The Social Complex

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


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  • 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.

  • February 8, 2012 8:18 pm

    Reader Submission: 5’9” is not short!

    TSC: Received this submission from “Braeden” today. 

    I’m tired of people saying comments like “5’8” is tiny,” or “5’9” is so short.” Just because you’re used to being around six-footers doesn’t mean 5’9” is short. The average height for men in the US is 69.2 inches, which is basically 5’9.” If 5’8” is short, is 5’10” tall? 

    Height should be like this, statistically:

    • Short: under 5’7”
    • Average: 5’7”-5’11”
    • Tall: over 5’11”

    But people think it’s like this:

    • Short: 5’9” and under
    • Average: 5’10”-6’1”
    • Tall: 6’2” and up.

    This is probably due to a few factors:

    • people being around tall family members or friends and getting used to their height. 
    • "Short Man Invisibility Glasses": A term used on another site to mean someone only sees tall men and ignores short men
    • Men lie about their height. a 5’9” guy might say 5’11”, making people think 5’11” is average. 

    Next time you hear someone say 5’9” is short, tell them it’s average!

    TSC: Interesting commentary, but an argument could be made that it misses the point.  A better observation is to say that the boundaries between “short” and “tall” should be rendered meaningless.  It shouldn’t be considered an insult for a 5’9” man to be identified as “short”.  The reason that this is considered insulting is because we (as society, collectively) know that the concept of “tall” is associated with social privileged, while the concept of “short” is associated with social stigma or even intrinsic inferiority.  The anti-heightist perspective is to say that height shouldn’t matter because it has no meaning beyond its social construct. 

  • January 24, 2012 1:09 am

    Reader Submission: Height of George Washington

    Hi, greetings from Brazil! I’m a regular visitor to your blog and I congratulate you in this wonderful work. Well, I’m writing because this weekend I was watching the HBO series “John Adams” (Part I) and one particular dialogue striked me. John Adams says to Benjamin Franklin about Colonel George Washington: “A natural leader!”, and Benjamin Franklin replies: “Well, he’s always the tallest man in the room. He’s bound to end up leading… something.” I don’t know if Benjamin Franklin actually said that, but if he did, this is a powerful evidence of the relation between heightism and the origins of the USA.

    TSC: Thanks for writing in, my friend.  I am familiar with the “John Adams” HBO series (a great miniseries, by the way), and I remember the scene to which you refer.  I’m not sure if there is any evidence within the historical record that Ben Franklin actually ever said that about General Washington.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this is an example of the writers of the show taking liberties with the dialogue in order to convey what people might have said about Washington because he was so tall. 

    I suspect that most national governments have based some of their leadership selection on heightist ideals.  But that’s no different than anything else.  Most governments also decided leadership based on race and gender as well.  The United States is not special in that regard.  And in our defense, the fourth President of the United States, James Madison, was 5’4” tall.  Indeed a great short man.  He also was the author of the lion’s share of the U.S. Constitution. 

    So, yes - our first President’s tall height worked to his social advantage.  But, it was a short man who provided the intellectual political framework for the Nation.  

  • December 22, 2011 3:50 pm

    Geoff’s Heroes

    TSC: Received an e-mail yesterday from a woman who chanced upon this blog.  She is a short woman who has had to deal with heightism all of her life and so she wanted to share some of her experiences.  It’s these types of perceptions and silent bigotries that we are trying to challenge here.  So here is Lili’s e-mail in its entirity (posted with her permission).  She is one of Geoff’s Heroes.  

    Hi Geoffrey,

    I’m a new reader of yours, who stumbled upon your website through Sociological Images. I haven’t dug through a whole ton yet, but from what I’ve read, I see a lot of your posts are about prejudice against short men (or conversely, tall women). Which is great. Anything to expose the very (unfortunately) socially acceptable practices of body-type discrimination is a good thing in my book. However, seeing as you discuss a lot of readers’ experiences and point of views, I thought I’d just throw my two cents in there about my own experiences with heightism. 


    I’m a short female of 4’10”, though I am usually prone to say “oh I’m 5 feet with shoes on” to satisfy society. Not that I need to. 


    Just as men are expected to be tall, women are expected to be short. I’ve frequently had men tell me that I’m cuter/sexier/more attractive because I’m short. I do not find this to be a compliment. It just makes me feel worse that I live in a world where my random genetics dictate my desirability, and how my taller female friends are made to feel bad because they happen to be “normal” height.


    Let me tell you, despite societal norms, being a short woman is not all it’s cracked up to be. I unfortunately happen to also have a young looking face. (Again, why do I feel the need to say unfortunately? Even someone who actively tries to push against societal ideals can feel bound by them…) It’s an unfortunate trait purely because of all the troubles it has given me. Troubles from the rest of society. As a very short and petite woman with a young face, you can image what life as a 20-something must be like. I frequently ask strangers how old they think I look, and all I can say is apparently I’ve looked 12 ever since I was 12.


    Now most people (women) tell me what I blessing I have, how I’ll love this when I’m 40. But this just shows further prejudice in terms of age. Why can’t a 40 year old woman be proud of being and LOOKING 40? I also do not consider this a compliment.


