Heightism: the Prejudice Affecting Men That No One is Talking AboutNov 21, 2019
Over the past few years, there has been a growing movement to promote body positivity among women. As a result, women that buck traditional beauty standards have been gracing magazine covers, retail outlets have been promoting body-positive images in their advertising, and countless clothing lines have popped up that cater to women of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.
The body positivity movement is a fantastic example of what happens when people collectively speak out about negative imagery.
There’s another harmful stigma affecting men that is rarely discussed but deserves a similar cultural response: heightism.
Shorter men face conscious and unconscious discrimination that’s devasting to their self-esteem and has real-world effects on their income and ability to find a romantic relationship.
According to Natasha Devon at The Telegraph, the problem begins with the fact that men aren’t able to talk about their body issues.
“As someone who has run an open online forum for body image debate for the past eight years I can say with some authority that men are about 200% less likely to admit to feeling insecure about their bodies than women,” she writes. “For short men to speak up about their body image anxiety is virtually unheard of.”
Men are discouraged from discussing their body issues because doing so is seen as a sign of weakness. It’s especially difficult for shorter men who are already stigmatized for their physical prowess.
Shorter men also make less money than their taller counterparts. “It has been estimated that a person who is six feet tall is likely to earn around $166,000 more over the course of a 30-year career than someone who is five foot four,” Psychology Today says.
A research study out of the University of Florida found that “people who are taller earn more, per inch than their shorter counterparts.”
The Washington Post reports that shorter men face the same income discrimination as heavier women. A man who is three inches shorter is found to be underpaid the same amount as a woman who is 14 pounds heavier.
The discrimination is even more prevalent in the world of dating. On popular dating apps such as Tinder or OK Cupid, women have no problem stating that they “won’t date guys under six feet” or “prefer men taller than me” in their profiles.
A study published in Science found that “In pairings where men were about 17 centimeters (or about 6 inches) taller than the woman, the woman was about 10 times more likely to browse the guy’s profile.”
The discrimination that shorter men feel online is so prevalent that Tinder thought it was fine to have fun with it in an April Fool’s joke.
It claimed to add a “height verification” feature saying it’s “come to our attention that most of you 5’10″-ers out there are actually 5’6″.” The charade must stop.”
These disadvantages put shorter men at risk for mental health problems.
A study at Camp Pendleton found that military men standing 5’8” or below had an increased risk for depression.
“When people find themselves outliers for reasons beyond their control, like physical attributes, they face a challenge in addition to all of the challenges average people face,” Valery Krupnik, a clinician at the center of the study, said according to Complex.
Another study out of Sweden found that for every two-inch increase in height, there was a 9% reduced suicide risk in men.
So, going forward, how can we help these men live happier and healthier lives and reduce the prejudice they face?
The body positivity movement has helped countless women reclaim the idea of beauty and is a great example of how to help short men. There should be a campaign that educates the public on the unconscious bias they face such as being underpaid by their employers.
We should also call attention to the idea that it’s unacceptable for people on dating apps and in real life to openly discriminate against shorter men.
In an era in which people are being more open about decimation against minorities, it’s about time the vertically-challenged deserve to have their voices heard as well.
Photo credit: The Telegraph, Pixabay, Tinder.