Understanding and Living with Height Discrimination
by Glenn Beard
March 2004

Table of Contents

0. Introduction
1. What is HD anyway?
2. How does HD manifest itself?
3. Why should it matter to anyone not short?
4. Why is HD present, and why does it go without comment?
5. What can we do about it?
    a. Dating
    b. Employment
    c. Physical prowess and confidence
6. Looking forward.
7. Conclusion.

0. Introduction

This article aims to help one understand and live with Height Discrimination (HD) in our society. That HD exists has been well referenced on this site already. What is required is acceptance of the fact that we - as shorter people - are seen as lesser people in society. The emphasis is on "are seen as." We need to know how we can best lead our lives in the face of discrimination, and how to counter it both in our long term interests, and in those of others who would face the same challenges. What is also required is the understanding that HD exists because of the perceptions of others, and not through personal failings.

Throughout this article I refer almost exclusively to men, because height has more of a bearing on men's perceptions of other men, and on oneself. One can be attractive and feminine as a small woman, while being a small man is seen only as a negative attribute. But it is an impression that can be countered, and much of the advice offered may be helpful to a woman concerned about her height.

1. What is HD anyway?

Height Discrimination is quite simply the regarding of a person as lesser on account of their height.

A macho undercurrent holds, which tells us that disputes can often be won with a physical fight if all else fails. Western thinking teaches us that we may pursue an argument to its end for short term advantage, in any way that we can. Even if a finger is not raised in anger, assumptions of the strength of argument are weighted with posturing. To fail to match this posturing is seen as weakness in a small man. To match it, aggressiveness and the "Napoleon complex" is assumed. So in many situations, short men, whatever they do, will be labelled as having "short man's syndrome," with all the baggage and circular arguments for its confirmation attached.

Entertainment and global politics confirm this notion, even in the face of a more enlightened society. An ability to perform comfortably with those at the top is an essential requirement to succeed in business or government, indeed in leadership generally. If taller is taken as more confident, and more confident as more likely to succeed, then assumptions about a candidate's likelihood to succeed is going to be based on their height.

A notable recent example is the treatment of the "seriousness" of Democratic party nominees. John Kerry was the tallest at 6'4", and also won. Not much was mentioned about contenders at the other end of scale. Out of the first-round survivors, comments about "diminutive" Howard Dean were to be found in the New York Times (from 5'3" writer Adam Nagourney), together with ponderings over whether a man of his height might have "anger problems." Such examples are numerous. The US is not alone, Britain is catching up rapidly. Michael Howard was declared leader of the Conservative party in the UK, a move which had The Telegraph and even The Guardian gushing about his attributes: "He's tall" was first amongst the points of praise.

Physically, short men are more easily dominated, all other things being equal. Unless the smaller man has something significant to command respect, an assumption will be made that he is the weaker party. Some allowances can be made for non-white males, women, disabled and so forth (to keep up multicultural quotas), but even then - aggressiveness, brutality and killer instincts cannot make people at the top feel at ease with them. You have to be white, male and tall in particular, in order to seriously entertain major ambition.

HD has had a trickle-down effect in the west, in no small part through popular entertainment. Not only does the hero - unconvincingly often - just happen to be a strapping fellow, but the small guy is over represented in characters that are sly, weak, angry, evil or simply losers (if they appear at all). The techie-nerd. The character with very few saving graces, evoking at best a little sympathy. Emphasis to the lackings of a short character is often boosted with unattractive glasses, silly hair and a poor clothing style. Short men are rarely chosen for their proportion and looks with the care taken for the more serious characters. Acting ability is similarly neglected, particularly if a lowly part simply requires a small guy to be small. There are notable exceptions - but you note them as exceptions.

Nothing is seen to be wrong with putting down - physically or with mockery - a smaller man, in a manner quite unacceptable were they based on race (at least, for the past few decades). Consider the probity of Arnold Schwarzenegger dangling a small man by his ankle over a fatal drop. This occurred in Commando together with a similar scene in True Lies, and was made for comic effect and appreciation by the audience. A similar threat to an equally sized woman in the same circumstances would be considered horrific.

