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Articles Discussing the Importance of Height

Short man syndrome is not just a tall story

It is said they are prone to bouts of aggression, showing off and keeping a close eye on their wives or girlfriends at parties.

Vertically challenged men may argue that the notion of a "short man syndrome" is an unfair, inaccurate stereotype. However, scientists have now proved small men do make more jealous husbands and lovers than their taller, more relaxed counterparts.

The findings could help explain why diminutive males from Napoleon Bonaparte and Benito Mussolini to Tom Cruise and Dudley Moore have on occasion been accused of overcompensating for a lack of physical stature.

Researchers found men around 5ft 4in tall were around 50 per cent more likely to fall foul of the green-eyed monster than those measuring 6ft 6in.

Tall and short women also showed more signs of jealousy than those of average height.

Prof Abraham Buunk, of the University of Groningen in Holland, said the findings on short man syndrome - also known as the Napoleon complex - make evolutionary sense, as tall men and medium-height women have greater success with the opposite sex.

Taller men have previously been shown to get more replies to lonely heart ads, have more physically attractive partners, have higher wages and are more likely to have children.

In the latest study, highlighted in this week's New Scientist magazine, researchers questioned 100 men and 100 women in relationships about their feelings of jealousy and how interested they believed their partners to be in other members of the opposite sex.

Among men they found a linear correlation, with 5ft 4in men being scored an average of 3.75 out of six on a jealousy scale, and the men around 6ft 6in getting 2.25. The results among women were more complex, with those of around average height (5ft 6in) scoring lowest for jealously, at around three out of six. The shortest women in the study, who measured around 5ft, scored five on the scale, while the tallest, at 6ft, got an average of four.

The researchers also examined the specific characteristics of rivals that would make them jealous.

Short men were, as expected, most jealous in the presence of powerful, tall, strong and rich potential rivals.

However, female participants of around average height were more vulnerable to jealousy than others when confronted, not with very beautiful women, but with socially or physically powerful rivals.

Prof Buunk said: "As women of average height tend to be more fertile and healthy they would be less jealous of women with features signalling fertility and health such as physical attractiveness, but more jealous of women possessing masculine features such as physical dominance and social status."

Throughout the animal kingdom, larger males are more likely to win fights, are more dominant and are more likely to reproduce.

A series of studies have shown taller men enjoy a range of advantages. In the 1940s, psychologists found tall salesmen were more successful than their shorter colleagues. University students asked to rate the qualities of men of varying heights said short men were less mature, less secure and less capable than tall men.

The Ugly Truth About Beauty
Like It or Not, Looks Do Matter

Some researchers link this addictive pursuit of good looks to evolution. Anthropologist Helen Fisher, suggests that primitive man might have unconsciously thought that a pretty woman had a better chance of bearing healthy children.

The Long and the Short of It

Likewise, evolution may have led women to prefer taller men.

Women will take just about any shortcoming in a man, except in the height department, according to Andrea McGinty, who founded the San Diego-based dating service It's Just Lunch.

McGinty helped ABCNEWS put together an experiment to test just how willing women are to date shorter men. We brought together several short men and asked them to stand next to taller men. We invited groups of women to look at the men and choose a date.

To see if the women would go for short guys who were successful, ABCNEWS' Lynn Sherr created extraordinary résumés for the shorter men. She told the women that the shorter men included a doctor, a best-selling author, a champion skier, a venture capitalist who'd made millions by the age of 25.

Nothing worked. The women always chose the tall men. Sherr asked whether there'd be anything she could say that would make the shortest of the men, who was 5 feet, irresistible. One of the women replied, "Maybe the only thing you could say is that the other four are murderers." Another backed her up, saying that had the taller men had a criminal record she might have been swayed to choose a shorter man. Another said she'd have considered the shorter men, if the taller men had been described as "child molesters."

The desire for tall men begins very young, apparently. ABCNEWS gave elementary school students a test, asking them to match a small, medium or large figure of a man with a series of words. The kids overwhelmingly linked the tall figure to the words strong, handsome and smart. The linked the short figure to the words sad, scared and weak. More than half of the kids also chose to link the short figure to the words, dumb, yucky and no friends.

