The Social Complex

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


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  • July 4, 2012 9:20 am

    Reader Submission: Heightism on American Idol

    I stumbled across this clip the other day while watching American Idol clips and was wondering if you have seen it. Of course, it’s heightism related. I don’t know if it is good enough to be discussion material on your blog, but it’s amazing what this woman does to Ryan Seacrest.

    -James M.


    TSC: First of all, thank you for this clip James.  This is an excellent example of how heightism (the idea that shorter people are intrinsically inferior to taller people) is a widespread and accepted social prejudice.  Many people are apparently extremely comfortable espousing the idea that short people (men especially) should be ashamed of their height and should agree that they have less worth than other people.  Notice that this idea is so self-evident to some people that they even feel its appropriate to express it directly to a shorter person.  Even look at the comment section on YouTube about the clip.  Only a few people criticized this woman for what she said directly to Seacrest (mostly on “politeness” grounds, but a few on heightism grounds).  

    It’s one thing to blurt out “you’re short” to a shorter person.  But it’s another thing to denigrate all short men as inferior as this woman goes on to do.  And we should give Seacrest credit for trying to calmly deal with these shocking statements, but the humor tactic rarely works when people act like this woman was acting.  He starts off the right way (deflect the comment to expose her prejudice) by saying “thank you” and “is that a bad thing?”.  But she doesn’t fall for it, dodging the question.  But then, Seacrest get’s defensive and starts claiming to be taller than he really is, and outright denying that he is even short.  This was a tactical mistake.  Always own your shortness because there is nothing wrong with being short and its nothing you should be ashamed of.  So instead of making this woman look like an ass; Seacrest ends up looking a bit foolish…going so far as to hug her after receiving a verbal beatdown.  

    Replace ANY physical characteristic with the word “short” in this woman’s diatribe and try to estimate how many sponsors the show would have lost.