Every so often, the internet discovers the clip all over again and loses its mind.
Apparently, it’s footage of a Brazilian kids’ show, Xou da Xuxa, from 1995 that was hosted by Xuxa, an artist and entrepreneur who’s supposedly one of the richest people in the world. This tweet, from three years ago, has been going viral again, and the song at its center is also all the rage on TikTok. It seemed like a novelty back in the mid-1990s when it first came out, storming the charts in lots of countries. But a couple decades later, suddenly everyone’s very interested in “Short Dick Man” again.
Obviously, the TV clip is memorable because of the juxtaposition of a singer talking smack about a guy with a small penis in front of a boisterous crowd of innocent kids and parents. “Don’t want no short dick man,” she declares, again and again. It’s easy to laugh: Boy, Brazil’s a pretty weird place, huh? (Also worth considering: The crowd may not speak English and therefore don’t know what they’re dancing to.) But the truth is, even back when it first hit radio in 1994, “Short Dick Man” (or, as it was also known, “Short, Short Man”) felt risqué — and it still does. Lots of once-controversial songs now just seem tame. But “Short Dick Man” is this weird sonic object that exists in its own little universe. Most people don’t know who made it or who sang it. You can’t affix any superstar persona onto the song — the voice is anonymous enough that it could be anyone. Apparently, “Short Dick Man” was beamed onto this planet from another dimension, the individuals behind it never to be heard from again.
That, of course, is inaccurate in several ways. For one thing, we actually do know who masterminded the track. It was dreamt up by a dance-music production team dubbed 20 Fingers. Although there were four men in the group — Charlie Babie, J.J. Flores, Onofrio Lollino and Manny Mohr, all based in Chicago — it was Babie and Mohr who came up with “Short Dick Man.” “We wanted to do something shocking — something we could easily get played in the clubs,” Mohr told the L.A. Times in 1995. “We figured there were all these songs by men bashing women and treating women like sex objects. So we decided a song that turned the tables on men might attract some attention.”
The chorus was meant to be simple and insanely catchy, something you couldn’t get out of your head. The lyrics were like a taunt.
Don’t want no short dick man
Don’t want no short dick man
Don’t want no short dick man
Don’t want no short dick man
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
Don’t want, don’t want, don’t want, don’t want
Don’t want no short dick man
“In most records you hear today, there are negative things toward women,” Mohr said in an interview with the Chicago Reader that same year. “A woman is this, a woman is that. The ‘B word,’ the ‘H word,’ this is what they’re gonna do to her. Charlie and I wanted to say something that would make up for all the bad things that are said about women.”
In “Short Dick Man,” the narrator goes to great lengths to let the guy know how minuscule his johnson is. “Do you need some fucking tweezers to put that little thing away?” goes one line, although that’s not quite as vicious as the snidely patronizing “Isn’t that cute, an extra belly button / You need to put your pants back on, honey.”
But 20 Fingers needed a vocalist, landing on Sandra Gillette, who was 18 or 19 at the time. Recording the track under the name Gillette, she’d studied drama at the University of Houston and had been friends with Flores for years, working as a receptionist at a clinic when 20 Fingers proposed a collaboration. Gillette had her misgivings, not telling her parents what she was working on. “I was shocked by the song at first, and I wasn’t sure I could do it,” she told the L.A. Times.
The song’s nursery-rhyme crudity was both grating and undeniable: Like a lot of the club/house crossovers of the era, “Short Dick Man” was bubblegum obvious with a beat you just had to move to. Still, 20 Fingers knew they’d have to clean up the lyrics for radio, changing the title to “Short, Short Man,” which somehow made the insult cut even deeper — suddenly, “short, short man” became code for a guy with a small dick. (Hilariously, the L.A. Times piece notes that, at the time of the single’s ascension up the charts, some people actually thought it was making fun of not-tall people. “Believe me, the song has nothing to do with height,” Gillette said in the piece. “When people complain about that, I say, ‘Listen very carefully to the words.’”)
After her initial hesitation, Gillette dove into her role, savoring tormenting this clueless dude who’s trying to woo her. We’re not sure what he’s done — Was he behaving like an asshole? Is he a sexist? — but Gillette’s barrage of putdowns is delivered with such nasty glee, punctuated by laughs, that it’s absolutely damning. The fact of the matter is, the schmuck may not even have a small penis. (She may not have even seen it.) But labeling him a “short dick man” almost goes beyond anatomy — he’s just a small man in general.
“Some guys think nothing of putting down women, and I think that’s disgusting,” she told the L.A. Times. “I’m a feminist, and I want to defend women. Maybe after hearing this, some of the men will think twice before they bash women. Women really love this record.”
Even in the censored version, it was readily apparent what Gillette was singing about, and the video only made the message more overt, letting her play with props like magnifying glasses and a spyglass to indicate that she was trying to get a better look at something that, uh, really ought to be bigger than it is. Like the song, the “Short, Short Man” clip messed with the gender power dynamics usually seen in music videos. Gillette was the one in charge, while the dudes — whether they were hunky or stereotypical nerds — were objectified and cut down to size. It was playful, but also provocative, talking about male genitalia in a way you simply didn’t hear on the radio. For all the sexual innuendo that dominates pop music, dicks are usually verboten. “Short, Short Man” brought up the organ in order to mock it.
