Is Heightism Real?

Throughout most of primary and secondary school, I was significantly taller than most others my age. Around age 16 everyone caught up and then surpassed me in height. Now in college I’ve begun to notice that I’m short (about 5’8", although I hit 5’9" a couple years ago), which at first was quite a shock since I had always felt that I was above average height. In reality, most of my friends and family have been shorter than I am, so my self-perception has been skewed. College has given me a much wider social context within which to frame myself.

Now I’m seeing statistics that show a big disparity in annual income between shorter men and taller men, and I’m discovering that taller politicians tend to beat shorter opponents. Both of these stats effect me because I’m counting on maximizing my income after graduation so that I can finance a career in politics later on.

Usually these differences in success between shorter and taller men are attributed to heightism, the implication being that taller men discriminate against shorter men on the basis of height, leading to shorter men being less successful. What’s suspicious is that I’ve yet to see anyone back up the suggestion that outright discrimination is at work against men of lesser, but not abnormal, stature. In Hollywood it goes without saying that shorter dudes won’t generally do as well, but that has little relevance to most short guys. In other contexts, there may be other contributing factors independent of discrimination.

Speaking from experience, I’ve observed that shorter guys typically appear less confident and display less self-esteem. They don’t typically behave the same as taller men do. If I had to guess, I’d say that the real reason shorter men aren’t as successful is that they don’t pursue success as vigorously as their taller counterparts, and when they do, they may not possess the interpersonal qualities requisite for the position within society they are seeking.

I’d like to know if anyone else has come to the same conclusion on this growing issue.



I always find it curious that folks who are usually keen on taking away people’s unearned advantages (estate tax to sock rich kids, antidiscrimination policies to reduce the “benefit” of being white) never raise a peep about taxing the equally immutable and unearned charactaristics of height and beauty. Or at least try to make such discrimination as shame-inducing as being called racist. It’s almost as though such people are attacking a defined Enemies List, rather than consistently defending an underlying principle!

Actually, you might be surprised by Hollywood. Jason Statham is 5’9". So are Sly Stallone, Kurt Russell, and Robert Downey. Everyone knows Tom Cruise is tiny (under 5’6"). Al Pacino is 5’6". Michael Douglas is 5’10". Dustin Hoffman and Ben Stiller are 5’7".

On the other hand, Ahnold is 6’2" (though shrinking rapidly), and Ashton Kutcher is actually 6’3".

Oh, and Humphrey Bogart was 5’3".

If you seriously believe there is no advantage to being white in America, I can only assume that you are, as your name implies, from a mythic realm peopled only by Caucasians whose king married an elf-maid.

Please provide cites for those figures. I believe Stallone is a little taller than that, and Stiller shorter than your figure. The others seem open to question as well. For one thing, movie stars rarely let anyone measure their actual height. Shorter ones will take care not to be seen in public without shoes that make them appear taller. The height of taller ones may be exaggerated to conform to the perceptions of their vertically challenged colleagues. It works the same way in professional wrestling.

They’re from here. As you say, hard figures are tricky to come by.

Quite the opposite. I’m saying that people who want to reduce the innate, unearned disadvantage of being not-white should also want to reduce the innate, unearned disadvantage of being not-tall. That they don’t care at all about the latter, now that antidiscrimination laws are in place against the former, should raise some eyebrows.

Um, no, they DO fight against discrimination according to height. Often to destructive extremes like forbidding height requirements for jobs where size matters, like firefighting.

Find me a speech from a major politician condemning height-based discrimination. If it’s a really on their minds, it should be no problem considering how much politicians love to talk. And mere talk is a long long way from effective enforcement.

Not a speech from a major politician, but the city of San Francisco has a law prohibiting both weight and height discrimination. Here is the text of this law (warning: PDF):

I don’t think he was that short–not a giant, for sure. But photos of him with Lauren Bacall show that while she was taller than he was, she was not a lot taller, and she was not exactly a shortie. I think IMdb says 5’8" which sounds about right.

But you’re not going to see height discrimination among actors. Look at the heights of American CEOs and presidents.

Or basketball players…

Jesus H Christ…
Yes, short people are discriminated against. Being tall (but not too tall), just as being beautiful, is an advantage.

On the other hand…

You’re male. Which is a huge advantage and means you get a bunch of discrimination in your favor. If you’re white as well, you really should just shut the hell up.
Yes. Short people are discriminated against. And once we’re done fighting the discrimination of non-whites, non-males and non-heterosexuals we might get to helping the white, male, heterosexual males who are below average height. I expect you to actively join in fighting the more serious problems with discrimination in the time being.

Studies about heightism have appeared for years. Promotions have always been tied into height. I suppose it is due to an element of fear that a “big” boss could make you do what they tell you.
But I have read such studies for a long time.

Yep…and in the end that’s what it boils down to for some people - tribalism. “After we get the goodies, then maybe we’ll throw some scraps to ideals and consistency. But My Tribe gets the goodies first.”

Note that Stoneburg never presents any evidence that

a) his preferred tribes are more discriminated against in the modern environment
b) supporting his tribes is the best use of resources. There’s no consideration that he might get less pushback along the height front than along the hotly contested race’n’sex front.

