Height discrimination

Height discrimination (also known as heightism) is prejudice or discrimination against individuals based on height. In principle, it refers to discriminatory treatment against individuals whose height is not within the normal acceptable range of height in a population. Height discrimination is most common against shorter than average men and is generally accepted and ignored.[1][2] Some tall women have resorted to high dosages of oestrogen to reduce their height.[3]

Research indicates that the human brain uses height as a measurement to determine social status and fitness. The brain automatically associates physical size with leadership potential, power, strength and intelligence, an effect which has been discovered in infants as young as 10 months old. Evolutionary psychologists theorise that this is due to height indicating that the individual had been better fed, indicating higher social status and thus resources available to them, as well as indicating general health and physical strength, the latter of which can be useful in asserting dominance. The automatic association between height and the aforementioned traits has also been found to be much stronger when it comes to assessing men than women.[4][5][6]

Lexicology

The term height bigot was first used on the Mary Tyler Moore episode 7 of season 1 in October 1970. Mary is asked out by a charming, intelligent but very short man. Despite having a good time with him on a date she's apprehensive about going out with him again because of his height. She declares herself a “height bigot” to her friend Rhoda.

The term heightism was coined by sociologist Saul Feldman in a paper titled "The presentation of shortness in everyday life—height and heightism in American society: Toward a sociology of stature", presented at the meeting of the American Sociological Association in 1971.[7][8] Heightism was included in the Second Barnhart Dictionary of New English (1971)[9] and popularized[citation needed] by Time magazine in a 1971 article on Feldman's paper.[10]

The word is an example of Time magazine's habit of supplying new words through "unusual use of affixes",[11] although Time itself objected to the term's inclusion in the 1991 Random Webster's College Dictionary, citing it as an example of the dictionary "straining ... to avoid giving offense, except to good usage" and "[lending] authority to scores of questionable usages, many of them tinged with politically correct views."[12]

The term heightism can also be seen as an example of the increase in popular usage of phrases, particularly those relating to prejudice and discrimination, patterned after that of the word sexism.[9] Height discrimination can also come in the form of pejorative slang terms such as manlet for short men, or lanky for tall people.[13]