The Social Complex

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



Recent comments

  • August 20, 2014 10:05 pm

    This German Shepherd has Dwarfism


    TSC: So, VICE (which normal does pretty interesting articles and very excellent foreign journalism) posted an article about a dwarf German Shepard named “Tiger”.  But that alone isn’t interesting enough for me to talk about it here.  What makes it interesting is the human height shaming the author gratuitously inserted into an otherwise informative piece about dogs and dwarfism. 

    Cuteness aside, German Shepherd dwarves come with various health issues. They face infertility, a shortened life span, and problems with growing skin, teeth and adult fur. They can also become overtly anxious or aggressive. It’s pretty hard to sell a puppy destined for health issues and small man syndrome, so most breeders just euthanize the dwarves a few weeks after birth. This is the fate that Darien Northcote’s vet recommended after her pedigree dog gave birth to six puppies in 2011.

    TSC: Small man syndrome?  I thought we were talking about dogs?  Did the author really need to use a gendered body-shaming slur against humans to describe the dog’s temperament?  And here is the kicker (as pointed out by a fellow /r/short subscriber or reddit)

    JohnGM: [I] Just read the link within that article that talked about the various health issues and no where in that list of health issues does it say anything about the dogs being overtly anxious or more aggressive like they claimed in the article. Not saying they were wrong btw, I don’t know I’m not a vet, just pointing out that the link they used for the possible health issues didn’t include those two issues.

    Is there a modern prejudice in our society that is as widely celebrated as heightism?  And I don’t just mean “accepted”.  I mean, celebrated.

  • January 11, 2014 5:47 am

    The Curse of Short Men: Why Women Reject Them in Dating


    I wonder if passing on short men as potential romantic partners—really, if sexual attraction overall—borders on a moral issue. I always cringe when a person says something that rules out an entire category of people, especially when someone rejects another in a flippant, auto-pilot fashion. “Yeah, sorry,” you can imagine someone saying, “I’ve just never been attracted to short men.” While so many women report this preference, I rarely hear any of them self-monitoring as they do so. In fact, you’d think one would ask herself, Is that fair of me? Is that being mean? Could I be ruling out an entire group of men who could make great partners? 

    As a psychologist, I don’t believe it is mean to deny a romantic chance to entire categories of people, but I do think people should listen to their own reasons why and ask if that narrow window of preference marks the kind of person they want to be. For example, if you see yourself as an open-minded person, you should have an open mind when it comes to dating to the point that you would truly be open to dating a wide range of men: tall, short, funny, and so on.

    Now, my personal belief which stems from my education as a psychologist, my clinical practice, and my own life experience is that people hide behind the belief that sexual attraction works in a prewired way. “I’m just not attracted to Asians,” a female social worker I work with said to me yesterday as I discussed my new article. ”It’s nothing personal,” she said flatly. (It didn’t seem to occur to her that her upbringing in the whitest, least Asian town in Connecticut had anything to do with it.)

  • December 15, 2013 11:46 am

    Why Shorter Men Should Go After Taller Women

    TSC: Full disclose - I was actually interviewed for this article, but nothing I said made it into the final draft (except for maybe a link or two).  However, the article turned out pretty good.  It’s about the best she could have done on the topic when writing a piece for a men’s magazine.   

    Maybe I’ll post the full transcript of that interview one day. 

  • June 26, 2013 6:34 pm

    Discrimination against short men during the Revolutionary War?


    Hi Geoff- I just came across this article on Slate detailing the enlistment criteria for soldiers in the Continental Army. I found it pretty surprising, presuming that men were quite a bit shorter back then than they are today. (click on this historical document to read the article)


    TSC:  This undated sheet, addressed to a “Col. Jackson,”  issues instructions for the enlistment of men in the Continental Army.  And even though we don’t know the exact date of the document, historians believe that it is addressed to Henry Jackson, a commander of various Massachusetts regiments from 1777 to 1784.  According to this letter, “Neither Negroes, Mulattoes, or Indians, shall be enlisted in the Service of the United States.  Every man under five foot six inches in height shall be refused….”

