Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Short people of the world unite
Heightism is a form of discrimination based on height. In principle it can refer to unfavorable treatment of either unusually tall or short people; however in practice discrimination against shorter persons and in favor of taller persons is much more common. What a surprise.
Heightism starts in childhood as research shows that shorter people are more likely to be victims of bullying. Because bullying during childhood and adolescence often undermines the victim’s self-esteem, some researchers speculate that the lower levels of achievement of shorter people (particularly men) in later life may be partly or largely explained by this lower self esteem rather than by discrimination. The message here is this: If you have a short kid and you want them to have even a fighting chance in life you've got two options: 1) Load them up with growth hormones, or 2) Teach them how to kick a tall person's ass.
Heightism continues once short people enter the workforce. Some jobs do require or at least favor tall people, including some manual labor jobs and many professional sports. These exceptions noted, in the great majority of cases a person’s height would not seem to have an effect on how well they are able to perform their job. Nevertheless, studies have shown that short people are paid less than taller people, with disparities similar in magnitude to the race and gender gaps. A survey of Fortune 500 CEO height in 2005 revealed that they were on average 6 feet tall, which is approximately 3 inches taller than the average American man. Fully 30% of these CEOs were 6 foot 2 inches tall or more; in comparison only 3.9% of the overall United States population is of this height. Equally significantly, similar surveys have uncovered that less than 3% of CEOs were below 5′7″ in height. Ninety percent of CEOs are of above average height. Some people believe that this data is purely coincidental (tall people of course), but others believe that height has a significant independent impact on economic success, pointing to specific instances of height-based discrimination. Surveys of attitudes do reveal that people both perceive and treat people of shorter stature as inferior, and that economic differentials exist which may be the result of height discrimination. The relationship between height and discrimination based on height remains a subject of great debate. But I think everyone can agree that a majority of the time short people get stuck sucking the perverbial hind teet in the workforce.
Heightism also plays a role in government as taller candidates have a proven advantage in electoral politics, at least in the United States (where statistics are available for study). Of the 43 U.S. Presidents, only five have been more than an inch below average height. Moreover, of the 54 U.S. presidential elections only 13 have been won by the shorter candidate, and only 11 times has the shorter candidate received more popular (as opposed to electoral) votes. Quantitative studies of U.S. Senators and Governors have shown that they are on average several inches taller than the U.S. population at large. During the 2004 election, some anti-Bush artwork and political cartoons depicted him as much shorter than he actually stood, favoring Kerry, who was taller. Clearly heightism is a real issue in the United States. So what is being done to deal with it? Not much. Currently, there is one state in the United States of America, Michigan, that prohibits height discrimination. There is pending legislation introduced by Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing which would add Massachusetts to the list. Two municipalities currently prohibit height discrimination: Santa Cruz, California and San Francisco, California. The District of Columbia prohibits discrimination based on personal appearance. And that's it. Surprising? Not really when you consider that tall people are running this country.
Adding insult to injury heightism also seems to be a factor in dating preferences. For most women, the height of a man is a major factor in sexual attractiveness. The greater reproductive success of taller men is attested to by studies indicating that taller men are more likely to be married and to have more children, except in societies with severe gender imbalances caused by war. Quantitative studies of woman-for-men personal advertisements have shown strong preference for tall men, with a large percentage indicating that a man significantly below average height was unacceptable. It is unclear and debated as to the extent to which such preferences are innate or are the function of a society in which height discrimination impacts on socio-economic status. Whatever the case may be if you're a short guy fighting for the affections of a woman, and your adversaries are tall, you're pretty much f-ed.
So what can be done to reverse the plight of the short man? Things don't look so good I'm sad to say. If it seems like people are getting progressively taller its because they are. In the 1920's @ 70% of the U.S. male population was under 5'9" tall. By the 1990's just 46% of the U.S. male population was under 5'9"(a decrease of 24%). It appears that we short men are a dying breed. Natural selection has been slowly weeding us out of the population for the past century now. But all hope is not lost. By uniting against the tall man to fight heightism, together we can make a difference. Solidarity my short brothers and sisters. Below is your call to action:
First off when you come across a tall child say something to demean or humiliate him in front of his friends. Call him gigantor or freakboy or some other moniker that will stick with the other kids to help damage his self-esteem. This will level the playing field for all the short kids with height related self-esteem issues.
Secondly, if you're ever in a position to hire someone and the qualifications of the candidates are comparable - go with the short guy. Hell - even if the short guy's less qualified hire him anyway. It already happens all the time with affirmative action so where's the harm?
Thirdly when it comes time to vote don't worry about the political affiliations of the candidates or where they stand on the issues, vote purely on their stature. Pretty much all politicians are unscrupulous liars anyway, so vote for the short guy. Do you think Ross Perot would have taken us to war in the Middle East?
Lastly when it comes to dating and marriage don't put so much emphasis on height. Take the time to get to know us and you'll start to see that short guys are no different than tall guys except we wear smaller clothes and tend to get lost in crowds more easily.
Short people of the world unite. Together we can help end heightism and create a better country for future generations of the vertically challenged.