Short Guys Finish Last

The Economist, December 23, 1995 [Like most Economist articles, this was published anonymously.]

WHEN George Bush was America's president and Daniel Ortega was Nicaragua's, Mr Ortega threatened to cancel a local peace deal that the Americans had painstakingly brokered. Hearing the news, an enraged Mr Bush grasped for an insult worthy of the offence. "That little man," he snarled repeatedly, dripping contempt. "That little man."

Actually Mr Ortega is 5 foot 10 inches (1.78 metres) tall, which makes him a fraction of an inch taller than the average American--and not that much shorter than Mr Bush, who is 6'2". Yet when Mr Bush was searching for an atomic but not obscene insult, it was stature that he immediately seized upon. In that respect, he was not being presidential: merely, rather, primate. For the primate Homo sapiens tends to sort its males by height.

Every boy knows, practically from birth, that being "shrimpy" is nearly as bad as being a chicken, and closely related at that. Call a man "little", and he is understood to be demeaned. When Mr Bush called Mr Ortega "that little man", his primate-male cerebellum knew what it was doing. It was engaging in what may be the most enduring form of discrimination in the world.

The bias against short men hurts them. It is unfair. It is irrational. So why is it not taken seriously? A serious question: especially if you happen to be short.

First the bad news

On the advice of our lawyers, we pause here for a mental-health notice. Tall men are invited to forge on, as are women (for whom it is weight, not stature, that is life's bane--but that is another story). Short men, however, proceed at their own peril. What follows will depress them.

Height discrimination begins from the moment male human beings become vertical. Give 100 mothers photographs of two 19-month-old boys who resemble each other closely, except that one is made to look taller than the other. Then ask the mothers which boy is more competent and able. The mothers consistently pick the "taller" one. As boys grow, the importance of height is drummed into them incessantly. "My, how tall you are!" the relatives squeal with approval. Or, with scorn, "Don't you want to grow up big and strong?"

Height hierarchies are established early, and persist for a long time. Tall boys are deferred to and seen as mature, short ones ridiculed and seen as childlike. Tall men are seen as natural "leaders"; short ones are called "pushy". "If a short man is normally assertive, then he's seen as having Napoleonic tendencies," says David Weeks, a clinical psychologist at Royal Edinburgh Hospital. "If he is introverted and mildly submissive, then he's seen as a wimp."

Dr Weeks is 5'2", so he may have an axe to grind. But he can prove his point. Turn, for example, to the work of two American psychologists, Leslie Martel and Henry Biller, whose book "Stature and Stigma" (D.C. Heath, 1987) is especially useful.

Mr Martel and Mr Biller asked several hundred university students to rate the qualities of men of varying heights, on 17 different criteria. Both men and women, whether short or tall, thought that short men--heights between 5'2" and 5'5"--were less mature, less positive, less secure, less masculine; less successful, less capable, less confident, less outgoing; more inhibited, more timid, more passive; and so on. Other studies confirm that short men are judged, and even judge themselves, negatively. Several surveys have found that short men feel less comfortable in social settings and are less happy with their bodies. Dustin Hoffman, that 5'6" actor, is said to have spent years in therapy over his small stature.

The western ideal for men appears to be about 6'2" (and is slowly rising, as average heights increase). Above that height, the advantages of extra inches peter out, though very tall men do not, apart from hitting their heads, suffer significant disadvantages. And medium-sized men do fine (though they typically will say they would like to be taller, just as women always want to be thinner). The men who suffer are those who are noticeably short: say, 5'5" and below. In a man's world, they do not impress. Indeed, the connection between height and status is embedded in the very language. Respected men have "stature" and are "looked up to": quite literally, as it turns out.

One of the most elegant height experiments was reported in 1968 by an Australian psychologist, Paul Wilson. He introduced the same unfamiliar man to five groups of students, varying only the status attributed to the stranger. In one class, the newcomer was said to be a student, in another a lecturer, right up to being a professor from Cambridge University. Once the visitor had left the room, each group was asked to estimate the man's height, along with that of the instructor. The results are plotted in the chart above. Not only was the "professor" thought to be more than two inches taller than the "student"; the height estimates rose in proportion to his perceived status.