    So apparently, to serve in the Continental Army (at least as a Massachusetts recruit), you had to be a White man who was 5’6” or taller.  This seems especially surprising for those of us who proscribe to a more “regressive theory” of heightism (the idea that heightism is becoming worse over time as our culture becomes more shallow and focused on matters of less substance).  I could find no reliable information as to the average height of Colonial American men compared to today’s average height.  Some sources claim that the average height of a Colonial American man was substantially taller than his British Cousin at 5’9” (where today’s average height is 5’10”).  Other sources cited the Colonial male height at 5’7”.  I’m inclined to believe that Colonial men were quite tall, as the militia could apparently afford to automatically reject any man shorter than 5’6”. 

    One can almost certainly conclude that there could be no legitimate basis for rejecting 5’5” men from military service during the Revolutionary War.  Could short men not hold muskets?  Could we not charge up a hill back then?  A pretty ridiculous question when one considers that the most decorated American Soldier during World War II was 5’5” (Audie Murphy).  And, it’s especially ridiculous when one glances at the requirements for entry into today’s United States Marine Corps.  In order to Join the Marines in the year 2013, you only have to be 5’0” tall.

    So what’s going on here?  

    Perhaps this speaks to the fact that heightism is a social construct that will be manifested to different degrees depending on ones culture.  Perhaps the origins of American culture, the individualistic spirit of Colonial America, was simply a little more hostile towards short men than other places and times.  A European short man could equip himself with armor, join the Crusades, and swing his broadsword in the most horrid of close combat situations; but an American short man was forbidden to hold a rifle and stand in a straight line?

    So I asked the person who submitted this bit of information about what he thought this means for heightism more broadly.  He replied with this enlightening, if not depressing, response:


    I’m pretty surprised. I also assumed that heightism was a recent phenomenon, but it looks like we may be wrong. From what I could dig up on the internet, average height for a British man back then was about 5’5”, so they were limiting their choice to less than 50% of the male population. [Geoff’s aside: not so, American Colonists were much taller than the British by 1776].  It seems ridiculous to maintain such a requirement when you’re trying to scrape together an army. I started to question the validity of the document in the Slate article, until I did a Google search for “continental army” “short men” and found a couple more tidbits…

    Here’s an excerpt from a book called “America for Americans! The Typical American, Thanksgiving Sermon” by John Philip Newman:

    "The Continental Army was an army of plowmen and artisans, poorly armed and poorly clothed. Baron Steuben, when he came to this country with Lafayette to organize our army, declared that the only regularity that he saw was, that the short men were put in front and the tall men put behind, and old Putnam gave him this explanation, that Americans didn’t care about their heads; they only cared about their legs; shelter their legs and they would fight forever."

    "Baron Steuben" in this case refers to Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who was the inspector general of the Continental Army.

    —Is he actually implying that the short guys were used as human shields to protect the taller men?!?


     I’m both interested in and disheartened by this new development. Interested because I had never considered heightism to be a “historical” phenomenon before, just a modern pop culture-driven trend. It certainly opens another avenue of inquiry.
    …and disheartened because it looks like heightism might be a lot more entrenched than we give it credit for. 

    TSC: Well said, my friend.  Well said. 

  • July 19, 2012 7:34 am

    Do short men really have rotten personalities?

    TSC: Why do even anti-heightist articles about short men have to read like a big joke?  Has anyone else noticed that when short men go public against heightism, they often do so in a self-deprecating way?  It’s like they have to humiliate themselves and frame short men as clowns in order to sneak in some basic truths about tolerance and social justice.  I hate articles like these because even though the overall message is positive, most people will only feel more justified in their prejudices because “clearly heightism is funny”. 

    When news of the TomKat split erupted a couple of weeks back, I braced myself for the inevitable. Just how long would it be before the media and the Twittersphere pointed accusing fingers at that mysterious, select group of individuals, that elite corps of which Tom Cruise, David Miscavige, and I are all such prominent members? Not long, as it turned out. Not long at all.

    “Cruise and Miscavige are great friends. They are both short men, like motorbikes and are deeply into Scientology,” screamed the London Independent.