He makes no calculation of which action reduces inequality, which is the principle he supposedly upholds. When confronted with arguments, the kneejerk reaction is emotional loyalty to preferred tribes, and bashing the enemy tribes. Dispassionate consideration of principles has nothing to do with it.

Yes, and wikipedia also shows some other places with such laws. But meaningless laws are a dime a dozen. What would convince me is evidence of serious political capital being deployed to combat what gonzomax reminds us is a long-standing and well-studied disparity. That’s why I use prominent speeches as a metric. It would also be interesting to see how many lawsuits were actually successful due to the anti-height discrimination law.

Let’s examine these claims. I believe the heights given in the IMDb:

Jason Statham is 5’9".

In fact, he’s 5’10".

Sly Stallone, Kurt Russell, and Robert Downey are also 5’9".

Stallone is 5’9 and 1/2"
Russell is 5’11".
Downey is 5’8 and 1/2"

Everyone knows Tom Cruise is tiny (under 5’6").

Cruise is actually 5’7"

Al Pacino is 5’6".

Pacino is actually 5’7"

Michael Douglas is 5’10".

This is correct.

Dustin Hoffman and Ben Stiller are 5’7".

Hoffman is 5’5 and 1/2".
Stiller is 5’6 and 1/2".

On the other hand, Ahnold is 6’2" (though shrinking rapidly).

This is correct.

Ashton Kutcher is actually 6’3".

Kutcher is 6’2 and 1/2".

Humphrey Bogart was 5’3".

Bogart was 5’8".

Except for the Bogart height, I could almost just dismiss this as no more than sloppiness on the part of the website that Really Not All That Bright cites. You can just look at Bogart’s movies and see that he was not 5’3".

Interesting. See, I read your post, and it’s almost as though you’re attacking a strawman in order to score some cheap points in your own mind, rather than really thinking through your argument!

Yes, discrimination is wrong in all forms. However, certain forms of discrimination are worse than others because of violence, because of secondary economic effects, and because of entire communities hit by discrimination. At the same time, the people that lead anti-discrimination campaigns tend to be the people affected by the discrimination.

If short people are so unaware of discrimination against them that it’s virtually impossible to find an activist group dedicated to fighting such discrimination (I know I’ve never heard of short people–of whom I’m definitely one–getting worked up over it), your outrage on their behalf is, to put it mildly, suspect.

Ok, here’s the trouble. I do think you are jesting, AND I thought your post was really funny. Really, it has some great nuances that make it hilarious. But just in case you were serious, this is the internet after all, I will respond as if you were. One part that makes it a bit extra funny is the tiny ambiguity regarding whether it is serious or not.

Yes height is one ground for discrimination. But not all discriminations are equal. A short man still makes much more money than a woman. So gender is much more heavily discriminated against and is inflicted on more people (more than half of the world population, some of which are discriminated against with deadly force).

Same with race. Being short might have an influence on your paycheck, being black can mean you don’t get a job. Big difference. Being homo, bi or trans is going to be a huge obstacle. It is called triage.

Short white men are the people standing at the site of a car accident complaining to the medics about a sprained ankle while people are bleeding out on the ground. Yes, we know it hurts a bit and we’ll get to it, but people on the ground need our help more. But if you would chip in it would make the whole thing go faster.

I doubt the statistics are actually a fair comparison

To be accurate, you’d have to take height as THE ONLY factor in salary range.

In other words the pool of people would have to be the same age, the socio-economic background, the same race, the same sex, with similar education, similar work experience, etc etc etc

You’d also have to throw out fluke example like Bill Gates and Oprah who are gonna skew the average

How were those stats arrived at? Did they just measure people on height alone and forget all other factors?

I don’t know perhaps they did, but unless they salary ranges of subgroups of people, with each subgroup only differing significantly by height, I would question their methods.

I mean to oversimplify, if you have 20 people and 9 are over 6 feet and have gone to Yale and Harvard and 11 are under six feet and have gone to City Community College, of course it’s likely that the tall people are gonna make more. But the height isn’t the real factor

Another factor related to self-esteem: it provides an excuse.

People of below-average height may say things to me like “It’s easy for you to pick up girls, you’re tall” or “I bet people are never rude to you, as you’re such a big guy”. I wish these statements were true!

I think it shows that some shorter people can get into a mindset where being short is the cause of all their problems and they’ll always be held back because their height can’t change.

I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as you may think.
The salary difference for example, is not proof of discrimination, and basically dissolves once you factor out career breaks for raising children.

I’m not saying it’s better to be a woman, I’m saying discrimination-wise, in the West, it’s a tough call. Especially since there are various ways in which you can openly discriminate towards women (e.g. women-only organisations, recruitment drives and even quotas in many Western countries).

Male, 6’2", well educated, middle class, white, christian! I should own the world but I don’t.

Yes average tall people [5’10" to 6’4"] are more prevalant in power type jobs. Maybe it is because we have a physical presence that influences people, I don’t know but it must be a bummer being under 6’ at a rock concert!