The Social Complex

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



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  • July 12, 2011 7:46 pm
  • July 7, 2011 1:01 am

    Proving Ones Womanhood?

    Twitter is a wonderful tool for looking into peoples unfiltered thoughts and monitoring the conversations of strangers whom we will never meet.  A number of these tweets (related to short men) seem to take on an interesting tone.  It’s hard to imagine normal people being this hostile about another person’s physical characteristics during the course of a normal conversation.

    The major exception to this rule may be “Locker Room Talk” (as it is commonly called).  That is, male conversations where the purpose is to socially demonstrate ones masculinity through objectifying women or putting down those who are perceived as weaker in the eyes of ones peers.  As the name suggests, these conversations usually only occur in private places where no women are present. 

    "Locker Room Talk" is a form of social performance which basically amounts to what lawyers call "puffery".  Its purpose is to act as “masculine proof” for those in the group.  Traditionally, every male in the group must participate or have his masculinity questioned by the rest of the group.  In this way, the males bond with each other as they pretend to agree on “which girls are the hottest” and make promises not to have any sex with any fat women (even if that’s a blatant lie)

    Is that what is going on in these female twitter posts?

    Are these ladies merely engaging in some form of female “Locker Room Talk”?  That is, are they engaging in a social performance to bolster or “prove” their femininity?  Short men are a popular “out group” in our society in that we are given the message that they are "unmanly" and that (therefore) women are not supposed to be attracted to them.  So do gratuitous insults directed at faceless short men increase the feminine self-perception of these women?  What about her femininity as perceived by her peer group? 

    In the few times where these twitter posts were challenged, the females quickly took a defensive stance and often distanced themselves from the statement.  So, it’s possible that many of these women don’t harbor genuine animus towards short men.  It’s possible that they are merely trying to publicly “prove their womanhood" in a way in which society will approve.

    Any thoughts?

    Oh, and just be careful challenging short man hate on Twitter if you’re not a short man.

  • July 1, 2011 11:31 pm

    Heightism Is A Social Construct Based In Gender Norms

    See full sized image here

    Take a look at these two images.  The people in Image A and Image B are identical, save for their relative heights and the way that their heads are tilted in order to maintain eye contact.  Now how do you think each of these images would be independently perceived by the average person?  How do you perceive the events depicted in these images? 

    Do one of these men seem “assertive” while the other seems “submissive” or “pushy”?  What would you imagine the woman is thinking in each of these images?  How would you rate the social esteem of each of these men?  Which one seems to have the most business acumen?  The most leadership potential?  Which man would you rate as more attractive?  What do you think these two people are talking about in each image?  Does your perception of what is happening in the conversation change from image to image?

    If you are being honest with yourself here, you probably are imagining many differences in the social interactions depicted in these two images that don’t actually exist outside of our cultural framework. From the age that we become aware of our environment we are bombarded with cultural images, traditions, behaviors, and ideals (both expressly and implicitly conveyed) which foster heightist concepts within our psyche.  

    These heightist concepts come into play along with our perceptions of gender.  As there will be plenty of time to tease out these ideas further in the months ahead; let us just presently say that masculinity is culturally tied to “Tall” and femininity is culturally tied to “Short”.  Therefore, the negative cultural perceptions that apply to “feminine males” also apply to “short males” and the positive cultural perceptions that apply to “masculine males” also apply to “tall males”.  That is why we perceive Image A and Image B differently, even though there is no story behind the images beyond what we imagine.   

    Perhaps (to some extent) the negative cultural perceptions that apply to “masculine women” also apply to “tall females” and the positive cultural perceptions that apply to “feminine females” also apply to “short females”?  I do not know.  However, I have my doubts that it works this way for females. 

    This is because (in my humble opinion - with no evidence to back this up):

    (1) Being a masculine woman is probably NOT considered as negative in our society as being a feminine man.  In other words, our society values masculinity more than femininity and so it is more important for a male to be masculine, but much less important for a female to be feminine. 

    (2) Additional height (or “tallness”) is considered a masculine trait and so more important for a male to have than it would be detrimental for a female.

    (3) Tallness (for some reason) is not considered masculine on a female.  Body mass (weight) is considered more of a “masculine” trait on a female than pure height.

    Any comments?  Discussion?

  • July 1, 2011 9:43 pm


    In celebration of the theatrical release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, we are posting a quote from the attractive female lead of the movie in regards to her co-star’s relative short stature.

    According to the website Cinefundas:

    Voted sexiest woman by two men’s magazines, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a British model.  She stars in this summer’s ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon,’ with Shia LaBeouf.  Rosie towers over her leading man.  Director Michael Bay, in the third installment, which hits theaters June 29, refused to hide the height difference because he thought it might give short men hope that they could one day bag someone as hot as his star.  It’s a change for Hollywood, where camera angles are usually used to mask height differences.  ‘Shia was a man about it,’ the 5-foot-9-inch actress says.  ‘He was short, I was tall and that’s the way it is.  I think it’s hot, anyway.’

    Good for her.  We at The Social Complex would like to applaud Ms. Huntington-Whiteley for her mature stance and her courage to ignore social convention.  In most cases, we would expect the actress to socially “prove” her femininity through a public performance.  This performance usually entails the actress saying something to convey that her femininity was deeply wounded by the presence of a shorter male. 

    You’re tall and he’s short…it’s no big deal and nothing further should be read into those physical truths.

    Oh… wait… what is this?

    According to the website Access Hollywood:

    Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush caught up with the British Victoria’s Secret beauty – who was given the Female Star of Tomorrow award at CinemaCon 2011 in Las Vegas on Thursday – and found out if Rosie’s statuesque height was awkward while shooting the Michael Bay movie.

    “Are you taller than Shia?” Billy asked.

    “Yes, by quite a lot,” she explained. “I had to wear heels the whole way through filming. When it came to our kissing scene, I said, ‘Michael, please let me take my shoes off! I feel so unelegant and I feel so unfeminine.’ He said no, ‘You’re giving small men across America hope!’”

    We at The Social Complex would like to take it all back.


  • June 28, 2011 9:54 pm

    I’d Better Remove My Heels

    In one of her best performances, actress Anne Hathaway publicly reenforces her support for the Male-Taller Norm in this riveting opening production of “I’d Better Remove My Heels So That I Won’t Be Taller Than This Short Male Director” (subtitled: “…because I’m a girl”).

    We all know that the Male-Taller Norm maintains our social paradigm in relation to gender by mandating that men must be taller than women in any relaxed social situation.  This is especially true during a social interaction in which the woman is supposed to defer to the male (i.e., pretty much all social interactions between men and women). 

    In this production of I’d Better Remove My Heels, the Director turned actor (Carlos Saldanha) reciprocates and exclaims how relieved he is that his actress would think so much of him as not to emasculate him by being taller.  His performance was a bit overwrought to Hathaway’s seasoned and perhaps much practiced dramatization…but that’s why she’s the professional and he only acts in his spare time.