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.
TSC: An animated short about a dystopian future society, separated by a short dark-skinned lower-class and the tall White elite. If you’re a fan of science fiction, you have seen similar stories before, but this is still a good example of how systemic heightism and racism can be used to control the masses and maintain social order. The director also borrows from Plato’s “The Republic” and “The Matrix”. (run time: 16:34, requires Flash, and NSFW).
I am starting to really hate my life. I am 5’0” barefoot maybe 5’1” with my trainers and it is absolutely terrible. No one that doesn’t get to know me gives me any respect. I seem to have to work 8x as hard as anyone else to even be treated normally. I get called everything under the sun. Hobbit, oompa loompa etc. For this reason, I can’t stand going out in public. I have been to the club a couple of times and let me just say that me and a bunch of drunk *******s almost always ends up with me sitting there with an odd smile while everyone cracks jokes about me.
I recently started lifting weights and running to try and get more fit looking. But I have little to no motivation to do it because… no matter what I do I will still be short. Chicks more often than not don’t give me the time of day because of my height. If they got to know me I know they would like me. I have an amazing personality. Anyone who gets to know me has told me the same thing. Of course I can’t wear all of this on a badge lol. Idk I am just extremely depressed because it’s sort of like nothing else in my life is bad, except for this and this is something that I can’t change no matter what I do. Why does this exist where the guy has to be taller than the girl? Anyways I guess I just needed to vent a little.
TSC: And so the thread begins. Basically the conversation divides into three groups. The group that says height is no big deal and its all about “personality and confidence”. The group that says that his experience is a product of heightism (social stigma based on height) and that he has to find an individual way to overcome it. And the group that says that short men are inferior and no one cares about their problems.
(to be clear, I don’t put myself in any of these groups. I know that heightism is real, but I don’t think it can be overcome through individual behavior - only through group action and directly challenging the prejudice.)
But here is one part of one person’s statement that illustrates the value judgment people make in regards to heightism which allows them to perpetuate it in good conscious.
I meant NO ONE CARES ABOUT BEING SHALLOW OR HEIGHTISM. AS IN THEY DON’T CARE THAT THEY ARE HEIGHTISTS.
Not that there are no heightists. There are plenty and they are pretty damn proud of it. Who is really going to take them to task on it? It’s not like they’re being racist or homophobic. Bloody hell.
TSC: She is making a value judgment that height SHOULD convey social privilege or stigma. And she does it by illustrating the status quo. Not realizing that racism and homophobia are learned concepts which were developed by thinking people as a way to frame a social problem and give it a name so that it could be combated. At one point in the not-so-distant past, her grandmother would be saying the same thing about “homophobia” that she is now saying about “heightism”. We just need to fight to make it so.
TSC: Read this excellent reader submission about heightism internationally. The writer brings up a very interesting point about how heightism and racism can get conflated across different cultures. Also, the writer gets a considerable amount of “smart points” for using the word “nocive” in a sentence.
Hello, first of all i really enjoy your site and all the interesting topics that come across the whole height subject. One of the things that has always made me very curious is the different perception of heightism in other countries outside the U.S. For what i know the average height there is currently 5’10 (though i may be wrong with my findings), i live in Mexico where statistically as of 2009 studies the average height is around 5’4 in the southern part of the country and 5’7 in the north since it’s closer to the U.S and therefore is a little more developed than the rest of the country. The thing here is, yes it’s a major height difference from the U.S. but there is also a lot of change within the same country. I’m 5’6 and a half and live in the north side, so yes i come across a little shorter than the rest, but the difference is not as marked as if i went to the States and walked around in the streets. Here in northern Mexico you will see anything from 5’4 to 6’ tall men on the streets, but the funny thing here is that heightism alone is not the issue, but rather it’s combined with a sort of race and color discrimination. The north part of Mexico interacts a lot with America so its not rare at all to see people ranging from very white to the more typical “brown” from our native Indian ancestors, but down the south people are almost exclusively more brown colored, so that mixed with the known fact that southern people are shorter leads to a lot of discrimination from the north.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people saying “that fucking Oaxacan (from the state of Oaxaca which has some of the shortest male heights in the country) midget” as an insult or heard numerous jokes and teasing being directed towards the shorter, and darker colored man in a social group. To the “higher class” Mexicans, that brown color and shorter height represents a link to our Indian ancestors (who also get MASSIVE discrimination within the few ancient native groups that remain) that we somehow want to leave behind and we look up to the wealthier nations like the U.S. or the UK and everything that they represent (consumerism, tall white people who look like celebrities, fashion trends, music, etc.) I’m a more brown-like colored man even though my father is rather light skinned, and you can see so clearly the social groups that tend to form in, say the universities and other social places. The whiter (and taller) people hang around with each other and the browner shorter people have other groups, this is of course a generalization since there are a lot of exceptions, but in my point of view i keep seeing so much discrimination in job opportunities and social interactions that sometimes it gets me a little angry and wished that we could have a more tolerant society, towards color and height.
