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Heightism



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Discrimination Portal

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Heightism is a form of discrimination based on height. In principle it can refer to unfavorable treatment of either unusually tall or short people.

Additional recommended knowledge

Contents

Heightism and bullying

Research shows that shorter people are more likely to be victims of bullying.[1][2] 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.[3]

Heightism in employment

Some jobs do require or at least favor tall people, including some manual labor jobs and many professional sports. U.S. military pilots have to be 64 to 77 inches tall with a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.[4] 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.[3][5] Generally, height discrimination takes the form of covert discrimination, with people being passed over for promotion or denied jobs in the first instance.

A survey of Fortune 500 CEO height in 2005 revealed that they were on average 6 feet tall, which is 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.[6] Equally significantly, similar surveys have uncovered that less than 3% of CEOs were below 5′7″ in height, and that 90% of CEOs are of above average height.[7]

Some epidemiological studies have shown that intelligence is positively correlated, albeit very slightly, with height in human populations (see Height and intelligence). This does not imply that many short people are not highly intelligent, or that changes in physical height have a direct effect on cognitive ability, because intelligence is believed to be influenced by many different factors, and individuals with a wide range of intelligence can be observed at any given height; it may be that good childhood nutrition tends to result in greater adult height, and good childhood nutrition also tends to result in higher adult intelligence. A recent study using four data sets from the US and UK found that after controlling for difference in cognitive test scores, there was no detectable independent effect of height itself on adult earnings, but it indicates that intelligence influences earnings. Taller people, on average are more intelligent because of environmental factors such as nutrition during childhood, also influences intelligence. The study concludes that on average, taller people do not earn more just because of their physical height.[8][9]

However, others believe that height has a significant independent impact, pointing to specific instances of height-based discrimination.[10] Surveys of attitudes do reveal that people both perceive and treat people of shorter stature as inferior,[11] and that economic differentials exist which may be the result of height discrimination.[12] The relationship between height, cognitive ability, and discrimination based on height remains a subject of debate.

Heightism in politics

Short candidates are disadvantaged 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 also shown that they are on average several inches taller than the U.S. population at large.[13] 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.

Non-electoral politics are more difficult to study as outcomes based on height are more difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, a number of powerful dictators have been below average height. Examples include Engelbert Dollfuss (4′11″; 1,50m), Deng Xiaoping (5′0″; 1,52m), Kim Jong Il (5′3″; 1.60m), Nikita Khrushchev (5′3″; 1.60m), Francisco Franco (5′4″; 1.63m), and Josef Stalin (5′5″; 1.65m). Contrary to popular impression, Napoleon Bonaparte at 5′6″ (1.68m) and Adolf Hitler at 5′8″ (1.73m) were both within the average height range for their times and places.

In the United Kingdom, the influential Spitting Image satirical television series depicted David Steel as a midget, and this has been credited with undermining his political career[1].

Heightism and conflict

Heightism is cited as one of the underlying causes of the Rwandan Genocide, in which approximately one million people were killed. It is believed that one of the reasons that political power was conferred to the minority Tutsis by the exiting Belgians was because they were taller and therefore (in the eyes of the Belgians) considered superior and more suited to governance.[14]

Heightism in dating and marriage

Heightism may also 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.[15][16] 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.[17]

Conversely, studies have shown that women of below average height are more likely to be married and have children than women of above average height. Some reasons which have been suggested for this situation include earlier fertility of shorter women, and that a shorter woman makes her partner feel taller in comparison and therefore more masculine.[18]

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.

Heightism in the media

In the media, heightism can take the form of making fun of short men in ways that would be unseemly if directed at skin color or weight (especially female weight). Examples of characters whose short stature is exploited for comic value are:

  • Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air
  • George Constanza from Seinfeld
  • Lord Farquaad from Shrek
  • Homer Stokes from O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Bob from Becker
  • Bob 'Bulldog' Briscoe from Frasier
  • Louie De Palma from Taxi (played by Danny DeVito, who is only 5 ft, or 1.52 m tall)
  • Bud Bundy from Married... with Children (played by David Faustino, who is only 5 ft 3 inches, or 1.60 m tall)
  • Radar O'Reilly from M*A*S*H
  • Spence Olchin from The King of Queens
  • Kerry Hennessy from the TV series 8 Simple Rules
  • Gimli (played by John Rhys-Davies, who is 6 ft 1 inch, or 1.85m tall) and other dwarves from The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Edward Elric from the anime Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Ripto of the videogame series Spyro the Dragon

The portrayal of short men in the media is in general negative. Short men are either ridiculously unsuccessful in regards to career and/or romance (e.g. Spence Olchin and Bud Bundy) or they are unlikeable tyrants in need of compensating for "something" (e.g. Lord Farquaad). A notable and rare exception are roles played by Michael J. Fox (especially Mike Flaherty from the TV series Spin City, where a short man is portrayed as an attractive and likable person, who is successful both in romance and career).

