The Social Complex

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


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  • November 24, 2013 2:22 pm

    Perceptions and Language of Heightisms

    I am 5’ 3.5.  Serial Master’s degree graduate, PhD student in business, full-time business professor in Amerikca.  Hardworker, effective in non-profit leadership — but I have been fighting heightism my whole life in paid industry.   In business, it has shut me out of certain management positions — people have outright said it.  

    I like the idea of a wide-scale change to values against short people.   I think, however, the name of your blog perpetuates the idea that when people feel they have been disadvantaged because of their height, they have a “complex”.

    It means we can’t even talk about the problem without being labeled as having some kind of disorder of perception about ourselves.  This needs to change — heightism IS a  problem, and people who draw attention to the problem are NOT suffering from a “complex”.

    I also think there is a need for a new language to describe people who are short.  In some countries, people are disabled are called “physically challenged” to get away from the idea that they are not able.   Everyone in that society corrects others who use the word disabled, and shortness.

    I think an an alternate label needs to be generated for people who are of lower height.   Words such as short, contain a value judgment.  Lower height, implies lowness of status.  Other words I have heard are “diminuitive”  or “vertically challenged” which are also unacceptable.

    I am not sure what the word should be to describe a person of below average height.   But I think training people to use a language of equality when describing a short person would do much to help fight heightism. 

    What name would you like to use to describe a person who is not average height?  One that preferably implies equality and capabability, while capturing the fact that our height is in one of the tails of the height distribution?  Could we even consider partnering with very tall people who also face discrimmination for their height?  Or do we need to do this on our own to prove to the world that short people have as much of a voice on their own as do very tall people?

    I would love to hear answers to these questions….

     

    TSC: First of all, thank you so much for your comments.  

    I like the idea of a wide-scale change to values against short people.   I think, however, the name of your blog perpetuates the idea that when people feel they have been disadvantaged because of their height, they have a “complex”.


    So, I came up with this blogs name and it isn’t meant to imply that short men have complexes.  The name is supposed to be a play off of the “Napoleon Complex” myth.  As I’m sure you know, the Napoleon Complex is the idea that short men are quick to anger in order to “compensate” for being short.  Well, I happen to think that the “complex” doesn’t sit with short men, but with society itself.  It’s our society that has a height complex, not the people who are stigmatized by those social norms.  So, that’s where the name comes from.  I’m saying that society has a complex about height.  Hence, “the Social Complex”.

    It means we can’t even talk about the problem without being labeled as having some kind of disorder of perception about ourselves.  This needs to change — heightism IS a  problem, and people who draw attention to the problem are NOT suffering from a “complex”.

    I totally agree with this.  The public is encouraged to shame short people who say anything about heightism (unless critical or humorous).  Anyone who speaks against heightism in any serious way will face a significant amount of personal ridicule and assumptions.  Coincidentally, I got this message in my tumblr inbox a couple of days ago: “If Prince can get laid all the time, so can you. Quit blaming your problems on fictional bigotry”.  Notice that the anonymous commenter attempts to shame me about something which I never mentioned.  Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’ve never made any assertions about my personal life in regards to sexual relationships (I haven’t revealed my marital status, sexual orientation, or living arrangements), and yet this person assumes that challenging heightism means that you can’t find a date because you’re short.  Furthermore, he completely ignores the core argument presented against heightism.  Heightism isn’t wrong because people can be influenced by it when they make choices in romantic relationships.  Heightism is wrong on its face.  It’s immoral because it’s a type of prejudice based on an immutable physical trait which limits the opportunities of others through irrational stigma. You don’t have to use any evidence about dating (which is just a symptom of heightism, not the cause) to know that heightism is wrong. 

    I think an an alternate label needs to be generated for people who are of lower height.   Words such as short, contain a value judgment.  Lower height, implies lowness of status.  Other words I have heard are “diminuitive”  or “vertically challenged” which are also unacceptable.

