More on getting the ‘short end of the stick’

I posted a note here earlier about heightism, and was asked on another forum to expand upon the issues. I’ve included my updated note below.

I’ll start by noting that I’m 5’6″. I often have a hard time finding pants that fit, and I end up having to have practically any dress pants I purchase hemmed. I’ve only dated a taller woman once in my life, and though she and I had a good sense of humor and confidence about the whole thing, I can’t tell you how many looks and often rude / un-funny jokes we got. Getting first dates — online or offline — has been considerably more frustrating for me than for my less height-challenged friends. I also had the uncomfortable feeling during job interviews via business school that — despite higher qualifications than many taller peers — I was given the ‘short end of the stick’ so to speak.

Via articles from reputable sources, I’ve learned that it’s “not just me.”

And it?s not all in our heads. As reported in their book, Stature and Stigma (Lexington Books, 1987), psychologists Leslie Martel and Henry Biller asked several hundred university students to rate men of varying heights on many different criteria. Both men and women respondents (short and tall) rated the short men (between five-foot-two and five-foot-five) less mature, less positive, less secure, less masculine, less successful, and less capable. Furthermore, according to a 1999 British study, men under five-foot-six have incomes about 10 percent below those earned by men about six feet tall, while the shorter men were also seven percent less likely to be married. These and other statistics reflect what short people, short men in particular, call ?heightism,? the prejudice that nobody takes seriously.
article from the Portland Phoenix

Consequently, I’m not asking for federal laws, nor am I asking for sympathy. Instead, I’m just bringing up this topic so people are at least aware of the issues.

Women prefer taller guys. Duh :D. Much of this is rooted in evolutionary preferences, so there is some truth when women protest “but I can’t help liking taller guys!” See also this WebMD article.

The preference is far from minor. A few years ago, I created two test accounts on a dating site with stats identical excepting height. The 5’10” guy had more than 15x the matches of the 5’6″ guy. Lest you think the difference is only online, go to a bar and — forgive my bluntness — watch ugly tall guys get picked up much more quickly than average or good looking short guys.

Oh, and this transcript from 20/20 is both humorous and — for us short guys — a bit depressing. In an admittedly not-very-scientific but still interesting study, women chose to date the tall guys in almost every instance, except when they were, say, child molesters.


From an article in The Economist:

Politics. In all but three American presidential elections this century, the taller man has won. By itself this might be a coincidence. And of course some short politicians thrive (examples include France’s Francois Mitterrand and Britain’s Harold Wilson). But the pattern is still clear, and is also found in:

Business. A survey in 1980 found that more than half the chief executives of America’s Fortune 500 companies stood six feet tall or more. As a class, these wekepei were a good 2 inches taller than average; only 3% were peritsi, 57′ or less. Other surveys suggest that about 90% of chief executives are of above-average height. Similarly for:

Professional status. Looking at several professions, one study found that people in high-ranking jobs ‘were about two inches taller than those down below, a pattern that held even when comparing men of like educational and socioeconomic status. Senior civil servants in Britain, for instance, tend to be taller than junior ones. Shorter people also have worse:

Jobs. Give job recruiters two invented resumes that have been carefully matched except for the candidates’ height, as one study did in 1969. Fully 72% of the time, the taller man is ‘hired’. And when they are hired, they tend also to earn rather more:

Money. In 1994 James Sargent and David Blanchflower, of America’s Dartmouth College, analyzed a sample of about 6,000 male Britons whose progress was monitored from birth to early adulthood. Short teenaged boys made less money when they became young adults (aged 23) than their taller peers – even after other attributes, such as scores on ability tests or parents’ social status, were factored out. For every four inches of height in adolescence, earnings went up more than 2% in early adulthood. Another survey, of graduates of the University of Pittsburgh, found that those who were 62′ or taller received starting salaries 12% higher than those under six feet.

At least as kids, the shorter folks tend to be bullied more frequently than the taller ones.

My comparison of this was not received well in a recent discussion I had on large forum, but I wanted to note that I’m not the only person who has linked the issues. Also from The Economist:

In general, the kinds of discrimination worth worrying about should have two characteristics. First, bias must be pervasive and systematic. Random discrimination is mere diversity of preference, and comes out in the wash. But if a large majority of employers prefers whites, for instance, then non-whites’ options in life are sharply limited. And second, bias must be irrational: unrelated to the task at hand. If university mathematics faculties discriminate against the stupid, that may not seem fair (not everyone can master set theory); but it is sensible.

In politically correct terms, people who share an unusual characteristic that triggers pervasive and irrational aversion have a strong claim to be viewed as a vulnerable minority group. Is the discrimination against SHRIMPs, then, pervasive? Plainly so. Is it irrational? Except in a few rare cases in which height might affect job performance, obviously. Is it hurtful? Just ask any of the parents who clamor to put their little boys on growth hormones. Will it disappear of its own accord, as people become more enlightened? Be serious. Try to imagine that a century hence, when genetic engineering allows designer children, parents will queue up for shorter boys.

In some respects, indeed, SHRIMPs have it worse than members of ethnic minorities. Jews, Asians and other ethnics often favor each other for jobs, marriages and the rest. If they are disadvantaged within the majority culture, they may at least be advantaged in their own. But short men are disfavored by more or less everybody, including other short men. If they want to flee, they need to find another planet.

Yet – no country seems to have any anti-discrimination protections for SHRIMPs. America now has laws that ban discrimination against 70% or more of its population, including women, the elderly, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific islanders, Aleuts, Indians, and the handicapped – extending to people with back problems or glasses. Britain bans discrimination against women and nearly every ethnic or cultural group, Rastafarians excepted. But SHRIMPs? The whole issue, if it ever arises at all, is simply laughed off.

What are the ‘solutions’ to this issue?
I don’t think there are any, frankly. The situation is unfortunate, but I don’t see it changing any time soon.







5 responses to “More on getting the ‘short end of the stick’”

  1. Matt Hendrickson (5'7") Avatar
    Matt Hendrickson (5’7")

    Right on, my not-so-much-vertically-challenged-but-average-brother! Average-height citizens of the world, unite!

  2. Anita Rowland Avatar

    I’ve always been non-heightist, since my mom was tall (six feet!) and my dad short (5’2” or so). Whatever problems they may have had were certainly not due to that height difference.

    There’s a wide height range among my usual dance partners, from a guy who is the same height as me to Sterling who is six foot six or so.

  3. Nkonye Oyewusi Avatar
    Nkonye Oyewusi

    I would like to disagree with the comment ‘short people are bullied more frequenctly than tall people. I’m a 6’ 2” black female who has been bullied all my life and form my experience, bullies will use anything that’s ‘different’ about you as an excuse to bully you.

  4. Jessica Avatar

    I’m 5’10 and I’ve always liked taller guys. I wouldn’t even consider a guy who wasn’t at least my height. Yes I was quite the heightist. But few months ago I met a really awesome guy who is 3 inches shorter than me. We are in a relatioship and very happy together. And also it’s not like I ‘settled’ cause he’s the only guy I can get. I’m attractive and have plenty of guys (tall and short) that like me.

  5. Roy Avatar

    Regarding personal safety, where are short males placed? Between numbers…Assistance apriciated.

    Most safe: (High – Low)

    1.Man (Alpha Male 178CM+)
    2.Old Short males
    3.Old Women
    4.Young Women


What do you think?