It is little wonder, then, that when people meet a famous man they so often say, "I expected him to be taller." If you still doubt that height matters, look around. At the palace of William III at Hampton Court, London, you will see door knockers above eye level: the better to make callers on the king (who was, in fact, decidedly short) feel, literally, lowly. Or sit across from your boss in his office, and see who has the higher chair.

Now the worse news

Perhaps heightism is just a western cultural prejudice? Sadly not. In Chinese surveys, young women always rate stature high among qualifications for a future mate. Indeed, the prejudice appears to be universal.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Thomas Gregor, an anthropologist at America's Vanderbilt University, lived among the Mehinaku, a tropical forest people of central Brazil who were amazed by such new-fangled gadgets as spectacles. Among the Mehinaku, attractive men should be tall: they are respectfully called wekepei. Woe unto the peritsi, as very short men are derisively called (it rhymes with itsi, the word for penis). Where a tall man is kaukapapai, worthy of respect, the short one is merely laughable. His lack of stature is a moral as well as physical failing, for it is presumed to result from sexual looseness during adolescence.

"No one wants a peritsi for a son-in-law," Mr Gregor writes. By many measures--wealth, chieftainship, frequency of participation in rituals--tall men dominate in tribal life. They hog the reproductive opportunities, too. Mr Gregor looked at the number of girlfriends of Mehinaku men of varying heights. He found a pattern: the taller the man, the more girlfriends he had. As he explained, "the three tallest men had as many affairs as the seven shortest men, even though their average estimated ages were identical."

He went on to note that the Trobriand Islanders of the Pacific, the Timbira of Brazil, and the Navajo of America were among the many other traditional cultures that also prize male height. "In no case have I found a preference for short men," he said. Among anthropologists, it is a truism that in traditional societies the "big man" actually is big, not just socially but physically.

It is not hard to guess why human beings tend instinctively to defer to height. Humans evolved in an environment where size and strength--and good health, to which they are closely related--mattered, especially for men. Indeed, they still matter, albeit less than they did. Other things being equal, large males are more to be feared and longer-living; an impulse to defer to them, or to prefer them as mates, thus makes good evolutionary sense. Perhaps the impulse is softened in a modern industrial society. But how much? Consider six aspects of a supposedly advanced culture.

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 2.5 inches taller than average; only 3% were peritsi, 5'7" 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, analysed 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 6'2" or taller received starting salaries 12% higher than those under six feet.

Not only do tall people grow richer, rich people grow taller. They enjoy well-nourished childhoods and better health. The stature-success nexus further bolsters the social preference for height. And that preference is expressed in a coin that is even more precious than money, namely:

Sex. Mating opportunities are, at least in evolutionary terms, the ultimate prize of status. And here is the final humiliation for short men. When 100 women were asked to evaluate photographs of men whom they believed to be either tall, average or short, all of them found the tall and medium specimens "significantly more attractive" than the short ones. In another study, only two of 79 women said they would go on a date with a man shorter than themselves (the rest, on average, wanted to date a man at least 1.7 inches taller). "The universally acknowledged cardinal rule of dating and mate selection is that the male will be significantly taller than his female partner," write Mr Martel and Mr Biller. "This rule is almost inviolable." For short men, the sexual pickings are therefore likely to be slim.

So why don't you care?

Is there, then, no good news for short men? No: there is none. And if, having read this far, you do not believe that height discrimination is serious, you are no doubt a tall person in the late stages of denial. Or, perhaps, you cringe at the thought of yet another victim group lining up to demand redress. Surely the notion of SHRIMPs (Severely Height-Restricted Individuals of the Male Persuasion) as an oppressed social group is silly, and the idea of special protections or compensatory benefits for short men preposterous? Actually, no--unless all such group benefits are equally dubious.

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 clamour 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 favour 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 disfavoured 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 accounts for this peculiarity? America's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which oversees the anti-discrimination laws, now boasts a man who has given the subject some thought. He is Paul Steven Miller, who is 4'5" tall. To be exact, he is an achondroplastic dwarf. Medically speaking, a dwarf has a recognisable genetic condition marked by short limbs, average-sized trunk, moderately enlarged head, and so on. This is regarded as a disability in America, and is legally protected against discrimination.

