TSC: We need your help gathering background information on this ad campaign. We’re in the process of starting an e-mail campaign against Mars Inc., (parent company of Snickers) to pursade them to remove advertisements which celebrate heightism as a joke to promote their snacks. So far, we have identified at least three places where the tagline “Smaller Size With No Inferiority Complex” has appeared in Mars advertising. Maxim Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, and Facebook.
HAS ANYONE ELSE SEEN THIS AD IN PRINT OR ON THE WEB?
Please write in and let us know. Also, I’m looking for the marketing firm that created this ad. When did this advertising campaign start? Which marketing firm created it? How widespread is it? Is it only targeted at young men or is it found in magazines which are targeted towards women too? The answers to all of these questions will help us fight this.
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.
We have reviewed the feedback we have received regarding this product and shared it with the relevant seller, who has taken the decision to remove the product from the site. It was never their, nor our, intention to cause any offence and we do of course apologise if this is the case.
~Name Redacted~ Customer Service Manager
Customer Service notonthehighstreet.com
TSC: Congratulations to everyone who follows this blog and was brave enough to write a letter to this company. This is proof positive that your voices do matter. Though it might not be exciting or dramatic, simply taking a moment to enlighten the minds of others is the hallmark of modern social activism. This is what social justice looks like.
Also, let’s thank notonthehighstreet.com for being so reasonable. We have had other campaigns launched though this blog that have been much less successful. Here, the company responded in 24 hours (instead of months later) and they took the appropriate actions to maintain their reputation. So, cheers to notonthehighstreet.com as well.
TSC: I have to pat myself on the back for a post I just made on reddit in response to a person who claimed that heightism can never be challenged because it is a product of Human Evolution. I pretty much smashed his argument to dust - and I say that in the most humble way possible. Check it out for yourself.
You can’t change heightism any more than you can change a baby’s fear of objects rushing at it.
It’s instinctive. You can NOT un-wire over 100 million years of evolutionary gut instinct, By making twitter posts, and spreading ‘awareness’.
Think about the animal kingdom, Animals invented all kinds of Frills and ‘extensions’ in order to appear larger, and scare off enemies.These Animals didn’t grow up in a social society encouraging hieghtism, or watch disney, it’s hard wired.
This heightism thing is rooted in Biology. Not social politics.
Geoffrey, I appreciate what your trying to do, But it simply will not work.
I respect your opinion, but I’m afraid that you are mistaken about this. We can certainly reduce the prevalence of heightism in terms of a systemic prejudice and in terms of individual interactions. In this way, heightism is no different than racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other type of widespread socially stigmatized characteristic (or set of characteristics).
We are who we are through the process of evolution. That means, if our evolutionary biology brought us heightism, then it must have also brought us racism, sexism, homophobia, and the rest - correct? Surely you would not argue that heightism is natural while other forms of bigotry are unnatural, even though all of these widespread behaviors had to come from somewhere, would you? You can’t argue that heightism comes from Human Evolution, but racism is the product of “The Devil”. We are what we are because of Human Evolution, and so they both must be the result of natural processes.
O.K., so once you have come to this unavoidable conclusion, it is easy to see how heightism can be challenged. Do you think that racism is more prevalent today than it was in the 1950’s or less prevalent? If you live in the United States, the only correct answer is “less prevalent”. Even the most jaded Civil Rights activist would agree with this fact. Therefore, it naturally follows that forms of widespread stigma (which are the progeny of Human Evolution) can be influenced and reduced through social action and education.
Why would this be so? Well, in order to understand this, you have to know some of the basic principals of Aristotelian philosophy. All things have a thing that makes them unique. A knife is used for cutting. That is its purpose and what separates it from other objects. The quality of a knife can be gauged by its sharpness. Likewise, a chair is used for sitting. That is its purpose and what separates it from knives and other objects. The quality of a chair can be gauged by its comfort. So, what is the purpose of a human being? What describes the quality of a human? Well, Aristotle says that the answer to this question is to determine what humans do that other things cannot do. What makes humans unique? The answer, according to Aristotle, is the ability to reason and use logic. Humans are different from other animals because we have human reasoning and have the capacity for logical understanding. The “quality” of a human, therefore, is in his/her ability to reason.
