(FULL DISCLOSURE AND TRIGGER WARNING: Do not read this if you are sent into an emotional tailspin by discussions of innate evolutionary height disparities among human beings. The author of this article is 5’11”, which places him only slightly above the average for Americans of his gender and race. On average, white American males are slightly taller than black American males, and both groups are taller than Mexican-American males, although you probably already knew that, at least about the Mexicans. On average, all three groups of males are taller than females of any race for reasons which are undoubtedly caused by intersectional issues of oppression, nutrition, capitalism, colonialism, white privilege, and patriarchy. Monsanto is also probably largely to blame. As we all know, any measurable disparity between human groups is strictly the result of social forces rather than biological ones, and if you disagree, we will start a Change.org petition to have you fired from your job, you fucking hateful asshole subhuman piece of shit.)
In our ongoing quest to annihilate oppression and unfairness wherever we imagine it to be, have we perhaps been shortsighted? Have we neglected one perennially mocked group simply because they may have flown in under our radar? Is this a case where we can’t see the forest because of the shrubs?
Heightism is real. Or at least it’s a real word coined in 1971 by sociologist Saul Feldman, who at press time was unavailable to be measured. He delivered a paper with the unwieldy title of “The presentation of shortness in everyday life—height and heightism in American society: Toward a sociology of stature” to the American Psychological Association, and it’s not known whether he had to stand on a stack of telephone books to deliver his speech. (Back then, interestingly enough, the average American male was two inches shorter than he is now, so although we appear to be making progress, we need to address the race and gender gaps before we can even pretend to have achieved Height Justice in the USA.)
Pint-sized British politician John Bercow, who may be able to do the limbo rock standing up since he measures a diminutive 5’6”, recently likened criticism of the vertically challenged to racism and homophobia:
Whereas nobody these days would regard it as acceptable to criticise someone on grounds of race or creed or disability or sexual orientation, somehow it seems to be acceptable to comment on someone’s height, or lack of it.
Bercow has repeatedly been mocked by political opponents for his height deficiencies, at one point being smeared as a “stupid, sanctimonious dwarf.” Although he claims he was “never bothered about being short,” methinks the pocket-sized pol doth protest too much.
Some studies claim that on average, a man’s wages increase for every additional inch in his height. Yet this tragic “wage gap” gets roughly the same amount of attention as a 5’3” male standing alone in a ballroom with no one willing to be his dance partner. Isn’t it time we also called out the phrase “tall, dark, and handsome” as being innately discriminatory toward short, ugly white guys?
This article quotes a 5’4” lonely Ohioan named Jeff who bemoans the fact that if he were fat he could exercise and diet, while if he were ugly, he could rely on plastic surgery to reverse the savagery that nature had visited upon his visage. But since he is short, there is currently no surgical resource for what is essentially a disability of attractiveness.
That may be sad—at least if you’re short—but it’s also true. I’m reminded of a joke that Catskills comic Freddie Roman once told at the expense of Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander (who is 5’5”) at a roast. It went something along the lines of, “Mr. Alexander, you are living proof that all of the wealth, power, and fame in the world cannot buy height.”
For now, we can only hope and pray that science will soon find a cure for the small fry among us. Keep hope alive, short people—there’s a light at the top of the tunnel.