Mr Miller favours protections for such little people. But he opposes extending protections to the "normally" short--men like America's labour secretary, Robert Reich, who is 4'10" and hears no end of it. (Bill Clinton, looking at a model of the White House made from Lego, commented: "Secretary Reich could almost live in there.") Why protect Mr Miller but not Mr Reich? Because, Mr Miller says, one cannot protect everybody. "It would be totally unwieldy to let everybody in." Quite true. But convenient, too, to draw the line so as to include him but exclude a raft of other claimants. Convenience is not a principled reason for leaving short men to suffer their fates.

Indeed, it is hard to find any principled reason. Most of the obvious excuses for excluding SHRIMPs from the list of disadvantaged groups do little but show how arbitrary is the concept of any "group". For example, one might argue that there is no obvious line that demarcates a man short enough to be a SHRIMP. True enough; but in a world where blood mixes freely, there is equally no clear way to distinguish, for instance, a "Hispanic" from an "Anglo", or an American Indian from a "white" man.

Perhaps a "minority group", then, must be an ethnic or hereditary grouping? Plainly not. If women, homosexuals and people in wheelchairs may be minority groups, then surely short men can qualify. American Hispanics have nothing in common except the "Hispanic" label itself (they are mostly identified solely by their names). At least SHRIMPs are all detectably short.

In the West, the past quarter-century has been an era of awakening group consciousness. Blacks and women, Asians and indigenous peoples, homosexuals and the disabled--one by one, all have come to embrace group-based identities and protections. The obese are now reaching for group status; and, in truth, they too have a case. So why not short men? Logically, there seems no way out.

Wee men of the world, unite!

Accordingly, The Economist demands that the European Convention on Human Rights grant SHRIMPs the protections that other disadvantaged minorities have already won. The United Nations should hold global conferences on the status of SHRIMPs. American federal contractors should be checked for height, to see that SHRIMPs get their fair share. Employers should bend over backwards to recruit and promote SHRIMPs, and should be fined for allowing workers to disparage them. Elite universities should make sure that they include sufficient numbers of SHRIMPs among their students and faculties. Not least, newspapers that snidely refer to short men as "SHRIMPs" should be subjected to long lawsuits, and the authors concerned should be sent for sensitivity training (even if they are only 5'7", and write anonymously).

Then again, perhaps not. Knowing that short young men earn less money than other young men is, certainly, interesting. Knowing that only 9% of American Hispanics, as against 24% of non-Hispanics, hold a university degree is also interesting. But what do such facts imply? One does well to remember that they are mere statistical compilations, averages that blur together individuals who have virtually nothing in common. A "Hispanic", for instance, is a mere Spanish-sounding name masquerading as a human being. A SHRIMP, similarly, is no more than a mark on a tape measure. To convert adjectives into nouns--as in "a SHRIMP", or "a black" or "an Asian" or "a homosexual"--is to seize upon a single element of a person's make-up and cast into the background everything else. This kind of thinking may be useful as a tool of social analysis; as a basis for public policy, however, it is treacherous.

For centuries, short men have shrugged their shoulders and carried on. They, at least, still see themselves, and are seen by others, as variegated individuals, not as a monotonal social group. That may be the best approach to all such human characteristics.

Heightism is a form of discrimination based on height. In principle it can refer to unfavorable treatment of either unusually tall or short people.

Heightism and bullying

Research shows that shorter people are more likely to be victims of bullying.[1][2] Because bullying during childhood and adolescence often undermines the victim’s self-esteem, some researchers speculate that the lower levels of achievement of shorter people (particularly men) in later life may be partly or largely explained by this lower self esteem rather than by discrimination.[3]

Heightism in employment

Some jobs do require or at least favor tall people, including some manual labor jobs, most professional sports, and fashion modeling. U.S. military pilots have to be 64 to 77 inches (163 to 196 cm) tall with a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches (86 to 102 cm).[4] These exceptions noted, in the great majority of cases a person’s height would not seem to have an effect on how well they are able to perform their job. Nevertheless, studies have shown that short people are paid less than taller people, with disparities similar in magnitude to the race and gender gaps.