    This is an interesting idea.  However, I’m not so sure that the word “short” has an inherent meaning that conveys a negative value judgment.  No more than the word “black” implies a negative value judgment.  I think it’s just that the word is so stigmatized that we develop negative associations to it.  I know plenty of people (men especially) who take the word “short” as a pejorative in itself (even if they themselves are short).  Frankly, I haven’t thought of an alternative word to use.  But I don’t think it’s necessary because our message should be that height is meaningless without heightism (or height bigotry, if you prefer).  There is nothing inherently wrong with being short.  There is nothing inherently wrong or right with being any height.

    What name would you like to use to describe a person who is not average height?  One that preferably implies equality and capabability, while capturing the fact that our height is in one of the tails of the height distribution?  Could we even consider partnering with very tall people who also face discrimmination for their height?  Or do we need to do this on our own to prove to the world that short people have as much of a voice on their own as do very tall people?

    I don’t think the semantics are that important.  Again, it’s an interesting concept, but it doesn’t change the substance of the problem.  But, I do think that the only way we can successfully challenge heightism is to get “buy-in” from other short people.  No effort for social change succeeds unless the people who are disadvantaged from the status quo band together.  The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of people to get the ball rolling. 

     

     

  • September 6, 2013 9:12 pm

    Exposing Heightism on Twitter

    Hello. Just want to say that I appreciate your blog and everything you’re voicing out for the “shorter” males like me (I’m a 5’6 Asian). So I’ve decided to spend about a 1/2 hour of my life (and that’s time I’ll never get back) reading up the tweets that Exposing Heightism retweeted. Why? I really want to see how some people in the world actually view shorter males, and sadly enough, the cold hard truth came to me within that 1/2 hour…

    I was extremely shocked and appalled; my jaws literally dropped to the ground reading all those tweets. I read them all earlier in the day, it’s the evening now, and I don’t think my brain really processed everything. This is honestly one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever experienced. Like really??? There’s an absolute HATRED towards shorter males? Wow, it actually makes me feel like I’m a Jewish person in the Nazi revolution. The tweets are along the lines of  ”short men f*cking PISS ME OFF, and should DIE!”, “short men, you have no reason to be confident, just sit the f*ck down”, “short men, you’ll never ever amount to anything, you should just quit at life”, “I laugh when I see short men happy, because in reality, they don’t have sh*t to smile about”, “short men is proof God doesn’t exist”, “short men are a curse to this world”, “SHUT THE F*CK UP YOU F*CKING MANLETS, YOUR OPINION DOESN’T MATTER!” Andddd the list goes on. Every tweet is more or less along those lines in minor variations. One of the worst ones that I’ve seen that hit me hard is someone who said “They should reuse the concentration camps again, except this time, round up all the short men of the world and kill them off.” From that point on, I just had to close the window.

    You know what’s funny? I’ve looked at some of these people’s Twitter profiles, and some of them are about social activism, and promoting gay and animal rights, or trying to spread the word of God; you name it. Acting like goddam saints when they’re nothing but hypocritical bastards. 

    So let me get this straight…people can’t talk about weight, or race, or sexual orientation for that matter, but it’s ok to do so with height? What if I said “oh they should kill off every fat person in this world, they’ll never amount to anything”? Or “Why do girls with small boobs exist? They should be exterminated!”?  It boggles my mind that we’re considered a nuisance. Like the sight of us can actually “piss someone off.” What did we do wrong? It’s not like fat people or people of another race make me mad. They’re just people in my eyes living life like the rest of the world, nothing more. What is it about us short people that caused so much hatred? I know many people my height who are genuine people and don’t have the “Napoleon Complex”. So why can something as small as height make people’s veins boil?

    Help me explain

    image


    TSC: Thanks for your comment.  I’m actually working on a post about the exposing heightism twitter feed, and so I’ll post my full thoughts there.  But, it’s a mixed bag.  I too was completely shocked when I first saw these tweets.  But, I think that it speaks more to the social acceptability of height bigotry than its severity.  Actually, I suspect that a lot of these people “know not what they do”.  I don’t think they take their own tweets seriously and our society says that it is O.K. to denigrate short people, and so they post these horrible things to be “funny” or “shocking” in a socially safe way. 

    It’s still very sad, but I’m not sure that we can say that these tweets are proof that heightism is a serious social ill (though it is - I’m just saying that tweets aren’t good proof of this).  But, it does tell us that heightism is a broadly accepted form of social currency. 