The taller man is seen as more successful in society, and as a self serving prophesy he becomes successful with greater ease. Indeed, top positions are virtually out of bounds to the smaller man. A comparison made with the problems faced by ethnic minorities and women is most fair. But HD is taking a greater hold of our society, as other prejudices ease, somewhat.

2. How does HD manifest itself?

Shorter people are always within a minority amongst any group because we are - by simple definition - shorter than average within that group. In any group of people who are not of identical height, there will be an average, with some shorter and some taller than the average. Mass cloning is the only way not to get "short" people, as in a society where the average was 6'4", a six footer will be considered short. An insidious move in this direction is practiced by some private sperm banks that exercise a minimum height requirement in donors. This will ensure the most advantaged sections of society, who can pay money for such treatments, will almost guarantee their child can assume a privileged position due to their anticipated height. Nobody is under illusions as to why this should be favourable.

Indeed - in some circles, six foot is short. Chief executives are a good example. As will be the case in any occupation where active HD takes place, the average height is markedly raised. This makes a generally shorter than average man seem most particularly short, and clearly not the sort of person to fit it. The institution becomes cyclic.

You might say that it's not the fault of such taller than average people; they are simply fitting into a system. But they are quite aware of its consequences, and how it benefits them. So they feed on it, and help perpetuate it.

HD is as present in our language as is its effect on the everyday life of a short man. One "looks up to" a significant individual, while an "underling" is "looked down upon". One can "belittle" an adversary, to "make him feel small." One might "overlook" a less worthy person, and see the person that "stands tall" being "a head and shoulders above" a "small minded" person. To be labelled a "little" anything is demeaning, and nobody would deny that expressions of grandeur concerning one are very likely to involve an adjective concerning their largeness, or "big" qualities.

Another much more keenly felt form of HD is the favouring of taller men by women. This would not be so bad, were in not for the fact that short women also favour - for them - disproportionately taller men. This means that taller men (tall - of course - up to a point) will have a far greater selection of interested women.

A huge amount of negativity can surround shorter men because of this. However, it is frequently overlooked that there are about as many women as men, and polygamy is not normally tolerated. Maybe a shorter man will not be the first choice of many women, and maybe the first choice in women is not available to him. The solution is to look for women who are either not already taken, or who are not given to superficial discrimination on height. There are plenty of them around (the author's wife is one).

Nevertheless, height is only one factor in such determinations. Other than for the senior executive level, various sports requiring height, and the proportion of women who are severely prejudiced against smaller men, height is a factor which can be outweighed by other skills. It requires a longer game.

These are just some of the major life problems a shorter man will face. Completely familiar to shorter men will be innumerable slights and comments, being dismissed within groups of non-intimates, and above all physical intimidation. This can be passing or merely suggestive, as with deferring to other people walking in your path, or with larger people edging you out of the scene by blocking it with their bulk. With more aggressive situations it can become deadly, as the smaller person makes an easier victim for bullies, muggers, and other people who want to gain a cheap advantage that society largely accepts.

Some sympathy may be offered from the unfairness of the situation, but it has to be blatantly unfair before outsiders would intervene, and the damage will probably already have been done. And this depends on others not sharing a mindset that a smaller person is not really "one of us", and so not deserving of full consideration. The less obvious intimidation continues unabated, is widespread, and excused. Even then, the smaller man who stands up for himself will be labelled unduly aggressive.

3. Why should it matter to anyone who is not short?

Discrimination should matter to everyone. If one suffers discrimination, knows of others who do, or indeed benefits from it, they have a duty to resist its influence. There is an inherent unfairness about a system which judges, to paraphrase, a person on height rather than the content of their character.

Let us remind ourselves - short men are not a breed apart. They are the consequence of drawing a line through the middle of a population's height distribution. In many other cultures (comprising the majority of the world's population) the tall white man does not reign supreme, as he most certainly does in government and industry in the West. Height is not constantly reinforced to the public as a key position indicator, and so the smaller man is not seen as lesser. Preconception is all important.

