Anonymous: people realise heightism, short people too but are told by others to not be so uptight or whatever excuse they use to keep them from believing that heightism is not a big thing. many short people realise heightism and how it affects them but they try to ignore and escape it so so badly that they'd get surgery to lengthen their legs or make them beileve its not a big deal. this is our predicament
TSC: Very true. But these social norms can be challenged. And I’m not so sure how many short people are aware of heightism on a conscious level. I didn’t notice that shorter people were often treated differently around me until I was well into High School. And I didn’t see the word “heightism” until I did some internet searches in college. I think it’s so normalized that we take it for granted and don’t even realize that it’s something that can be challenged on a large scale.
mike5f4: Was told by my lady friend that her grandsons elementary school did a presentation of made up skits. He played Shrek, and in it the kids had made up a line of short jokes as they where looking to get Lord Farkquaad. I guess my only question is" are we making any progress, or am I just spinning my wheels in trying to fight heightism? Socially accepted bigotry. The teachers must have had no objections. I was hopeful we where making some progress. I feel defeated.
TSC: So, this is how I look at it. No, I don’t think we are making the type of progress which you seek at this moment. But for me, this is all about getting us to a place where an anti-heightism movement can take shape. Right now, we are in a place where society believes in the inherent inferiority/superiority of individuals on the basis of their height - period. Heightism not an idea that is questioned openly and it’s accepted as a matter of course. Even among short people.
So, I think that the first step is simply getting shorter people to recognize the systemic and socially constructed prejudice that is heightism. Right now, “heightism” is to our society as “water” is to a fish. That is, it is so ubiquitous and familiar as to be taken for granted and simply not consciously noticed. So, I think our job is simply to wake shorter people up to the truth. To simply get them to take note and realize that something is wrong in our society.
Eventually, after enough people are aware of heightism, a critical mass will form and a movement can start. I’m not even saying that this will happen in my lifetime, but I’m saying that it’s possible. We don’t even need to focus on the majority population. If we could just enlighten a critical mass of short people, the coming change would be inevitable.
(This goes out to the women whose hateful tweets regarding short men have been shared by the Twitter account called “Exposing Heightism.” [https://twitter.com/expsnghghtsm] The goal of the creator of this account is to show how ugly discrimination against short men can be in this day and age.)
We’re sorry. We’re so, so sorry. We’re monsters. We’re hideous, deformed creatures, and we had the gall to do something horribly offensive to you. We murdered your parents.
Wait, no, we didn’t. We killed your cats, right? Nope?
We held you up in the street, didn’t we? We threatened your safety? No? Are you sure?
Did we run you off the road somewhere? Did we drop a safe on head from three stories up? Did we dig a pothole in the middle of your block that gave you a flat tire? No? Are you positive?
OK, so what did we do then that was so horrible that you now wish to deny us existence? Why then are you going all genocidal on us?
Wait, someone is speaking up. Now I’ll finally get the answer I’ve been waiting for. Now I’ll be able to understand why you feel the need to wipe us off the face of the earth. I’ll be so happy to understand why I should just disappear. Here it is…
…we had the nerve to ask you out, or (My word, no!) Hit on you like any other red blooded heterosexual male would! Mercy me, I’ve got the vapors! How dare we? It’s a crime against humanity! It’s simply unconscionable that we have feelings enough to approach a woman and do what any other man who likes a girl would do in the same situation.
I totally get why you would feel like that, seeing as you’ve met every single one of us, and you know for a fact that we’re all the same. We’re the only people on earth that don’t know how to treat a woman with respect. Every single one of us is a lecherous swine who would cheat on you at the drop of a hat. Down to the last man, we’re all obnoxious jerks who will pump you and dump you. We’re all lousy fighters, poor providers, heartless husks of flesh that exist for the sole purpose of making you uncomfortable with the idea that we could actually be…decent people. And especially considering that no man over the height of 5’ 8” has committed a single crime, cheated on someone, or made a woman uncomfortable in the entire history of mankind, right?
Oh, wait…you haven’t met us all? I’m confused, then. You had (I’m guessing) a few short men ask you out, and you didn’t have a good time, right? Or even better, you didn’t even go out with him because you thought he was overcompensating, right? Overcompensating for what?