Just to keep things in perspective, i was going out with some friends of mine to a club in the upstate area of Nuevo Leon, and we were 2 short brown men, 2 taller white men, 1 tall white woman and 1 shorter brown woman. From the minute we stepped inside you could see the difference in the look of people when we walked by. My shorter girl friend could not find a single guy to dance with in the whole evening, and then got really sad when she was seeing my other friend getting asked out frequently by a lot of guys. Same with us, i was able to find a girl to talk and dance with, but my 2 taller friends were being approached by so many different women that i couldn’t help to feel a little down and jealous. Call it Napoleon complex or whatever you want, but the fact is there is always a social thing with short people and they will not get the same treatment as the rest.
I guess the whole point of this thing is seeing how heightism is not only present, but also gets associated with other attributes such as skin color in certain parts of the world and leads to an extremely nocive discrimination that divides us and faces us against each other. I’m not sure if that will end one day, but it certainly doesn’t help in the development of our very damaged and troubled country.
"I’m a Korean male of about 5’5”, however, I feel like I’ve never been discriminated against like some of the horror stories I’ve been reading about. I was wondering whether or not it’s more socially acceptable to be a short, Asian male than an other race?"
TSC: Maybe there is a slight hedge against heightism for those who are members of cultural out-groups, such as racial minorities, in any given society. However, the same cultural norms seem to apply in Westernized Asian societies - as this clip demonstrates. This is South Korea, where average male height is pretty similar to the United States at 5’9” (where the U.S. is at 5’10”).
Further disclaimer: An individual’s height preferences in dating should not be taken as direct evidence of heightism any more than an individual’s racial preferences in dating should be taken as direct evidence of racism. In other words, intimacy involves a person’s ultimate personal privilege and we shouldn’t apply normative principles of “right and wrong” to people’s sexual desires. HOWEVER, broad statistics as to dating preferences (and especially “requirements”) in a given society can tell us something about the social conditions in that society which would lead to such a phenomenon. So, assuming that society influences broad cultural norms in dating, we can assume a degree of background heightism may be influencing these broad statistics generally.
To recap through analogy: a person’s decision to enter into an interracial marriage tells us nothing about that individual’s views on race. However, a larger proportional share of the population entering into interracial marriages over time may broadly speak to the levels of racism in that society.
Anonymous: Hey, I've been a follower of this blog for awhile now, and I'm appalled at the concept of heightism. I'm a Korean male of about 5'5'', however, I feel like I've never been discriminated against like some of the horror stories I've been reading about. I was wondering whether or not it's more socially acceptable to be a short, asian male than an other race?
This is an interesting question. I haven’t seen any actually empirical evidence to support the assertion that Asian American men would be exposed to less heightism because of a social stereotype that Asian men tend to be shorter than other races. On the surface, it does make some sense though. That is, if your social group tends to “expect” Asian men to be short, then being Asian and short would be less stigmatized because you meet their expectations. Additionally, if you are a racial minority in a society, being a member of an “out group” could initially shield you from some of the affects of heightism because you could be perceived as “that Asian guy” instead of “that short guy”. That is, your status as a “racial out group” could trump your status as a short male.
However, this explanation probably misapplies the nature of heightism. I don’t think heightism is so much about expectations or “being different”. It is ultimately about gender norms and perceptions of power. So while a person’s initial perception of your height may be skewed because of racial stereotypes, I don’t really think that being Asian would shield you from height discrimination generally.
As with most forms of prejudice, heightism can be very subtle. I’ve never had someone run up to me and slap me in the face for being short (though I’ve had my physical safety threatened before). But I’ve often had people say all sorts of awful things about short people generally while I’m standing right there. Most of it is subtle. As Paul Simon might say, "There were incidents and accidents, There were hints and allegations”. Most people are not going to walk up to you and say “I think you are less capable because you are short”, and yet their behavior might indicate such a belief. Even bigots can have social tact.
TSC: I need to post this apology for something I posted just a few days ago. On October 25th, I posted a New York Times article entitled, Taller People Are Happier, Especially if They’re Male. I critiqued the substantive meaning of the data and what it means in terms of social discrimination. However, I failed to point out the blatant bias within the article’s tone and language itself.
For those who didn’t see the original post, the article is reprinted (in part) below:
White People Are Happier, Especially if They’re Male
By CATHERINE MAPRELL
As I wrote recently in an article on the happiest person in America, white people generally lead better lives than other ethnic groups. How much better? Here are two charts showing the typical levels of well-being in 2010 for men of various races, and then for women of various races:
As you can see, there’s a pretty steady relationship between well-being and lighter skin tone for men. The whiter men are, generally speaking, the happier they are. (Remember, as always, correlation is not causation.)
I’ll let the sociobiologists among you out there theorize about why.
Oh. Wait. That’s not right. Something’s off.
Oh well. I’ll let the sociobiologists among you out there figure out what’s different.