It has long been known that keeping privilege in the hands of a few leads to corruption, cronyism, excess and very often incompetence. Keeping all but the tallest out of senior management weakens the herd, thins out candidates on exceedingly arbitrary criteria, and defers to qualities not relevant to the task at hand.

The more superficially attractive one is, the more casually any given relationship is likely to be treated by that individual. This is true for men and women. For a woman refusing to contemplate a man of her height (or even slightly taller) in favour of a genuinely tall man, she too is thinning the field of potential mates. She is neglecting to consider qualities which are more significant to a relationship. Looks, money, decorum, fitness, honour and intelligence would not get an airing. Her competition is also increased.

The income of a society depends on the success of its citizens as a whole. On a micro level, one can be in a better position by unfairly getting ahead of another. But society suffers when any group of people do not fulfil their true potential. And to be sure, a lot of short men do not - cannot - achieve this full potential, having been given unequal treatment by society as a birthright.

Imagine the effect of being harassed throughout life due to your stature. The understanding that others pick on you comes early, as does the inferior position in the pecking order when not being chosen at sports line-outs. Low achievements and life expectancies are set at school, both for and of shorter men (and women, and minorities), and society does its best to realise them. Later - with dismay - comes the realisation that women are not so easily attracted. Disputes suddenly become a matter of being "little", together with any other pejoratives. "You little ." is a familiar opening to any given put-down for every shorter man. Strangers take it upon themselves to comment on your height, and find no problem yukking it up with their friends. Or beat you up, or mug you.

To not be defensive under such a societal onslaught would not be human, or practical.

This occurs to a predictable group of males within any western community. It inflicts that group which falls in the lower than average height distribution. Marginalising such a group so arbitrarily and consistently cannot do anything but harm society. It is caused solely by discrimination in others.

4. Why is HD present, and why does it go without comment?

HD exists because people wish to feel superior where an allowable opportunity presents itself. In this culture where one freely discriminates against smaller people, the smaller man will be made to feel inferior far more often he could practice it himself. Taller men will normally encounter smaller men than themselves. Given society's general approval of the HD from which they benefit, taller men would have to work at not developing a superiority complex.

Discrimination in one's favour is apt to be overlooked. Discrimination against oneself, which is meted out by messages both subtle and otherwise, takes its toll. These messages concern competence and attractiveness, worthiness of opinion, leadership potential and overall worth as a human being. Given the frequent denial of HD, the shorter man is apt to further consider it a personal problem. The familiar decision of a shorter man is either to defer to HD, or give rise to a scene of exaggerated surprise or affront from the person or people causing it.

The most honest tall individuals will freely recognise HD, and undertake not to practice it. Those most likely to take full advantage will raise the tired old line of "short man's syndrome," and disingenuously pretend to be both amused and baffled. Without coincidence, the same pattern of discrimination and denial over racism has been loud in society, while minorities are yet appallingly unrepresented in the upper echelons, and grossly over-represented in its worst.

We have achieved nothing approaching a colour-blind society, nor one of equality of the sexes, and HD is not even taken seriously at present. There is no reason to suppose that left to the tender mercies of the guys in charge, things will eventually work out for justice and the common good.

The current order is that tall white guys (TWG) rule, and are unwelcoming to anybody who would not fit in. It is easy to understand - if one had a fairly privileged position one would like to feel it is due to a personal innate superiority combined with exceptional work or enterprise, and not one just according to happy accident of birthright. It just would not do to welcome others who are quite different in appearance. Not only would this increase competition, but it would demonstrate the distinguishing qualities that gives such personal pride and advantage - height, machismo and whiteness - are not necessary.

This can be seen as having a cultural, rather than a genetic, basis by observing non-western societies, who have not (yet) been sold on the idea. In Greece, fat men were until relatively recently considered more successful. Women there did not have a genetic predisposition towards fat men, it was just understood that it represents success (primarily because it indicated one who need not work hard in any manual job, yet fed himself well.)

There are no laws banning short men from public places, and in the US a mere 80-odd "Tall People" clubs exclude them (by contrast, there are no "Short People" clubs). Short guys do not have people dressing up in hoods and sheets out hunting for them. This does not happen, because the forms of discrimination that takes place between those of the same colour, sex and background are so subtle. Short people could be brothers, sons or fathers, or friends. Few people apart from cranks like Randy Newman would come out and say they hate short people for no other reason. Short people appear everywhere because they are - very simply - those people shorter than average in a given location.