A survey of Fortune 500 CEO height in 2005 revealed that they were on average 6 feet (183 cm) tall, which is approximately 2-3 inches (7.5 cm) taller than the average American man. Fully 30% of these CEOs were 6 foot 2 inches (188 cm) tall or more; in comparison only 3.9% of the overall United States population is of this height.[6] Equally significantly, similar surveys have uncovered that less than 3% of CEOs were below 5?7? in (170 cm) height. Ninety percent of CEOs are of above average height.

Some epidemiological studies have shown that intelligence is positively correlated, albeit very slightly, with height in human populations (see Height and intelligence). This does not imply that many short people are not highly intelligent, or that changes in physical height have a direct effect on cognitive ability. Intelligence is believed to be influenced by many different factors. Individuals with a wide range of intelligence can be observed at any given height. It may be that good childhood nutrition tends to result in greater adult height, and good childhood nutrition also tends to result in higher adult intelligence. A recent study using four data sets from the US and UK found that, after controlling for differences in cognitive test scores, there was no detectable independent effect of height itself on adult earnings. It did indicate that intelligence influences earnings. Taller people, on average are more intelligent because environmental factors such as nutrition during childhood, also influences intelligence. The study concludes that on average, taller people do not earn more just because of their physical height.

Others believe that height has a significant independent impact on economic success, pointing to specific instances of height-based discrimination.[10] Surveys of attitudes do reveal that people both perceive and treat people of shorter stature as inferior,[11] and that economic differentials exist which may be the result of height discrimination.[12] The relationship between height, cognitive ability, and discrimination based on height remains a subject of debate.

Heightism in politics

Taller candidates have the advantage in electoral politics, at least in the United States (where statistics are available for study). Other countries may be different, such as Russia, where President Vladimir Putin is 5'5" (165 cm) and the newly elected President Dmitry Medvedev is only 5'2" (157 cm). Of the 43 U.S. Presidents, only five have been more than an inch (2.54 cm) below average height. Moreover, of the 54 U.S. presidential elections only 13 have been won by the shorter candidate, and only 11 times has the shorter candidate received more popular (as opposed to electoral) votes. Quantitative studies of U.S. Senators and Governors have shown that they are on average several inches taller than the U.S. population at large.[13] During the 2004 election, some anti-Bush artwork and political cartoons depicted him as much shorter than he actually stood, favoring Kerry, who was taller.

Non-electoral politics are more difficult to study, as outcomes based on height are more difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, a number of powerful dictators have been below average height. Examples include Engelbert Dollfuss (4?11?; 1.50m), Deng Xiaoping (5?0?; 1.52m), Kim Jong Il (5?3?; 1.60m), Nikita Khrushchev (5?3?; 1.60m), Francisco Franco (5?4?; 1.63m), and Joseph Stalin (5?5?; 1.65m). Contrary to popular impression, Napoleon Bonaparte at 5?8? (1.73m) (taller than the average Frenchmen at the time) and Adolf Hitler at 5?8? (1.73m) were both within the average height range for their times and places.

In the United Kingdom, the influential Spitting Image satirical television series depicted David Steel as a midget. This was credited with undermining his political career.[14] When the French president Nicholas Sarkozy made a state visit to the UK in March 2008, the British press was uncommonly united in passing comment on the fact that he is a short man and in carrying a closeup photograph showing the sizeable heels on his shoes in contrast to the flat shoes of his taller wife, Carla Bruni.

See also Napoleon Complex and Heights of United States Presidents and presidential candidates.

Heightism and conflict

Heightism is cited as one of the underlying causes of the Rwandan Genocide, in which approximately one million people were killed. It is believed that one of the reasons that political power was conferred to the minority Tutsis by the exiting Belgians was because they were taller and therefore (in the eyes of the Belgians) considered superior and more suited to governance.

Heightism in dating and marriage

Heightism may also be a factor in dating preferences. For most women, the height of a man is a major factor in sexual attractiveness.

The greater reproductive success of taller men is attested to by studies indicating that taller men are more likely to be married and to have more children, except in societies with severe gender imbalances caused by war.[16][17] Quantitative studies of woman-for-men personal advertisements have shown strong preference for tall men, with a large percentage indicating that a man significantly below average height was unacceptable.

