I am not in the habit of sharing pictures of myself. I usually don’t like them much, but I really like the one above. That’s because it was taken by one of my students. She took the camera I was using to ‘document’ her, and she turned it on me. It is interesting to see how I look from her point of view. Particularly interesting because I look markedly different here than I suspect I look to most adults. In this picture, my head seems to practically scrape the ceiling. To most adults I suspect my most salient physical characteristic is that I am short. I am quite short. 4’11”, to be precise.
I have no complains about this. I have a healthy body that has served me well for which I am profoundly grateful, and I don’t know what it would mean to talk about a ‘me’ that wasn’t short, anyway. I often can’t reach things, and I’m overweight eating the same amount of food as you big people eat, but I believe it has helped me with my work in this way: I do not have to use as much moral imagination to have compassion for children. My shortness causes others to treat me like a child in certain ways. I am sometimes treated as if I am cute. I am not complaining about being thought cute. I am aware that there are many worse things to be. The thing about ‘cute’ though, is that it is for things that are diminutive, and the step from diminutive to demeaned can be small.
Cute is fine. Cute is to smile and laugh at. Cute is better than a lot of things, but it is not serious. Cute is not inventive or passionate or brilliant. Cute is not meaningful or even really interesting. Cute is easily dismissed after an ‘awwww’.
Of course children are cute (especially your kids, they’re adorable). Sometimes they do cute things and draw cute pictures, but they deserve to be treated as more than cute most of the time.