How ‘Short Kings’ Are Challenging Narrow Standards of Masculinity
‘Short kings’ is a term that refers to short dudes who exude confidence. These are men of lower stature who don’t let their height dictate their self-esteem. They can express their genuine selves with pride, without worries about shortness getting in the way of healthy social interaction, relationships, education, or work. The comedian Jaboukie Young-White coined the term short kings last year, saying that, “Short kings are the enemy of body negativity, and I’ll be forever proud to defend them.”
According to conventional standards of male beauty, tallness is a defining feature of an attractive, dateable man. You see this on dating apps all the time, with women having height requirements (e.g. “no guys under 6’ please) and guys routinely lying about their height on these apps to appear more attractive. If men fat shame, it’s widely considered to be reprehensible and chauvinistic. But sizeism or heightism – with women holding prejudices about shortness (a physical aspect which, unlike weight, can’t be changed) – seems perfectly acceptable. Indeed, short guys experience a lot of struggles that are often overlooked.
For men who are below average height, dating can be full of anxiety. You may worry about whether you’re going to be rejected for being short or if it’s an issue for a potential partner. Your shortness may also be used against you in all sorts of situations, from bullying to everyday slights such as people leaning on you or ruffling your hair, or others making comments about you having a Napoleon complex or about how you try to overcompensate for your height.
The term short kings aims to challenge traditional standards of masculinity. It emphasizes that men can be strong, confident, and successful without being tall. More recently, the term has been popularised by the release of a track that acts as an anthem for all the short men in the world. Produced by American rapper Blackbear and musical duo Tiny Meat Gang (TMG), the track is aptly called Short Kings Anthem.
The Rise of Short Kings
Short King’s Anthem is the second single from TMG released in 2019 and it is the duo’s first-ever collaboration with Blackbear. The track centers on short men owning their height, rather than being ashamed or embarrassed about it. This is what defines a short king. A short king is confident about who they are as a person and will not be affected by public perceptions about shortness or whether someone isn’t attracted to them because of their physical appearance. You can’t change your height, so you just have to embrace it. Life becomes so much easier when you do. And as short kings realize, the kind of people who reject you for your height are superficially minded and aren’t worth forming a relationship with anyway.
Short Kings Anthem is full of humorous lines about owning one’s shortness, like “baby, get low ‘cause I already am”, “I could suck a titty while I’m standing up”, “I’m five foot something but all my bills paid”, “I’m five foot something and I’m royalty”, “Usin’ all my words, I ain’t gotta fight”, and “In economy, still got legroom”.
Short kings often show their self-confidence by making light of their shortness and being unfazed by other people’s comments and slights about their height. This kind of confidence is extremely attractive and is likely to benefit a short guy much more than tallness for a man who lacks this level of self-esteem.
Height and Masculinity
It seems that tallness is tightly wrapped up with notions of masculinity. To be strong, protective, and dominating, you need to be tall. Of course, there is a certain element of truth to this way of thinking. All other things being equal, being taller would make you a better protector than being short. So, there might be an inherent attractiveness to tall guys that can’t be eradicated. At the same time, though, we live in a society in which the threat of a fight isn’t a constant worry. It’s not really necessary for guys to defend their partners against the physical challenge of another male.
Also, if being protective is an important aspect of a guy’s attractiveness, this quality can be met in other ways, such as through the power of one’s words, self-confidence, assertiveness, training in martial arts, and the development of physical strength. In fact, according to one study, most of a man’s physical attractiveness (over 70%) is based on signs of physical strength, rather than height. There are, undoubtedly, evolutionary reasons for this. Upper body strength translates into increased fighting ability. The good news for short guys, then, is that being short doesn’t have to necessarily exclude you from aligning with long-held ideals of masculinity, such as being strong and a protector.
Nonetheless, as a society, we still associate manliness or male beauty with tallness. Many people also seem to look down on short guys (not just literally) and believe it’s okay to shame and disrespect them. Michael Foulk, a 5’7 comedian from Oakland, California, puts it like this: “It’ll be like, OK, we’re going to agree that we’re not going to be cruel to people that are heavier set or larger-bodied. But if people are short, it’s like: go off, sis!” This kind of sizeism is associated with all sorts of poorer outcomes for short guys. Short men are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and depression, and more likely to die by suicide. They also tend to earn less than taller counterparts and are less likely to hold positions of power (since we tend to perceive taller men as having greater leadership qualities).
But, in spite of narrow notions of masculinity in society, short kings are proving that being a decent, well-respected man doesn’t depend on height at all. A short king defines his manhood based on his authenticity and virtues, on characteristics such as confidence, self-respect, healthy self-esteem, loyalty, kindness, and ethics. This is what makes a good man. And the term short king aims to reflect this.
Written by Sam Woolfe
I'm a freelance writer who is interested in mindfulness, mental health and the evolving concept of masculinity.