Conversely, studies have shown that women of below average height are more likely to be married and have children than women of above average height. Some reasons which have been suggested for this situation include earlier fertility of shorter women, and that a shorter woman makes her husband feel taller in comparison and therefore more masculine.

It is unclear and debated as to the extent to which such preferences are innate or are the function of a society in which height discrimination impacts on socio-economic status. Certainly, much is always made in newspapers and magazines of celebrity couples with a notable height difference, especially where a man is shorter than his wife (for example, Jamie Cullum, five inches (12.7 cm) shorter at 5'6" (168 cm) than Sophie Dahl, though the difference is often exaggerated).

Heightism in the media

The portrayal of short men in the media is in general negative. Short men are either ridiculously unsuccessful in regards to career and/or romance (e.g. Spence Olchin and Bud Bundy) or they are unlikeable tyrants in need of compensating for "something" (e.g. Lord Farquaad). Notable exceptions are roles played by Michael J. Fox (especially Mike Flaherty from the TV series Spin City, where a short man is portrayed as an attractive and likable person, who is successful both in romance and career), and Kevin Connolly's portrayal of Eric "E" Murphy in HBO's television series Entourage (Connolly is 5'5" (165 cm)[20]). Similarly, although the actor Daniel Radcliffe was cast in the role of Harry Potter as a young child, the fact that he has reached an adult height of only 5'5" (165 cm) means that the Harry Potter film franchise now also effectively provides a positive portrayal of a shorter male hero. When Daniel Craig was announced as James Bond in 2005, intense criticism of the casting decision (made by EON Productions) included the notion that the actor was too short to play 007, even though at 5'10" (178 cm) Craig is above average height for a white British man.

In 1987 the BBC comedy series A Small Problem imagined a totalitarian society in which people under 5 ft. (152 cm) tall were systematically discriminated against. The programme attracted considerable criticism and complaints which accused the writers of reinforcing prejudice and of using offensive terms; the writers responded that their intention had been to show all prejudice was stupid and that height was chosen randomly.

The "Archaeology Today" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus deals with heightism[22] in which an interviewer humorously admits to assessing his subject’s credibility based on their height.

In a 2006 cartoon episode of Family Guy, the second coming of Jesus is depicted, with Jesus very obviously being much shorter than the (modern) crowd he speaks to. In the show, this causes uncertainty and surprise among the crowd. In the cartoon series Invader Zim, the alien race of the Irken had a class system based entirely on height, the empire being ruled by those of the greatest stature, literally referred to as the Almighty Tallest.

Similarly, shorter men are often denied leading roles. Although some famous cinema actors such as Alan Ladd and Tom Cruise have been short in real life, in their fictional depictions they have been presented as taller. Randy Newman's song Short People deals with heightism in a satirical, light-hearted manner as a protest against bigotry in general. Nevertheless, some people find this song offensive.

On the BBC motoring programme Top Gear, Richard Hammond's height is usually mocked by the other presenters, particularly Jeremy Clarkson.

Height discrimination legislation

Currently, there is one state in the United States of America, Michigan, that prohibits height discrimination.[24] There is pending legislation introduced by Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing which would add Massachusetts to the list.[25] Two municipalities currently prohibit height discrimination: Santa Cruz, California[26] and San Francisco, California[27]. The District of Columbia prohibits discrimination based on personal appearance[28]. Ontario, Canada prohibits height discrimination under the human rights code[29]. Victoria, Australia prohibits discrimination based on physical features under the Equal Opportunity Act of 1995.

Examples of successful legal battles pursued against height discrimination in the workplace include a 2002 Chinese case involving highly qualified applicants being turned down for jobs at a bank because they were considered too short[31]; a 2005 Swedish case involving an unfair height requirement for employment implemented by Volvo car company[32]; and a 1999 case involving a Kohler Company informal practice not to consider women who applied for jobs unless they were at least 5 feet 4 inches (162 cm) tall[33]. Height requirements for employment which are not a bona fide occupational requirement are becoming more and more uncommon.

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