The Social Complex

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A Blog dedicated to the exploration of height bias and discrimination.



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  • October 7, 2011 12:42 pm

    The Male-Taller Norm Internationally

    Popular culture generally, and advertising specifically, rely on certain cultural norms in order to endear itself to its audience.  A popular meme internationally seems to be the pairing of a shorter male with a taller female in order to convey an underlying theme or emotion.  Sometimes the goal is merely to present an “odd couple” for the amusement of the audience, while other times the goal seems to be to glamorize the taller female as hyper-sexualized and beautiful to the point of being “unobtainable”.   

    Odd Couple:

    "Unobtainable Female":

    A vigorous exploitation of the Male-Taller Norm can be seen outside of the United States in the form of advertising, sitcoms, and especially in variety themed television shows in Latin America and Europe.  While these foreign cultural images are usually intended to be humorous, they stand in stark contrast to the more blatantly heightist media depictions that are developed in the United States.  In the United States, media depictions that exploit the Male-Taller Norm usually include an insecure or buffoonish short man who hasn’t the “common sense” leave taller women alone.  In most of the rest of the world, the depictions of both parties are more evenly balanced.  There may be some initial “awkwardness” but this usually concludes on a happy note.

    United States Sitcom:

    Korean Commercial:

    Another intriguing possible difference between the exploitation of the Male-Taller Norm internationally versus domestically seems to be the gender focus.  That is to say that media depictions which go against the Male-Taller Norm in the United States often focuses on the femininity of the taller female instead of the masculinity of the male character.  This phenomena seems reversed in much of the rest of the world.  The United States seems to convey the message that “being with a shorter male makes a woman ‘less feminine’”, while many of the depictions internationally presented a willing taller female and a hesitant male whose masculinity may be in danger.

    United States (challenge to femininity):

    International (challenge to masculinity):

    What does all of this mean?

    Ultimately, it is further proof that heightism is a social construct.  While it is true that our species represents a sexual dimorphism which includes the truism that males are generally taller than females; the level at which this this phenomenon is amplified and supported throughout societies varies from culture to culture.  The role of height, gender, and thus height stigma changes based on culture and society.