So, you’ve given the example of Animals evolving frills and other mechanisms to appear larger in order to discourage their enemies. I suppose this is your evidence to say that heightism is can never be overcome? But what you forget is that humans are different than other animals because we have the ability to reason. That’s why dogs naturally attack cats, but humans don’t attack animals for no reason. It’s why monkeys run around completely naked, but even the most primitive human adults cover themselves. It’s why other members of the animal kingdom kill at will, but we have developed a concept called “murder”. It’s the reason other male members of the animal kingdom dominate females and take sex when they are able, while we have concepts called “rape” and “human rights” and “gender equality”. We have reason. The rest of the animal kingdom may not be able to resist what we call racism, or sexism, or heightism - but we can. We have reason.
TSC: I have to give credit to supportfortheshort.org for sparking my curiosity as to a disturbing trope which often arise within our popular culture with regards to heightism. An article recently appeared on Fortune online about the rise of Women in the United States in terms of economic and political power. The article is essentially a book review for Hanna Rosin’s novel, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, which is described as “an exploration of the modern career woman and her effect on the economy, gender norms, and masculine self-worth”. In it, Rosin interviews real people in order to support her thesis that changing gender norms within our society are the result of changing economic circumstances. And here we have an example of life imitating art.
With a cocktail in hand at a Yale Business School party, Sabrina chats about her likes (red wine, Lady Gaga, and Angela Merkel) and her dislikes (short men, FDBs — financial douche bags — and immature texts from scorned exes). The green-eyed beauty could easily roll with Carrie Bradshaw’s posse. She’s single, poised, successful, and attractive — “one of a kind” is how an old flame describes her.
Whether Sabrina is a real person or a conglomeration of characteristics of many different women is irrelevant to the discussion because attitudes like this have become quite common. Here we have an ivy educated woman in her early 30s, who we also latter discover is a banker, casually professing her hate for a group of people without apparent shame - as if her disdain were completely rational and obvious. Sabrina perfectly demonstrates that lumping bad behavior, professional rudeness, and short men into the same category is completely appropriate in mixed company or even when talking to a journalist. Now, all of this begs the question, “does Sabrina’s demeanor in relation to heightism remind you of anything?”
Sex and the City (1998-2004) has been hailed among critics as a groundbreaking work of entertainment which has spawned several copycat shows and has had an indomitable impact on our popular culture. One could also argue that the show represented a sort of post feminist ethic of the modern heroine. On the one hand, this post feminist modern heroine is celebrated for her economic power and social independence, but on the other hand, this same power and social independence is conflated with a culture of excessive consumerism; where femininity is defined by the clothes one wears, the men one associates herself with, and the parties one attends. And of course, such a vapid and consumerist ethic (where image matters more than substance) does not bode well for short men who live in a heightist society. We can see this during several episodes in which short men were openly ridiculed or shunned for being short, presumably because short men were intended to represent the antithesis of the “fabulousness" depicted by the show’s lead characters who were, in turn, meant to be aspirational role-models for their young audiences.
Take, for example, an episode from Season 6 entitled “Splat!”. All you have to watch is the first two minutes to get the idea. It doesn’t even require a set up. And after that, you also may want to see (08:20-8:40) for a very subtle cautionary message to the viewer that old women lose their fabulousness with age and so you may want to find a partner quickly - lest you end up with a short man.
And please do not assume that the attitudes expressed in popular culture in regards to the post feminist heroine are regulated to dating. The attitudes about feminism and short male inferiority are widespread and appear in several episodes of the series and its progeny. The problem is not about attraction, or lack thereof, but about attitudes which are normalized and spread into the real world through entertainment such as this. It represents a dangerous aesthetic which further encourages a type of intolerance which is rarely criticized.