Discrimination takes place on a personal and daily basis, in the weighing up of a new individual's worthiness and prospects. Potential candidate? Sexual partner? Stranger who may or may not be taken seriously? This day-to-day discrimination is not the worst a smaller person can expect, irrespective of their character.

The problem is no (or vanishingly few) short men are proud of the fact. People can stand up easily to say they are black, a woman, or gay and are proud of it. They are willing to proclaim this publicly, and encourage their comrades to be equally forthright in condemning the prejudice that afflicts them.

However, very few shorter men will have the courage to say "I'm short. I get problems from many people because of it." Shortness is perceived by society generally as a weakness, and many short men also feel this about themselves. It is a weakness to be short, and also to admit it. They want to pretend it doesn't exist, or at least doesn't apply to them.

The last thing to do would be to bring attention to oneself over the fact. A charge of "short man's syndrome" is hard enough to beat off at the best of times, but to go on public record with a case that the establishment would scoff at, and those not short most often deny, requires self possession not normally know in people used to drawing the short straw. Those who are short hope earnestly that some notice will be taken, but they also hope nobody considers them short enough for it to apply.

To understand why HD has not been brought up with the other assailed groups, one must consider those other groups and that which has made them band together.

First, belonging to a particular ethnic group or sex means you are surrounded by people of the same persuasion. You see each other and recognise there is no inherent inferiority amongst you. You see the prejudice and injustice to your situation compared with that advertised for society at large, and can discuss it openly with your contemporaries (who will make up the majority of your typical social circle).

You may have heard of this injustice and the need to fight for it from all generations of your contemporaries. Ethnic groups and women may have been ground down since the dawn of time into feeling and adopting an inferior position, but once it started being seriously questioned, the groundswell was ready to make the movement's aims of equality in society a realistic prospect.

The writer wishes to properly understand the success in the rapid turnaround for gay rights. Possibly it was the extensive networking skills necessary for hiding a once criminal lifestyle, and the outrage finally given its voice at being branded a criminal for no crime. Gays occupied every position in society, thanks somewhat to their lack of outward appearance to give away anything "undesirable" at the time, and also largely to do with networks promoting mutual success in popular culture and male dominated institutions (notably the Civil Service in the UK). Hardcore activists like Peter Tatchell set the scene - threatening to "out" senior gays who hypocritically spoke out against homosexuality.

A tide turned, and the general public discovered for themselves gays were in every walk of life, and we might have known them well without it having been a concern. Our own relations might be included, which finally brought a human element to even the most bigoted.

However, gays, minority groups and women were all outside the higher order of things until their late acceptance. They were brought up to understand or learned quickly they were "different" and if not hated, regarded as second class citizens. They knew they had a cause to fight, who their allies were, and their chief aims - human rights under the law.

Short people have learned of their perceived inferiority a different way, and amongst people whom they had considered to be contemporaries. Sure, we might have liked to have been a bit taller to fit in, but it didn't particularly matter to us when first growing up. Not until the proclaimed disappointment of relatives feeling obliged to note our lack of growth out loud, parents worrying about our size, and bullying set in. At that point we really did start to become a target by being different. Many short men put this down to an unfortunate start to life, and prepared to move on. However, upon becoming adults we discovered, to our dismay, that women simply preferred the most idiotic and uncouth fellow to us every time (virtually), simply because they were taller. And if our taller competitors did not have immediate success, they usually had a significant advantage.

In essence, "short man's syndrome" is like the black mans' "chip on the shoulder." It is perfectly correct to say there is a problem there, and that it is resented by the recipient of discrimination. It is an obvious discrimination, but is frequently denied by individuals who see no advantage in agreeing it exists. For the short or black man, the result may be much negativity. Life expectancies may be lowered, and true adverse effects (from poor career attainment to beatings) may have arisen. Nevertheless, SMS or COTS is nothing but a lazy lie in denying that this discrimination exists, is immoral and is to the detriment of society.

