How can my petite female friend get people to treat her with respect off the bat?

I have a female friend in her early 30s who is 5-feet 2-inches tall and weighs 110 pounds, tops. She is a law school graduate, and formerly worked for one of the largest, most well-heeled law firms in the world before taking a job as a public prosecutor. In short, she is a formidable person intellectually, and of good character to boot.
Recently, she told/confided in me that all her life people have treated her like a “cute little girl” because of her stature. Its hard for me to empathize, since at 6’4" and 300+ pounds, nobody messes with me like this. But I have been pretty mortified for her sake at some of the stories she tells. Once another elderly local lawyer grabbed her and kissed her, in the middle of her office, in full view of everyone. (He is almost 100 years old, so she is letting it slide). A friend of the family once picked her up off the ground and moved her aside, thinking it was funny. And so on and so forth.
She affects an air of resignation about this, but obviously it bothers her, simply because she brought it up. She asked me if I had any ideas for how to deal with it, and all I could really think of was that she needed to create a distinction between “respect” and “respectful/psychological distance.”
My one idea for this was for her to be slightly bitchy, since that would create psychological distance right away. She said this was impractical for her, as she feels she is a quiet, respectful person who behaves with dignity, and being deliberately bitchy is not in her nature. And I agree with her.

So, since I have exhausted my meager intellectual resources, I turn this question over to the Teeming Millions: How can my petite female friend get people to treat her with respect off the bat?

Take you along as a bodyguard? :smiley:

A couple of bad-ass tattoos?

How to get respect?

Not letting things like this slide.

A couple of “get your friggin hands off of me” would go pretty far as well. My girlfriend would kill the first person that tried all the stuff you just mentioned.

Is she a heels-wearing gal? I wear stilettos/high heels almost all the time, and at 5’2 in stocking feet, this puts me up to around 5’6 (5’7 if my hair has some volume). I have occasionally encountered the sort of behavior your friend has while in tennis shoes, but never in heels as there is a significant height increase.

Yes, she does, but apparently it doesn’t help all that much. Her heels are at least 2". She is reed-thin though.
And I told her she should not have let the kissing incident slide, that she should’ve slapped the guy. Nobody would’ve blamed her, because he’s certainly old enough to know better. (Unlike her, I don’t think old age is an excuse for behavior like this.) But that’s just not her way.

I’m going to make some guesses about your friend:

She wears high heels

She stands demurely, with feet close together, arms close to her sides, and hands together or holding some object in front of her

She doesn’t wear glasses

She wears femininely tailored clothing

She doesn’t know any martial arts

The kind of woman who isn’t safe to “disrespect” occupies more space than she needs; her clothing is slightly mannish, her shoes don’t require her to walk like a model, and she holds herself at the ready, with arms held out from the body and legs slightly apart. She holds files, coffee mugs, and other objects in one hand at her side, not in both hands in front of her. Any attempt to touch her without invitation is casually slapped away, with an air of “I could hurt you if you really insist.”

The glasses? Well, if she does wear glasses, they ought to have rims that emphasize a frigid glare, and that give the impression of looking though a microscope at a particularly repulsive specimen. I’m not recommending fakes, though.

Yes, there are women who can break all of these rules and still frighten off the pigs, but since your friend isn’t one of these, she needs some rules to follow.

I’m 5’ 1 1/2" if I blowdry my hair. I used to have this problem a lot when I was thinner (95 lbs). People don’t mean to be jerks…sometimes they just can’t help themselves. However, coming off as a bitch isn’t going to help her in the long run. I suggest a little white lie…when they approach with intent to pick her up, she quickly needs to say, “Don’t! I have serious back problems! That sort of thing can land me in the hospital for weeks!”

I know it’s ridiculous, but it will work in her favor.

It is difficult to be taken seriously when you’re the size of a kid. A lot of it is just playful and you have to learn to let it roll off. But I know that some people cross the line and you have to take a very hard tone *once in a while * and let them know they’ve gone too far.

Tell her to stand up straight, shoulders square and held back, and chin up. I have a friend who is about 5’ 3" who is pretty formidable because of how she carries herself.

Suggest she throw off a strong vibe of ‘Don’t f*ck with me.’

Your friend towers over my wife. Maybe she could surround herself with smaller people?

Seriously, she can just really bite someones head off. This would be particularly effective next time some obnoxious old goat tries to get his jollies at her expense in public. Then immediately revert back to quiet, likable self mode. Word will get out not to mess with her.

Or she can continue to let people act the way they do and find ways to use it to her advantage. She can cut throats and stab people in the back and they’ll never suspect that a sweet little thing like her could possibly have done that.

I suppose carrying a chainsaw is also no good…

My daughter has a friend who, at 14, is about 4’ tall, and isn’t likely to get any taller. She has the distinct disadvantage of being a totally giggly tease and flirt, so even people who know her don’t respect her… Most of the short people I have known have developed an extremely up-front, almost hostile or confrontational attitude. Most of them were not happy about it, but it was the only defense mechanism that worked (on the theory of the best defense is a strong offense…).

I’m 5ft 1, weight less than your friend, and, in my mid-thirties, I look ten years younger. From experience of being treated like a dumb girlie because I’m ‘cute’, the only thing I can say is that your friend can either be popular or a bitch.