    The Twittersphere was even more direct:

    “Apparently Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes standing on top of the Eiffel Tower. How paranoid do you have to be about your height?” quipped @theLastJedi.

    “Tom Cruise is a creepy little midget. Congrats Katie Holmes, you dodged that bullet,” added @MaceyWaddington.

    How horribly predictable it all is! Whenever things go awry, pundits the world over blame the short guy. Was Tom Cruise attempting to oppress and control his wife and daughter Suri? Quite possibly! Is that because Tom Cruise is a Tom Thumb and must therefore be an ill-intentioned control freak?

    Certainly not.

    Whenever there is perceived oppression, the world pulls out that yardstick—and I do mean yardstick—and starts measuring the oppressor. OK, I understand there are some unfortunate short-equals-bossy precedents. Hitler was dinky, Mussolini was too, and Bono is not exactly the tallest person on the planet. But these examples do not mean that every male under average height is hell-bent on establishing a tyrannical global brand. Yes, the Marquis de Sade was petite. But so was Gandhi.

    From my vantage point—an admittedly low one, since my passport says 5 feet 4½ inches, and I just measured myself and I have lost half an inch in the last 40 years, which is actually a relief since I thought it would be more—the picture is by no means a simple one. The truth of the matter is, there are all kinds of little dudes. Yes, some of us are megalomaniacal, rage-filled Hummel figurines with Napoleon complexes. But only when the situation calls for it! And not all of us have such maniacal tendencies. We short guys are a spectrum, a rainbow. Let’s start at the darkest end… (Read the rest at SLATE)

  • May 16, 2012 11:47 pm

    That sad sad moment when you meet a cute guy but youre taller than him


    -_- i wish i was shorter

    TSC: I consider myself to be a tolerant and understanding cosmopolitan.  A person who tries to learn new things and understand the different perspectives in life.  But, even though this seems to be a common female sentiment, It seems that…


  • April 12, 2012 4:56 pm

    "Society just doesn’t know how to deal with a sexy, independent, fulfilled short male."


  • April 9, 2012 8:47 pm

    Fear of Being a Short Guy

    TSC: This video is a must watch.  It contains the heartfelt fears of a young man coming to terms with the fact that he is not going to grow any taller.  He now has to think about what it means to be a short man in our society and the prospect frightens him.  Watch this video and comment.

    WARNING - While this video may actually be a reflection of this person’s honest feelings, know that his youtube account links to something called “" (which is apparently some sort of a brainwashing cult).  Their members seem to post youtube videos about every topic under the sun; presumably in hopes of making contact with unsuspecting viewers who will visit their associated websites and get sucked into the cult. 

  • April 9, 2012 8:03 pm

    Style for Short Guys

    TSC: Guys, I do not know anything about this author and I haven’t read the book and so I’m not endorsing this.  But it sure looks legit. lets you read the first page of the book and this guy seems sensitive to the unique problems short men face when trying to dress well.  But keep in mind that this same self-described “personal stylist” has also written a similar book for tall men and one for fat men as well.  But that doesn’t automatically mean that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about in regards to short men.  I might actually buy this book because at least the advice given here seems counter to conventional wisdom. 

    Also, the language and opinions used in the one page preview are frank and honest from the perspective of the author.  But I wouldn’t describe it as anti-heightist.  At one point, he suggests that much of the stigma aimed at short men is imagined by the target. 


    Are you a short man who has ever felt pre-pubescent, weak or unmanly? You need this book.

    "Style for Short Guys" is a short, simple, illustrated guide to becoming a well-dressed short man. It documents the fundamental factors that often make short men appear unattractive and teaches the reader how to use clothing to create a strong, masculine figure.

    When short men want to learn how to dress well, they often turn to blogs, forums and self-proclaimed “fashion experts” for help, all of whom churn out the same hackneyed advice (“Wear vertical stripes!”; “Don’t wear horizontal lines!”; “Wear platform shoes!”) while offering little explanation as to why these rules exist.

    This book is different. Instead of giving a quick list of DOs and DON’Ts, Style for Short Guys discusses how to normalise your body’s proportions, how clothes are supposed to fit and which styles short men can wear to make their bodies look as attractive as possible.