5. What can we do about it?

Realise that height discrimination is present in society, resist it where possible, and play up on positive attributes. You will find that physical intimidation, dating potential and employment prospects improve markedly with that elusive factor of confidence, the acquiring of which will require considerable work.

How is such confidence achieved? Like respect, it has to be earned - but in this case by oneself. Confidence is not granted to the shorter man the way it is to his taller counterpart by society as a whole. If one has little confidence in himself, it is doubtful that others will have any confidence in him. One is not noticed and promoted in a manner commensurate with their abilities impartially - their finer qualities have to be promoted aloud, or they are apt to be overlooked.

So how does one earn confidence for themselves?

Learn to write and speak effectively. Nobody wants to spend effort trying to understand another. If expectations of a person are initially low, even less effort will be granted. One should want to present themselves as higher than average in this regard, as clarity and forthrightness is usually welcomed.

Learn to be assertive. Lack of assertion is common amongst those used to being pushed around. Assertiveness means being non aggressive while not being a pushover. It does not allow for another to claim we have an attitude problem, it only allows for reasonable discourse of the point at hand.

Learn physical prowess. It is no coincidence that the students of martial arts schools are generally shorter than the national average. Greater physical confidence does amazing things on uncomfortable one-to-one encounters. Just being able to show - with a clear willingness - the determination to fight back is alone enough of a deterrent in most situations. A person picking on a shorter guy does not generally want a real fight - they want to beat up on someone. If that person looks as if they are compensating for their height with a willingness (and very possibly, genuine ability) to fight, the former will normally bluster and go elsewhere.

Learn to dress and keep appearances. Slouch, dress in old clothes and shave once a week, and you will not look your best. Drink and smoke to excess too, and your body will be treated with the same disrespect by the casual observer.

5a. Dating

This is one of the situations where HD is most commonly experienced in its most painful form by the shorter man. A lot of women will put up with manifest faults in a taller man, but will not seriously consider a short man. This is a phenomenon well understood to the shorter man, who came to understand it through adolescence, in finding himself not terribly successful while his taller friends had fewer problems. Eventually it was realised there was an additional hurdle to cross.

As mentioned earlier, there are about as many women as men in society. That simple fact means there are enough people of the opposite sex to go around. They may be harder to find, and classic beauties may not be throwing themselves so readily at a shorter man, but enough women are available.

As a kid, I recall watching a wildlife series on birds attacking milk bottle tops for a morning feed. Milk used to be delivered to the doorstep in bottles in the UK, sealed with aluminium foil. Birds would peck through the foil and drink the first inch of cream. An experiment was done giving birds fake bottles intermixed with real bottles. The fake bottles were painted on the inside and sealed to give the impression of a full pint. Would the birds give up after a couple of fakes or keep trying? It turned out they only went elsewhere when the ratio of real to fake bottles fell between 10 and 20 to one.

The point is clear - instead of losing confidence at a rejection, try again as soon as reasonably possible. If that fails, keep trying. A long run of complete failures should warrant a review of tactics, and a possible change of location or situation altogether. If a short man has looked at the situation and decides that 95% of women or more are going reject him, it means 20 times as many approaches will be necessary for that successful result. The birds don't complain about the empty bottles. They know what they need, and immediately go on to get it elsewhere.

Given that a mate is a pretty important consideration in life, a lot of effort is justified. An individual feeling sorry for himself is unlikely to attract a partner from which a healthy relationship would result. One wants a partner to admire, and be admired by, not to feel pity or duty towards. With stakes this big, surely a very large effort is necessary. A considerable number of failures should be expected, lessons learned, and one should not be put off with a lack of immediate success.

It should be considered that a fair proportion of women will not find height important, may even have a liking for shorter men, or are mature enough to understand height is only one factor in the suitability of a prospective mate. It should also be considered that it is somewhat unfair to judge women by society's general preferences and stereotypes, while regarding society's predispositions towards the attractiveness of a shorter man both undue and unjust - which it is.

The idea that it should be a level playing field, and that the shorter man ought to be given the same crack of the whip as a tall man, should be set aside. An understanding that the game needs tilting in one's favour, and that a longer game needs to be played, is required.