Other shows following the Sex and the City model of the post feminist heroine include:
To be completely honest, I’ve never actually watched “lipstick jungle”, but I’ve read enough synopsizes about the show to confidently place it within the Sex and the City genre. But I have direct knowledge that the other shows listed here make negative comments about short men throughout their respective series. In fact, if memory serves, a character in “Cashmere Mafia” had something bad to say about short men in Episode ONE, Season ONE of the show (though I couldn’t find the clip on youtube).
For some of you, this may seem trivial. You might think, “what’s the harm” and “everyone has their own opinions and biases”. Well, why that may be true, we have to consider the social consequences which arise from a cultural paradigm in which the open disdain for short men is considered a function of female empowerment. Remember that “Sabrina” from Hanna Rosin’s book is a Yale educated banker. Would I, as a proud short man, want to be sitting across the table from Sabrina, my bank’s loan officer, trying to negotiate a rate on my home mortgage or a business loan? Should I be concerned if Sabrina, my stock broker, suggests a great investing strategy to me when she knows that I am a short man? How many Sabrina’s are there in the professional world? What is their impact on our broad social goals to make our world more equitable for anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules?
TSC: I had to repost this letter which was written to Joe Mangano and posted on his site. Read the entire letter because it highlights just how closed-minded our society is when it comes to this issue. Apparently, the topic of heightism is even taboo within the halls of academia (where inquiry and free-thinking used to be encouraged). So know that we have a huge uphill battle in enlightening people to the social illness that is heightism. But, it’s worth the effort - if only for moral reasons.
This is why we fight.
I have just recently discovered your website and have so far listened to all of your podcasts. I am still working my way through all of the articles posted, but I think I will have all of them read soon.
I have tried to bring heightism awareness to others in my university, because I face discrimination due to my height on most days. Yet it does not seem like I get any positive reception or serious consideration by doing so. Other short men like myself get offended when I suggest that there is a heightism problem in society, and people who do not have short stature look at me like I’m an idiot for suggesting that heightism is morally abhorrent. My college campus is in Minnesota where much of the students have Scandinavian backgrounds, and as such the concentration of tall people is rather large.
As an example of heightism, today in my philosophy course we were on the subject of oppression. Our professor asked the question “What gives people power? How do we decide who is powerful or not?” Then he proceeded to give an example. “How is it that Kim Jong Il, and now his son, Kim Jong Un, both short, napoleonic, weasels of men…how are they able to command power from others?” A girl in the class shouted out “He has short man syndrome!” and then a lot of students started laughing. Then the girl looked over at me and said “Oh, no offense Erik!” which was followed by another round of laughter. I responded that I did not find any of it funny and since we were talking about oppression, discrimination and social justice, I asked why is it that whenever we talk about these subjects in modern society we always talk about sexism or racism but not heightism? And of course students got upset with me for trying to suggest heightist discrimination is a serious issue comparable with discrimination based on gender or race.
This is just one example of heightism that I faced. It feels absolutely awful, and it pains me to know that so many others face the same pain due to something that is not controllable. I sometimes feel like giving up in trying to defend myself over this issue because of how many people tell me it is all in my head, but your website really encourages me to keep fighting. After all, so many great men in history were told that they were crazy or couldn’t do something or other, but they fought for what they believed in. The progress we have made in social justice would not have been made if people had just given up when supporters of the status quo told them to. I hope more people follow your example and join the fight in heightism awareness.
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.
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.
TSC: Clearly, heightism is one of the last socially acceptable forms of bigotry, but does it stand alone? Probably not. Even regularly rejected forms of prejudice can be widely accepted if it is couched in a way that its not so obvious. I was surfing YouTube for clips and I ran across this old clip of American IdolHarmful Asian Stereotype Star, William Hung.
This is probably racism, cleverly disguised as silly fun, on American network television. So, we are not completely alone. Just saying.