That’s a bit simplistic, but World Eater has the right idea. You have to say something. You have to say “I beg your pardon” and “Do you mind?” (My mother is a primary school teacher - I always do an impression of her). It’s hard work, some people will like you less, and it doesn’t always work. It’s a slow progress - you can’t change everyone overnight, and you can’t change some people at all. You can just change what you are prepared to put up with.

But what I have found to work for me is to try and stand up for myself with a smile. That is, not to be out-and-out aggressive, but to say something like “I’m not stupid, I can manage, you know”, in a normal tone of voice with a nice smile. Then, when the person reacts, to maybe add a shrug and “I know you didn’t mean it like that”. Because a lot of the time they aren’t treating me like that to be deliberately offensive, it’s just the way it always has been.

And don’t pick every fight. Smile and walk away sometimes, at least in the beginning. I think that personally, the contintual picking of fights at every single possible opportunity would have put people’s backs up without a result for me. I made sure I was always helpful - and was seen to be helpful - and then every time I did someone a favour, or they saw me do something well, I would stand up to them next time.

Nowadays, people make the “girlie” comments to me, catch themselves, and I just smile and raise an eyebrow. That’s enough to stop them.

But it doesn’t work all the time. Some people at work just plain don’t like me, some find me difficult to work with. Some don’t. But I figure that’s the kind of split there would be anyway.

Best of luck to your friend.

Yeah, I think attitude is everything. She has to stand up for herself and not take any shit.

Btw, I think it’s ok for her to wear heels.

Incidentally, I chose my username because I was stuck for ideas when registering, and that was what my boss at the time used to call me.

Like I said, some fights you can’t win.

My girlfriend had a male coworker who was one of those self-immersed overpriced financial-wizard attorneys with the heh-heh pinch-the-girlies behaviors, you know, the ones who are just good enough at what they do that no corporate officer is ever going to upbraid them. My girlfriend at the time was 23, 5’5", 125 lbs, & cute. Very first time he gave her an inappropriate fannypinch?

Top of her lungs, audible for 9 city blocks:

You will remove your hands from me right now, because if you don’t, I’m going to rip your balls off and shove them down your throat…

After he, in shock, pulled back, she nodded, smiled, and asked him about the financial report he’d been talking about. The 750 people who came running out into the hallway saw no one in obvious distress, shrugged, went back into their offices. He, of course, would flatten himself against the opposite wall in mock-terror whenever he saw her, but he never touched her again.

(Her direct boss was the CFO of the company, a guy so scary that other senior executives would throw up into a wastebasket after leaving his office and being cussed out. He was one for slamming doors. She asked him to quit because it made her nervous. He kept slamming the door, she asked him again. Then she had building maintenance come up while he was at lunch and install one of those pneumatic door thingies and next time he tried to SLAM the door, he pulls, door just… o o o o o z e s…shut nice and slow and closes with a barely-audible “click”)

Essentially she needs to not let folks push her around. Has to find her own style of establishing that, but mean it regardless of style.

I suppose wearing a suit made from the skins of her defeated enemies is right out? Maybe a coffee mug made out of a human skull?

Otherwise, I think it’s going to have to come down to body language. She needs to master the frosty glare and be more assertive when people violate boundaries. Tricky doing this without alienating people, though.

Attitude, my gawd attitude. This just isn’t always a short person thing, it’s often a female thing.

Atttitude is made out to be such a negative word but all it means is the image you project. She needs to project an extremely confident image. She needs to seem to take up more space then she actually does.

The glare doesn’t have to be frosty. My favorite is a VERY neutral look. It isn’t cold, but there is nothing encouraging about it at all.

And I’m sorry, but if some 100 year old man tried to kiss me without my permission I’d deck him (but gently).

My self defence teacher used to teach to always follow up your words with actions. So if someone puts an unwanted hand on your shoulder, you can smile and gently say “I really don’t feel comfortable with that,” *while removing their hand from your shoulder. *

If someone picks her up she should say “Put me down!” It isn’t bitchy, it’s unwanted physical contact and she is making her space.

I hate to say this next thing…but if she is giving off an air of vulnerability…then - shall we call them less moral people - will try to take advantage of her. I’m specifically meaning men. A lot of petite women get abused by men because the men don’t have any respect for her. She has to be bigger in personality than her size.

Please try to get all this through to her. I wouldn’t want her to be hurt just because of any of this. And make her take a self-defence course, every woman should. (Men, too). Self-defence isn’t really about learning judo chops. It’s learning confidence to assert what you want.

This makes me seem like radical feminist who hates all men. Let me make this clear:

There are certain people out there who like to take advantage of vulnerable women.
Some of these may be men.

:smack: :smack: :smack:

She needs to walk in where ever she is with complete confidence with the aura that she owns the room and the rest of them are squatters she can have removed at any time. That their removal could be messy and the last thing they experience should remain between the lines but palpable.

She needs to give everyone direct eye contact and plenty of it. A great deal of direct eye contact makes people feel vulnerable and most people are very easy to read based on what they do with their eyes.

Her voice needs to echo the strength of the persona she puts forth. Firm declarative sentences combined with a firm and decided tone will put the full package together.

Keeping pruning shears in her briefcase with the words: Testicle Removal System on them is a nice and obvious threat.

Another thought…sarcasm has always served me well. If some obnoxious dolt starts in on me, I know I can burn 'em down with words. I did this recently to a guy at work. He’s being an uncooperative jerk now, but I don’t think he’ll make another inappropriate remark to me. He shot the remark in front of others and I shot it right back, tenfold. He was eight shades of red.