In 1987 the BBC comedy series "A Small Problem" imagined a totalitarian society in which people under 5 ft. tall were systematically discriminated against. The programme attracted considerable criticism and complaints which accused the writers of reinforcing prejudice and of using offensive terms; the writers responded that their intention had been to show all prejudice was stupid and that height was chosen randomly. [19]

The "Archaeology Today" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus deals with heightism[20] in which an interviewer humorously admits to assessing his subject’s credibility based on their height.

In a 2006 cartoon episode of Family Guy, the second coming of Jesus is depicted, with Jesus very obviously being much shorter than the (modern) crowd he speaks to. In the show, this causes uncertainty and surprise among the crowd. In the cartoon series Invader Zim, the alien race of the Irken had a class system based entirely on height, the empire being ruled by those of the greatest stature, literally referred to as the Almighty Tallest.

Similarly, shorter men are often denied leading roles. Although some famous cinema actors such as Alan Ladd and Tom Cruise have been short in real life, in their fictional depictions they have been presented as taller. Randy Newman's song "Short People" deals with heightism in a satirical, light-hearted manner as a protest against bigotry in general. Nevertheless, some people find this song offensive.[21]

Height discrimination legislation

Currently, there is one state in the United States of America, Michigan, that prohibits height discrimination.[22] There is pending legislation introduced by Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing which would add Massachusetts to the list.[23] Two municipalities currently prohibit height discrimination: Santa Cruz, California[24] and San Francisco, California[25]. The District of Columbia prohibits discrimination based on personal appearance[26]. Ontario, Canada prohibits height discrimination under the human rights code[27]. Victoria, Australia prohibits discrimination based on physical features under the Equal Opportunity Act of 1995[28].

Examples of successful legal battles pursued against height discrimination in the workplace include a 2002 Chinese case involving highly qualified applicants being turned down for jobs at a bank because they were considered too short[29]; a 2005 Swedish case involving an unfair height requirement for employment implemented by Volvo car company[30]; and a 1999 case involving a Kohler Company informal practice not to consider women who applied for jobs unless they were at least 5 feet 4 inches tall[31]. Height requirements for employment which are not a bona fide occupational requirement are becoming more and more uncommon.

References

  1. ^ Science Blog: “Short children more likely to be bullied at school”
  2. ^ “Short children are bullied more than normal sized ones”
  3. ^ a b University of Pennsylvania, Arts and Sciences: “The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height”
  4. ^ U.S. Air Force ROTC: Admissions requirements
  5. ^ University of Essex: “Beauty, Stature and the Labour Market: A British Cohort Study” (PDF)
  6. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: “So Much for That Merit Raise: The Link between Wages and Appearance”
  7. ^ "Short Guys Finish Last" The world's most enduring form of discrimination. The Economist, December 23, 1995
  8. ^ Slate.com: “Short End: Tall people Earn More Because They’re Smarter”
  9. ^ Anne Case, Christina Paxson. “Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes”. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 12466, August 2006
  10. ^ Blogspot.com: “Princeton Study Coorelates [sic] Height and Intelligence”
  11. ^ The Gallup Poll: “Perception or Reality? The Effect of Stature on Life Outcomes”
  12. ^ Short Persons Support: “Does Appearance Matter in the Labour Market?”
  13. ^ The Straight Dope: “Does the taller candidate always win the election?”
  14. ^ The Exile: “Burundi: Heightism rears its ugly head”
  15. ^ Miami University of Ohio: “Don’t Want No Short, Short Man: The Study Of Height, Power, and Mate Selection”
  16. ^ FindArticles.com: “Tall Men Do Get The Girl — Brief Article”
  17. ^ Short Persons Support: “Personals Analyzer”
  18. ^ BBC News: “Tall men ‘top husband stakes’”
  19. ^ A Small Problem in BBC Comedy Guide.
  20. ^ Stanford University Metamedia: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”
  21. ^ Short Persons Support: “Music”
  22. ^ Text of the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976
  23. ^ Text (PDF) of Massachusetts House bill 3752, 2006
  24. ^ Chapter 9.83 of the City of Santa Cruz code – “Prohibition against Discrimination”, 1992.
  25. ^ Text of Compliance Guidelines To Prohibit Weight and Height Discrimination; San Francisco Administrative Code Chapters 12A, 12B and 12C and San Francisco Municipal/Police Code Article 33, July 26, 2001.
  26. ^ Text District of Columbia Human Rights Act
  27. ^ Text Ontario, Canada Human Rights Code
  28. ^ Text Victoria, Australia Equal Opportunity Act of 1995
  29. ^ Chinese Height Discrimination Case
  30. ^ Volvo Car Company Height requirement for employment
  31. ^ Kohler Corp. Gender Discrimination Case

See also

 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Heightism". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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