Aug 13, 2020

Addressing heightism

Thank you CNN, for pointing out prejudice I didn’t know was affecting me. Honestly, I did not know about “heightism� — discrimination based on height for unusually tall or short (primarily short) people.

At 4 foot 9 inches, I definitely qualify.

Any woman under 5’2� is considered shorter than average. Men have to fall under 5’7� to be considered as such.

I’ve always been short and I’ve never really considered it a disadvantage. To me, it is merely something that can be accommodated. Stepladders at the ready and the occasional chair cushion depending on what car I am driving.

According to a report from the CNN Web site, short men and women alike say they suffer from ridicule and are even held back in the workplace because of their height.

In a 2006 study from Princeton, researchers Anne Case and Christina Paxson found that in general taller people are “smarter� than their shorter-statured brethren. One of their explanations for this is the idea that teachers may pay closer attention to more noticeable (taller) students. Or the habit that some parents have of enrolling larger, more physically developed children into school earlier than their smaller “more vulnerable� peers.

Short kids who get less attention in school thanks to their height are also more likely to end up with thinner pocketbooks. Case and Paxson’s study found that shorter individuals were likely to make less money — about 1 to 2 percent less — per inch than taller coworkers.

So why does this happen?

Part of it can be attributed to the fact that shorter people may be less educated or “less intelligent.� So the downward spiral that started in elementary school is perpetuated. Also, shorter people apparently seem “less confident.�

I admit that being short may have held me back from going on some rides at theme parks when I was younger but I have yet to find that being short makes me less confident.

Apparently some people think this discrimination is going too far, which is why the National Organization of Short Statured Adults was founded in 2005. The NOSSA is a non-profit foundation. Its Web site describes the organization as “a united organization of short men and women from around the globe, promoting the message of self-empowerment for all of its members, providing a supportive environment in which to share experiences, and committed to opposing heightism in society.�

Heightism as a form of prejudice has gone so far as to be prohibited by the state of Michigan and similar legislation is pending in Massachusetts. Not to be outdone, two areas of California — Santa Cruz and San Francisco — prohibit height discrimination as well.

What I find to be the most important though, is the NOSSA Web site’s clarification that the group does not promote a “victim’s mentality.�

To quote the site, “We encourage all of our members to take responsibility for their own lives and remind them that although we can not always control our circumstances in life, we can always control our response.�

So no matter whether you are short or tall, green-eyed or brown-eyed, lefty or righty, what this organization is saying is “deal with it.�

Make the accommodations necessary to live your life. I believe that can be said to every person on this planet who is facing an obstacle, whether it be physical, mental, economical or whatever.

There are some day-to-day fussy things I don’t like dealing with.

Sometimes I have to ask for help in the grocery store. I have to have all of my pants hemmed, even if they are labeled “petite� and yes, there are nicknames including, “Midget,� “Small Fry,� “Short Stuff� and my personal favorite, coined in fourth grade, “The Walking, Talking Pocket Sized Dictionary.�

But, if you’ll pardon the pun, the long and short of it is: It’s not keeping me from living my life.

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