that the hyper/cute image is part of Ms. Chenoweth's "image," but is it any different from a Playboy Bunny and her overt sexuality in terms of how women are portrayed? Is being "cute" somehow okay for an adult in her forties? Or any adult, for that matter? Imagine how the media would have reacted if Ms. Chenoweth was not short and small-framed, but larger? Wouldn't people be up in arms, criticizing her annoying behaviour? Somehow, being 4'11" and around 90 to 95 pounds (or whatever her weight is) gives her a pass. Why? We can't have organizations that claim size and body diversity without acknowledging ALL SIDES.

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