What you don’t understand is that most decent short men have to walk a fine line. We have to be comfortable enough in our own skin that we have to be confident enough to live our lives just like a taller person, denying no aspect of the people that we are, or else we’re not living true to ourselves, yet at the same time, we can’t act too boldly, or else we get accused of being “Napoleons” (which, for short men, is wholly deserving, seeing as no ambitious ruler of people has ever been over 5’8”, right?), trying to be bigger than we are.
You know, if you have a preference for dating taller men, go right ahead. But don’t lie and broadcast to the world about how shorter men are lower quality people than our taller brethren, or that we’re of lesser character, or that we’re trying to prove something, because most of us are simply trying to live our lives with the same dignity and for the same search for happiness that everyone else does. You’re only going to show to the world how closed-minded, how ignorant, and how classless and infantile you sound. Yeah, you all sound like real catches for us. And you call us the inferior ones.
Anonymous: I'm not trying sound ignorant or downplay you, but do girls really dislike you because you're not as tall as others? I've never seen this happen. In fact, one of my best friends is only 5'8" and he has more girls interested in him than almost anyone I've me. I also knew a guy who was a dwarf, maybe 4'6" at the most, who was also a total ladies' man. Are they exceptions, or maybe some are looking for things to blame on their own insecurities in life? Again, I'm not trying to downplay you.
TSC: If you’re trolling, nicely played. I really can’t figure out if this question is a joke or not. But in case it’s just trolling, I’m not going to give a long answer. (1) I’m a proud short man, but this blog isn’t about me - I’ve never given my marital status or sexual orientation here. (2) speaking generally, yes; there is a lot of evidence that most women summarily reject men based on their height (which is totally their right). (3) “only” 5’8”? In most of the world, that is average height. That statement was my first indication that this may be a troll question. (4) “I also knew a guy who was a dwarf and was a total ladies’ man”. One anecdotal exception doesn’t modify the rule.
But, ultimately, this blog isn’t about whether or not women want to be with short guys. It’s about heightism as a broad social construct.
boldly-we-go: Thanks for this blog! As a somewhat tall girl (5'10), it's pretty interesting reading stuff from so many different perspectives. Being tall can be pretty tough, even from childhood ( teachers assume you're more mature than you are, get picked on, etc. ).
Anonymous: Is it really personal autonomy if society has a set of rules to choosing your partner? Many women don't date shorter guys because they would look out of place from the social norm and as a result would get backlash from her friends and family. If everyone is saying you'll get crap for going against the norm then your free will is kind of limited isn't it? Women care about the height of their child because it will affect their life and no mother wants their child to suffer.
TSC: By “personal autonomy” I mean “the exclusive control of ones own body”. If normative ethics exists, and there be “right” and “wrong”; then surely respecting the personal autonomy of others is the foundation from which all other rights flow. I’m saying that you have to start with the proposition that “every human has the total and exclusive right to their own body” before we can start assigning values to moral actions. If this is the case, then physical intimacy is pretty much off limits for moral debate because intimacy (and the things that are designed to directly lead to physical intimacy) necessarily and intimately affect ones personal autonomy.
There can be no valid moral code which says that you SHOULD NOT have the right to choose with whom you engage in physical intimacy. That choice has to be left up to the individual. Otherwise we invalidate personal autonomy and all other rights fall apart.
I end up feeling pretty bad for short guys. I mean, not Napoleon. I do not feel particularly bad for Napoleon. I think, ultimately, like Jay Gatsby, Napoleon was alright in the end. Nor do I feel particularly bad for Hugh Dancy, who is a very short man, but seems to have a lovely relationship with Claire Danes. I also do not feel bad for Tom Cruise because I think he is utterly insane.
But, you know, all the other ones.
Sometimes, when I hear women bemoaning men’s judgments upon their physiques (men who will only date women of a certain size, men who will only dates blondes, or brunettes, or whatever their physical preferences happen to be) I think about how we talk about men’s height.
Almost as soon as I try to set friends up with my male friends they ask whether or not he’s tall. Sure, men are superficial, too. Still, I’ve never heard them ask for specifics regarding a woman’s height. They’ll ask, much more vaguely if she is “cute.”
And even if they are jerks who want you to look a very specific way – you can diet. You can dye your hair. But you can’t do shit to make yourself taller.
