And please send them quickly. Today is Saturday, 9/14. It would be nice if we could get a critical mass of complaints sent in before their offices open for business on Monday morning. I’ll post mine once I’ve composed it. In the meantime, here is one that I found on Reddit.
It saddens me that your company’s marketing department decided they needed to resort to height-shaming in order to get their message across.
I had hoped that we had moved on from fat-shaming, gay-bashing and black-blaming. Unfortunately, you moved on to ‘the inadequacies of the short man’ from there, since apparently that one is still on the ‘funny, yet harmless’-list.
Here’s to hoping their next attempt will not alienate half of the male population again.
The tumultuous Democratic primary race for New York’s first new mayor in 12 years is nearing the finish line. There are only a few days left until Democratic voters take to the polls on Tuesday, and after the implosion of Anthony Weiner‘s campaign and a poll that has Bill de Blasio surging to a commanding lead, the city’s public advocate currently looks like he has the advantage with voters.
And it appears there’s another advantage for de Blasio: He’s tall. And I mean really tall–the kind of tall that makes writers who profile him use it as a metaphor for his high-minded liberalism. At 6-foot-5, de Blasio towers over his competitors. The photos from the debate Sept. 3 say it all: de Blasio is at least a head taller than his opponents, and his position in the center of the room only accentuated his height.
Does that matter? Maybe not so much in New York. The city has had its share of short-yet-powerful mayors, and New York mayors’ height has famously been questioned in the past. But in general, a tall stature usually–if subconsciously–confers an advantage when it comes to being picked as a leader.
We’d like to think the measure of a person’s body matters little when it comes to measuring his or her capacity to lead. But plenty of research confirms that “height-ism” really does exist. One recent study showed that 58 percent of presidents elected were taller than their opponents (the researchers threw out 11 elections for lack of data or height differences), and that 67 percent of the winners of the popular vote were taller. A 2011 study by psychologists at Texas Tech University found that when asked to draw the “ideal national leader” alongside an “average citizen,” 64 percent of study participants drew the leader as the taller figure. The rationale is simple, the authors say: We choose tall leaders because of caveman politics. It’s evolutionary forces at work. (Emphasis Added)
TSC: Why is it that anytime we read an article about heightism in the mainstream press, we find a disclaimer about “evolutionary forces”? Presumably, the purpose of reminding us about evolution in a conversation about social bias merely serves to separate heightism from “serious” forms of discrimination. However, racism and certainly sexism are also holdovers from our evolutionary past - an example of cavemen politics.
But you would never read an article about the gender pay gap with a comment which reads “We choose male leaders because of caveman politics. It’s evolutionary forces at work.”
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.
TSC: We are all products of our environment. And as heightism is a prejudice that is part of a pervasive social construct which says that shorter people are inherently inferior to taller people - we all start off subscribing to this cultural myth. When I was very young, I too assumed that shorter people were “not as good as” or “less than” taller people, and I simply accepted this in my thoughts and actions. It wasn’t something that bothered me, even though I was a short boy, because I regarded it as natural and I never framed it as a type of prejudice. Looking back, I was sometimes ignored or treated differently than taller people, but I wasn’t troubled by this fact - I would simply defer to taller kids even though I understood (on some level) that I was limited (if even slightly) because of my height. But again, I didn’t understand the concepts of socialization or stigmatization because they never taught things like that at my High School.
However, later I went to college (an intellectually rigorous liberal arts school) and was introduced to a lot of “new” ideas and ways of looking at the world. It was then that I first started looking back on my life and questioning things about height and society that I had taken for granted. Also, thanks to the internet, I was introduced to the concept of “heightism” for the first time.
But though a lot of things happened which confirmed my suspicions about heightism, I didn’t really fully “get it” until I was about to leave University. And ironically, it took a couple of tall guys to make me realize how limiting and degrading heightism could be.
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 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.
TSC: One of the better discussions I’ve seen about heightism on the net. This website, which is apparently devoted to men issues from a feminist perspective, published a post decrying the acceptance of heightism in our society. The article is far from perfect because some aspects of hegihtism are trivialized in terms of impact and scope, but the opinion is fairly well reasoned. Plus, the comments after the article are excellent. A few people even rightly noticed that the title of the piece was biased in that heightism is hardly a “unconscious bias”. Height bigotry is fairly blatant and accepted.
Sociological Images brings us a video talking about implicit bias against short men. The scientifically valid tool discussed in the video, the Implicit Association Test, measures how biased someone is against a group, even in ways they may not know about: if the test-taker is faster and more accurate at sorting tall men and good things into the same category than tall men and bad things, the test-taker is biased in favor of tall men.
The IATs have shown a systematic bias against short men– in fact, the scientist interviewed in the video compares the magnitude of the effect to that of race or ethnicity. Even more interestingly, this is almost entirely a subconscious bias. After all, outside of dating sites (in which women often request men 6′ or taller, partially so they can wear heels around their partner without feeling like they’re emasculating him, and isn’t that a rat’s nest of kyriarchy), very few people think about height as a gendered axis of oppression at all.
And don’t get me wrong: it is gendered. I would be very, very surprised if short women experienced the same bias that short men do. Height is, after all, a symbol of power: if you loom over someone, if you’re bigger than them, you appear more powerful than them on a very primal level. In Western culture, we associate men with power, women with weakness. A short woman is merely doing what her gender requires (and may actually experience a larger dating pool and less worry about high-heel-induced castration complexes). A short man is, in a certain way, failing as a man.
It’s also important to note that these biases are all subconscious. No one wakes up in the morning and says “fuck, man, short men are idiots and pussies, I fucking hate short men and am going to try to make them drink at their own water fountain.” There are very few anti-short-man hate groups. Even those portions of the Internet which have the primary function of stewing in their own grievances against every person who is not exactly like their readers usually only hate short men casually and in passing.
But for a lot of people, subconsciously, a tall man just seems… more imposing. More attractive. More like he knows what he’s doing. More charismatic. More of a leader. More of a man. All those little, intangible, gut-level things that can make the difference between a hiring or a promotion and a dead-end career or a night shift at Starbucks.
You can be racist, or sexist, or classist, or ableist, or even heightist without knowing it. You can appear to yourself like you don’t have a kyriarchal bone in your body and still perpetrate the kyriarchy without meaning to. The process of unlearning kyriarchal conditioning is just that– a lifelong process. (This, incidentally, is why a lot of people support affirmative action. You’re already getting a leg up from all the subconscious biases people have, you might as well let the rest of us have a chance.)