    Future blessing or not, appearing 12 now has been nothing but a hassle. Anytime I wish to purchase alcohol, first I’m given looks of horror, then my ID is scrutinized for 20 minutes. I can not go to a casino without first having to check in with security so they can inform the camera-watchers that a “child-like woman” will be on the floor for the day. Even going out to dinner can be a nightmare, as I’m either straight up handed a children’s menu, or the host/ess looks down at me, waist bent to be at my “short level”, and asks in a high pitch tone if I like to color. 


    Upon hearing my polite (through gritted teeth) response and mature tone of voice, I’m flooded with a sea of shocked expressions and sorries. However, despite their sincere apologies, the repeated discrimination is still demeaning and tiring.


    Being discriminated against because I’m short/thought to be a child in itself is appalling. I’ve been cut in line, ignored when I wish to purchase something or ask a question, shoved aside at store shelves so a “taller adult” can pick what they want… it’s ridiculous. Assuming these people think I’m a child, is this how we treat the children in our world? Is the lack of respect because I look like a child, or just because I’m shorter than everyone else?


    Needless to say, even if being a more desired, extra feminine woman because of my height was something I was proud of, it still would not be worth the constant discrimination. I almost dread the day I have children, for I can already imagine the looks and comments I’ll receive as a “pregnant 12 year old.”


    So in a way, heightism really affects everyone, just as prejudice against overweight people makes thin people just as self conscious. I’m sure tall men have had their share of issues… if anything, just dealing with society’s pressures to have a strong, dominating personality to reflect their tall height must be a chore. 


    It’s just too frustrating to properly articulate (especially for 2 in the morning) how awful it is to have come so far as a society, yet still be held back by such basic flaws. Everyone is different, we really have no “normal” anymore… and yet discrimination can occur for the most minute differences. As a woman who is also short and physically disabled, not a day goes by that I’m not discriminated against in some way.


    Basically, to conclude this by now ranting email, I would just like to thank you for your website. I greatly respect and appreciate anyone who stands up against prejudices of any kind, especially one as infrequently addressed as heightism. It is because of these societal pressures and prejudices that I wish to become a lawyer one day soon. It’s only unfortunate that being a short, female, and disabled lawyer will bring me about a million new discrimination headaches…


    Thank you for my new favorite blog site,


    Alia (Lili) Green

  • November 9, 2011 10:06 pm

    Reader Submission: End of the tall domination

    TSC: Got this as a reader submission.  I almost didn’t post it.  I don’t know if this is a Troll Post, or a genuine post from a 6’0” guy who “gets it”.  I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    I hate when tall men think they’re so great just because they are tall. Being tall is not an accomplishment. I think the popularity of sports in the US contributes to the “tall is better” mentality. People admire tall athletes; men want to be like them and women want to be with them. Women’s height requirements can be nonsensical; a 4’11” woman saying 6’0”+ is insane. Short men should not wish to be taller because society is causing this. If there was no heightism, there would be less desire to be tall. Be proud of being short, don’t add inches to your height and lie. There are many advantages to being short that are not recognized because of our tall-worshipping society. Travel is easier, you can fit in any car or plane seat. You don’t bump your head on low-hanging objects or shower heads. I’m 6’0 1/2” and I don’t suscribe to the mentality of tall men being better. I never got along well with tall guys; they were always talking about sports. Most of my friends were shorter guys. End the domination of the tall! I consider myself in the average height category.

  • October 28, 2011 11:04 am

    Reader Submission: Height

    Anonymous: I would still say that people associate height with masculinity. But then if you have a nationality such as the Dutch which are considered to be one of the tallest, are they considered to be more masculine than the Colombians to choose a random example?

    TSC: That is an interesting question, but I believe that it ignores some very important variables.  First of all, we cannot conflate the perceptions of a country’s society with that of her Government.  So are you asking about our society’s (USA) perception of Dutch and Colombian society or of the Dutch and Colombian Governments?

    Surely, as Governments are political institutions as opposed to social entities, the height/gender analysis will not apply.

    But even applying such an analysis to entire societies is unwise because the height/gender analysis really assumes interpersonal interactions.  Interactions which are impossible between geographically distant societies. 

    huuuum…

    So ultimately, the answer to your question is… “I don’t know”.  Does anyone want to take this?

  • October 21, 2011 10:10 am

    Reader Submission: Muggsy Bouges - shortest NBA player of all time

    TSC: Another great Reader Submission.  Keep them coming everyone!

    Muggsy Bouges had a listed height of 5’3” (listed height tend to be exaggerated so he was probably closer to 5’1”).

    Here is a video highlighting some of the initial prejudice he faced being signed on as a novelty act. But later overcame by becoming a great play maker.


  • October 14, 2011 12:26 am

    Reader Submission: Would you date a short guy?

    TSC: Here is a reader submission of a youtube video of some girl who is “proving her femininity" by eliciting agreement that short men are not worthy of romantic consideration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tku-go4wvhY&feature=player_embedded

    She states in her video that a 5’5 makes her height cut.

    She then talks about a guy who is a little shorter than her 5’2 1/2”.  Why must this women single out a very small group of men and tell them they are not good enough for her. Although I personally just make her 5’5” inch cut off I think her attack is worse than if she made a video laughing and telling us how all guys under 5’10” were icky.