I mean, you could wear lifts, but, then, we sort of roll our eyes at people who wear lifts. The last time I’ve heard mention of them was when some tabloid deprecatingly mentioned that Tom Cruise wore lifts. And, of course, we all remember when, after their divorce, Nicole Kidman said that she could finally wear heels again. And at 5’7, Tom Cruise isn’t really even that short.
The only real option if you’re a man who is not born with giant genes is to get that Gattaca ”make you taller” surgery, and that sounds terrible. Before you think, “Seriously, Jennifer, nobody outside of Gattacca ever got that surgery,” it exists. It costs around $40,000 and can go up to $100,000. It’s also incredibly painful – according to Details Magazine (print) “Beyond the agony of having your bones cut in two and stretched, [the surgery] carries risks like pinhole infections, nerve damage, and severe deformity.”
In spite of that, the surgery remains very popular for men in a great deal of countries – particularly China. Not just because it might up guy’s dating options – it also ups their odds of bringing home a higher paycheck. That does not change the fact that the patient will not be expected to walk normally for about five months after the surgery.
Still, one doctor claims “height is not a problem for all short people, but some suffer low self esteem for the rest of their life.” And two thirds of the patients are men.
Look, I’m not trying to be wildly overly dramatic about this. Women certainly have it rough int terms of being judged by their appearance. But it’s sort of ridiculous that anyone feels insecure enough about their height that they’re willing to attempt anything that means they can’t walk for five or six months (and could leave them severely deformed). Obviously, the next time you tell a guy he’s too short he’s probably not immediately going to rush out to attempt to have himself leg lengthened. But, like anything, those are comments that build up over time, and eventually, sure, insecurities do naturally set in.
I pretty strongly feel that men should stop critiquing women for any number of physical traits. But I also feel that, maybe in turn, the next time someone asks you how tall someone is, you not immediately dismiss him for being too short. Because otherwise he will spend $100,000 to grow three inches. No, just because it’s nice to try to see people for having qualities that are not only physical. It’s something we always wish men would do more of for us, so, hell, on the off chance you are one of those ladies who insist on guys being tall, maybe give a short guy a second look. They’re insecure about their appearance, just like us.
TSC: The article wasn’t as nasty as I thought it was going to be when I started reading it. I enjoy reading articles which are sympathetic to the struggle against heightism. But, I also don’t mind reading things from haters and outright height bigots. But, what I like the least are articles which discuss the topic of heightism in a very flippant manner. I assumed that this article was going to be a great example of that because the author used the word “gosh” in the title - like “oh, golly gee gosh, I wheelie feel sorwy for short men (#SorryNotSorry).”
Now don’t get me wrong. This article wasn’t “anti-heightist” by any stretch of the imagination. But, at least the issue (from a dating perspective) was raised somewhat responsibly.
B.W.: “I agree that her preference for a taller partner shouldn’t be considered heightist, but only if it’s purely for physical attraction. However, her desire to have tall children is clearly heightist. Why would your children’s height matter? The only possible reason for placing such importance on that issue is the social privilege/perception of height. Tall people = good, short people = bad.”
TSC: This is actually a very astute but subtle point. But, I can’t agree. All sexual choice is so personal that underlying factors which would ordinarily seem arbitrary, capricious, and bigoted must be excused within its framework. Your internal desires and whom you choose to be intimate with is an exercise in personal autonomy which shouldn’t be subject to external criticism.
But, I will concede that the reasoning for a choice may be deemed immoral in a purely philosophical sense. But the choice itself can never be, because the choice concerns a person’s personal autonomy. And therefore, even the reasoning cannot be truly subject to morality because one cannot divorce another person’s reasoning from her choice (as we cannot know the minds of others).
So, in practice, even the reasoning attached to romantic selection is beyond criticism because we cannot claim to know the reason another person decided to utilize her personal autonomy to engage in an intimate relationship.
Anonymous: Is it being heightist is you want taller kids so you look for a mate that is way taller than you? Lots of short girls do this btw.
TSC: I tend to think that this is not heightism, per se. I don’t think dating choices or choices when it comes to sexual intimacy fall within the purview of discrimination. But there is a good way to test your question. That is, would it be racist for a woman to look for a White man so that she won’t have Black kids?
I’d say that’s not technically racist, though it is “racial”. It’s a close call though. A lot of people would call that racist. In any event, the same reasoning would apply to height.