    And in some cases, these tweets are meant to increase the social status of those who post them by preemptively denouncing an entire class of people that most of society already regards as inferior.  Soooo brave. 

  • July 11, 2013 9:09 pm
    TSC: Advertisers are getting more and more blatent.  It’s like they’re not even trying to mask height bigotry under a veil of plausible deniability anymore.  View high resolution

    TSC: Advertisers are getting more and more blatent.  It’s like they’re not even trying to mask height bigotry under a veil of plausible deniability anymore. 

  • June 30, 2013 5:01 pm

    DUMBEST ARTICLE I’VE READ ALL MONTH

    TSC: Check out this article by some self-hating short guy trying to be funny.  These types of self-deprecating short guys are the worst.  The worst. 

    image

    Posted by in Funny

    TSC: Posted under “Funny” but should have been posted under “Stupid”

    Size matters. In a new survey of 1,400 British women, nearly 75% said their ideal man is six feet tall or more. Two-thirds consider shorter guys less sexy. This won’t come as a shock to us half-pints; we’ve been dealing with such discrimination for millennia, ever since the most vertically gifted cavemen got the hottest (and least smelly) cave chicks.

    Even in this supposedly enlightened and tolerant age, seven extra inches make an average salary difference of $5,525. However, evolution and bigotry haven’t yet weeded us out. And they never will, as long as we uphold Short Guy Code…

    1. Embrace Your Napoleon Complex

    Our inferiority syndrome is widely considered a negative trait, making us aggressive and overeager to prove our worth — otherwise known as ambition, normally viewed asa positive quality. Your insecurity can either crush you or propel you to great heights, so choose the latter. We must accomplish more to impress, but impress we must.

    Is it any wonder that so many global political leaders are pipsqueaks? Even if we can’t rule 75% of British women’s hearts, we can rule the damn world instead.

    image

    TSC: Easy does it, bro.  Easy does it.  There is no such thing as a Napoleon Complex.

    2. Don’t Start Fights You Can’t Win

    The flip side of embracing your Napoleon complex is knowing when to back down. Taller guys don’t want to hit us — there’s no honor in it — so avoid needlessly provoking them.

    That said, Bruce Lee was only 5’7” and he could kick anybody’s ass, so only let your mouth run wild if you can actually back up your words with your tiny little fists.

    image

    TSC: I don’t see how this is a short guy specific tip.  This is an everybody tip.  Don’t start fights you can’t win.  And in fact…don’t even start fights where you can win.  Just don’t start fights.

    3. Develop A Sense Of Humor

    If you’re not a Bruce Lee-caliber fighter, you can disarm all those scary giants with laughter. It’s no coincidence that many famous comedians are comically small,  including the 5’6” Jon Stewart , the 5’5” Woody Allen and 4’0” Lil Duval. (We want to get that rumor started.)

    Besides, women always say a sense of humor is the sexiest trait, so learn to laugh at yourself…and they might take you seriously.

    image

    TSC: I think that’s enough for you to get the gist of this “hilarious article”.  Some short guys make it there hobby to humiliate themselves and kick sand in the faces of other short guys.  If reinforcing harmful and false stereotypes about short men is what constitutes “having a sense of humor” now-a-days, then you can keep it. 

    (click on the “Guy Code” logo to see the whole article)

  • March 6, 2013 11:27 pm

    Phillip DeFranco Show and Kim Jong Un


    On Tuesday’s Phillip DeFranco show, Phil proceeds to use a bunch of heightist slander against Kim Jong Un.  Now Kim is a horrible person, but that is irrelevant to his height.  It is offensive that short people everywhere should be compared with him.

    Normally Phil is a pretty reasonable guy though; perhaps he is just ignorant? If any of his viewers could send him an email asking him to consider how his worlds affect people more carefully, it would be appreciated.

    Relevant part starts at 5:33

    TSC: No offense to the reader who submitted this post; but I don’t understand why anyone would watch this guy’s YouTube show.  It’s not like he gives any in-depth analysis of current events.  All he does his spout common knowledge and conventional wisdom. 