Released in the summer of 1994, “Short Dick Man” went to No. 1 in Italy and France, hitting the Top 10 in countries like Australia and Germany, peaking at No. 14 in the U.S. The mid-1990s were a period in which female rock musicians like Courtney Love, Liz Phair and Alanis Morissette were speaking out about bad boyfriends and double standards, and in the pop world you could see the same thing in groups such as TLC, who were flaunting sexuality and confidence. “Short Dick Man” may have been shallow, but it very much connected with this larger movement, going for easy laughs but making a broader point. In the L.A. Times piece, Tracy Austin, the music director of the tastemaking Southern California radio station KIIS-FM, said, “It’s mostly a young female crowd that listens to the record. They really have fun with it, and they love the message.”
Gillette and 20 Fingers capitalized on the song’s popularity, putting out an album later that year, On the Attack, that expanded the single’s theme. Although not as commercially successful as “Short Dick Man,” the record’s first track, “Mr. Personality,” dissed ugly dudes. (“They call you Mr. Personality because you’re so ugly … When I look at you I go out of my mind / It’s like I’m looking at someone’s behind.”) “Her entire album was a male-bashing kind of thing,” Mohr said in 2020. “But I wrote the jokes to be funny so women could have fun teasing men on the dance floor. It was a concept that worked for us.”
Indeed in 1995, 20 Fingers released their own track, “Lick It,” about the importance of pleasuring your woman orally — “You gotta lick it / Before we kick it / You gotta get it soft and wet / So we can kick it” — with a young singer named Roula that copied “Short Dick Man’s” feminist bent, salacious content and super-repetitive melody. “You know men are dogs,” Roula sings at one point on “Lick It,” essentially summing up 20 Fingers’ lyrical ethos.
These singles were full of superficial pleasures, but as harder styles like techno and big beat started taking over, the silly, slightly naughty approach of 20 Fingers quickly felt tame. Gillette recorded follow-up albums that failed to make a dent, and the Chicago production team saw its profile shrink. In 2010, Mohr (along with others) sued the Black Eyed Peas, claiming that the band stole his track “Boom Dynamite” for their hit “Boom Boom Pow.” In that 2020 interview, Mohr blamed 20 Fingers’ decline on label issues and lawsuits, saying, “Charlie Babie and I have done some things stateside here and there, but now we are working together here and there with some great stuff coming soon.”
What became of Gillette? Mohr said, “We haven’t talked in some time now. Gillette is enjoying her life with family and her amazing children. But we are friends ‘til the end.” Apparently, she was part of a Cabaret group in the mid-2000s named the Peekaboo Revue, but may have retired from performing since.
Whatever the case may be, the Gillette of “Short Dick Man” is still alive and well, not just through that clip from the 1995 Brazilian show, but also on social media. On TikTok, “Short Dick Man” has become a musical motif, a way to signify that that user is over some guy. It’s basically a breakup song, with women saying good riddance to an ex, an ungrateful work client, even Donald Trump. But it’s not enough that they’re leaving that loser behind — they want to take a shot at the dude’s manhood on the way out.
Pledging allegiance to “Short Dick Man” is a way to signal one’s feminist bona fides — and announcing that you’re sick of other people’s (especially men’s) bullshit. Social media users are adopting the role of Gillette, confident and powerful, smacking down the patriarchy, one post at a time. Not surprisingly, this trend has enraged men’s rights’ cretins, who want to know why it’s okay for the singer to disparage their dicks and looks, accusing Gillette of bullying. However, other guys have a sense of humor about the whole thing, like TikTok user MyJaysGotScuffed, a Marine who decided to just dance along to the song.
While “Short Dick Man” meant to make male listeners understand what it’s like to be demeaned in music the way women habitually are, there are obviously actual men who suffer from small penis syndrome, and if you look around online you can find posts from people claiming that “Short Dick Man” traumatized them as youngsters because they’re not well-endowed. As one commenter put it, “Is it men with small penises that have degraded and sexually maligned women all these years?”
But although such insecurities are real, I think that, ultimately, the song and its ongoing cultural ubiquity have very little to do with penis size. More than 25 years after its creation, “Short Dick Man” has been embraced as the empowering anthem 20 Fingers and Gillette intended, its childhood-taunt chorus now the soundtrack for the dead weight we’re jettisoning from our lives. It’s as much about pumping ourselves up as it is deflating whatever target we’re thinking of.
It’s ironic that “Short Dick Man” has reemerged in the age of the dick pic — specifically, the unwanted dick pic, or some poor woman being texted a dude’s dong without warning. The song’s viral reappearance on that old Brazilian kids’ show is jarring — at least by uptight American standards — but it’s also a reminder of how little we actually discuss penises in our society. Show one in a movie, and you’re sure to get a restricted rating. (By comparison, you can basically flash as much female nudity as you’d like.) And yet, they’re everywhere — obsessed over, feared, a symbol of masculinity that’s as complicated as masculinity itself. Men love to lord them over women as an indication of their power and superiority. But they’re the thing we don’t talk about, which is why society has such an unhealthy relationship with them.
You could never say that “Short Dick Man” struck a blow for normalizing male genitalia in our culture — the song’s too goofy and bratty to be so high-minded — but it’s shocking how 20 Fingers managed to build a hit entirely out of the fact that some dude who crossed Gillette had a tiny wiener. (Or, at least, that’s what she’s saying to get back at him.) Maybe size doesn’t matter, but “Short Dick Man” taught women that they had the upper hand: They can erase a jerk’s Big Dick Energy by torpedoing the very machismo he holds dear.
We’ve all had enough of the eeny-weeny, teeny-weeny shriveled little short dick men in our world. It just took Gillette to rap about it.