    I will however say that this clip is good at illustrating how accepted height bigotry is in our everyday ideas and conversations.  Notice how he feigns sensitivity to matters of social justice when it comes to race (where, earlier in the clip, he admits that he’s never had a problem with police officers because he is a white male), but then goes on to call Kim Jong Un “a little bitch of a man with a Napoleon Complex”. 

    Those slurs rolled off his tongue like butter.  So you can be assured that he sees nothing wrong with them because “hey, I wasn’t talking about YOU”.  But, he wouldn’t go on his show and start using other types of slurs and then say “hey…why are you all upset…I wasn’t talking about YOU”. 
    This is why people of good conscious need to wake up and challenge this prejudice.  Especially shorter people. 

  • September 19, 2012 7:41 pm

    AtEyeLevel Thanks The Social Complex

    TSC: I just received this very nice message from the AtEyeLevel blog.  Appreciate it.  

    I want to give a special thanks to you Geoff and your blog. Your writings, investigations, dissertations and case studies have inspired me to become a bit of a height activist, but with a bit more of an edge to really challenge people’s thoughts. You inspired me to start my AtEyeLevel blog here on Tumblr.

    Within a few weeks we’ve managed to acquire lots of followers by going on the light side of extreme to make people aware by pointing out the absurdities and hurt that Heightism may cause. 

    My blog is like yours, but also deals with pop culture, fashion, dating because while Heightism isn’t that, it AFFECTS that, so I just wanted to thank you and hope that you keep on doing what you do!

    AtEyeLevel

  • August 31, 2012 11:14 pm
  • July 5, 2012 10:11 pm

    Why do short guys have a chip on their shoulders?

    Why do short guys have such a chip on their shoulders?

    Most men under 5’8” seem to have such a bad attitude and ready to rumble —they always want to fight to prove themselves men.

    Why is that?

    Oh yeah…they seem to lie about their height like people can’t see how tall they are the moment they stand up. Funny.

    TSC: While this question is typical, ignorant, and nasty; the answers give me some hope.  They seem to be split 50/50.  Half of the answers agree with the “short man complex” myth and stereotype short men “compensating” for feelings of inferiority regarding their height.  The other half give the correct answer.  That everyone is different but short men are stereotyped and so when you meet an ambitious man who happens to be short, you assume that he feels inferior to you, when he probably doesn’t. 

    Isn’t it funny how people project their views onto others?  So a person thinks that shorter people are inferior to him/her and so they assume that shorter people agree with him/her and everything they do is to compensate for that “fact”?  That’s not how it works.

    But, click on the link to view the question and answers. 

  • May 18, 2012 8:23 am

    Reader Submission: “Her height was insulting!”

    So at work today a customer was listening in to a conversation I was having with my co-worker. I was telling my co-worker about this girl I work with at my other job who was shorter than her and a conversation we had regarding our height difference. I’m 6’1” and she was probably 5’0” and we’re both girls.

    This gentleman overhears us and decides to pipe in. Nothing I haven’t heard before until he says

    “I dated this girl who was six foot once. And I just couldn’t do it. I mean she couldn’t wear heels and her height was insulting to me. I mean she didn’t care, she liked shorter guys, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to break up with her.”

    This guy was probably in his 40’s, laughing while he’s telling us this story, like it’s not rude to say what he’s saying, especially in front of a girl who is 6’1”.

    I hope this is something I only see in older men and younger men will have more brains and self esteem than this guy.

    TSC:  This is depressing to here.  Studies have shown that women tend to care much more about the height of their partners than men.  And to be honest, I’d never considered that a man would regard a taller woman negatively, until hearing from a considerable number of tall women through this blog. 

    I suspect that taller guys are more likely to “be insulted” by a woman who is taller than them because they may feel as if she is encroaching on their social privilege.  So I guess that there are a number of men out there who are considerably insecure about their height. So, for some tall men, a tall woman standing next to them would skew their relative height advantage and make the “feel like a short man” whenever he is around her.  I can understand why the mental stress of seemingly losing some of your social privilege while standing next to your lady would be distressing to some tall men.  That’s not to excuse it, but it’s just a theory. 

    Unfortunately, even though I still think that these insecure men are a minority, there isn’t much positive to be said about this phenomena.  I could say “tall guys shouldn’t worry about guys who reject them for being too tall because those men are insecure”.  But I wouldn’t say that because it would be as patronizing as people who tell short guys “not to worry about shallow women who care about height”.   

  • February 22, 2012 8:04 am

    Reader Submission: Interpretation of Internet Information

    TSC: A reader wrote in to respond to all of the online commentary about how women view short men.  This essay represents the opinion of its writer and isn’t necessarily the opinion of The Social Complex.  Personally, I think whether or not some short men reportedly have problems attracting women is nearly irrelevant to the greater issue.

    I have something to say, it is on topic but I am not much of an essay writer and I cannot guarantee it to be well written.

    First of all I will tell you a little about myself to give you an idea of where I cam coming from.  I am a 37 year old 5’5 man and two years ago I typed “short men” dating into Google.  Yes, I know heightism is not all about dating but hear me out.  You know as well as I do that this subject concerns short men the most.  Anyway,  The information I found horrified, shocked and angered me.  If I am to believe the general consensus of the internet most women won’t date short men and a guy my height (5’5) is doomed. I thought to myself, how did all this stuff go over my head for 35 years.  However, the general consensus of the internet is that most men are not good enough for most women.  This is the internet, the land of bullshit and fantasy sometimes.  If things really were as bad as I read I would guess that at best 10% of women would date a 5’5” tall man, if he was perfect.  I am not perfect. I am average looking, of low income and have no compensatig factor that I know of to throw of the general aversion that most women apparently feel toward short men.  I am but one person but assuming that i am not perfect and some women may not accept my advances for some other reason besides my height I would have to approach alot of women before I could find even one to have sex with me or date me.  Things just arent that bad and I would imagine a man of my height with even an average income could do better in the women department than I do.  I have low income acquaintances who are my height or shorterr, I don’t know their exact sexual history but they sure aren’t virgins and some are married. If in an all other factors equal comparison a man of average height can pick up several times more women than I can he must just have to go up to the first woman he sees and she will automatically go home with him.  Maybe it is just my observations and not your’s but things just don’t seem to work that way.

    Do you believe everything you read on the internet?  I am sure you don’t but I just don’t see a very high percentage of average women in the real world holding out for some guy that has a certain set of traits that can only be found inless than 1 in 100 men, for example, must be six feet tall, good looking, hard muscle, hung like a horse etc. I think these women sometimes say this stuff for a game and a powertrip and if they are halfway serious they are not going to find this guy, even if they spend the rest of their life on plenty of fish.  It is insane to take all the anti short stuff on dating forums and the like seriously when I know things don’t work that way.

    I do not mean to deny that short men are at a disadvantage in dating but it cant possibly be to the extreme that alot of short guys online who talk about this stuff seem to think. There seems to be a general trend amond many females ( im not going to throw around estimates) to prefer tall men and average height men over short men but not as bad as the internet indicates.

    Who is short, 5’8 5’7 ?  Being 5’5 I can only think of a handful of guys who i currently associate with or see who are my height or shorter but I know guys who are probably not even two inches taller that most women will go out with. These guys are good looking and have slightly better than averae jobs but cant be more than 5’7.  According to the internet this height is too short for over half of the women out there.  I have been with friends of average height or taller and roughly average looks who women seemed less interested in me because i am slightly better looking or maybe alot but these guys were not notably ugly.  Just my antecdotal experiences , not a controlled study.

    I think by taking what annonymous people say about short men over the internet seriously in dating forums without really thinking about, who wrote this, why did they write this etc is kind of stupid. The vast majority of people who are not short simply do not care enough to go into a forum and voice their opiniion about short men, whatever their opinion is. 

    I am sure there are men of close to average height who have lost it from reading all this shit. “must be 5’8” “under 6 feet not real men”. 

    In summary,  I just dont see short men who “cant get laid” or have to “settle” for the least desirable women out there because they are short and i know more women who will sleep with anyone that talks to them than women waiting around for these perfect tall alpha male studs who dont exist or are pretty rare. I have never been 5’7 or 5’2, i am 5’5 but at least for a man of my height to go around practically crying “girls hate me because i am short, I read it on the internet” is stupid. I was doing it for a while and this is what I believe.