To meet with first impressions, one must work on those physical attributes not governed by height. Bearing, dress and fitness will play a part - particularly to a prospective partner who is not completely bowled over by height alone. Shorter men are most suitable for gaining muscle through training. Martial arts were designed by and for people smaller than your typical westerner (Sumo wrestling aside). Being fit, lithe and muscular is an obvious attraction, and makes for a better life generally.

Manner and bearing will be significant factors on a second glance, or after an initial introduction. Here confidence is the major factor, together with eloquence and social graces. The bustling, charged and often aggressive arenas of nightclubs, crowded bars and discos might not be the best place to demonstrate such skills.

Personal grooming gives at least some indication of the esteem to which a person holds himself. Should one be entirely unkempt and poorly attired, there is a fair chance that person treats the rest of their lives in similar disregard. Excessive attention to personal appearance may give an impression of one who is overly self interested. It should not be difficult to achieve a successful balance. Consult popular periodicals such as "Men's Health" magazine to find pointers on clothing, grooming and body toning.

A person unused to female company may find conversation difficult. To overcome this, practice is required. Nothing is lost by prolonging conversation where the opportunity arises, whether face to face or on the telephone. It is particularly important to get used to talking without an agenda of getting into bed with the other as fast as possible, talking without the pressure, and so to talk without giving signals of desperation.

It is reasonably well recognised that people in general and women in particular like to talk - and to be listened to. Practice being genuinely interested in another's random conversation, without feeling the need to put forward one's own thoughts all the time.

Beyond the initial interest and introductions, the content of one's character - their honour and consideration - are what a person becomes known for way beyond their physical size. Practice being known as reliable, truthful, generous and positive. It may not allow for many a short term indulgence, but pays handsome rewards in the long term. Being happy with life, and interested enough in both one's own affairs and those of others, to have the confidence to talk to a woman without feeling a need to play a role - these are the sorts of qualities that will serve to even the score, at the least.

5b. Employment

Certain positions of management are out of bounds. Indeed, unless the company has been built personally by the shorter man (such as EDS or Microsoft), he is arguably better off staying out of management altogether. Sales - unfortunately - has a similar predisposition towards the taller man. This is to the great discredit of personnel departments everywhere, as they have recklessly excluded well over half the candidates on grounds no more sound than by scrutinising tea-leaves.

A shift has taken place in certain areas of employment - particularly high technology - which means it is often possible for key technical employees to earn more than their manager. In the fields of technology and engineering, people are judged much more on their productivity and competence than on their ability to impress a client with their height. The chance for discrimination has much less scope when dealing with facts and competence rather than impressions and persona.

Whatever the vocation, an improvement in the projection of confidence will assist a person. A shorter man has to counter inherent prejudice. Just to even the score, he needs to be better in any number of other areas. This is a phenomenon familiar to women who have struggled to achieve parity in employment, yet they too often fail to reach the upper levels.

Self-help manuals in assertiveness abound, but a short course is generally available at city colleges. They serve to illustrate that one is not alone in a lack of assertiveness, and the group interaction is more effective than reading alone. Similarly, courses in public speaking, elocution and effective writing will pay dividends.

As with dating, the projection of confidence for employment potential is important. Height is important, but nearly everyone realises it is not the only thing to consider. Clearly, certain professions are going to be largely unavailable to a shorter man. But these are the top echelons - not where the vast majority of the population lives. In being excluded, we must accept that were are in good company. Virtually all "ethnic minorities" - anyone of the wrong age, class, accent, background, gender or sexual orientation - will be similarly excluded. There are plenty of other vocations around, and rewards to be gained while not right at the top.

5c. Physical prowess and confidence

A smaller man who has never trained will be very surprised at the results, and at the rate of change for the better, if he starts to train seriously. A smaller body can have some serious advantages in terms of ability to perform sports. A better power to weight ratio will be found in a smaller man, all other things being equal. The need to swing around less bulk allows smaller men to perform more effectively at sports requiring greater agility, such as martial arts or gymnastics. Agility on the field means a great deal in major sports - Gareth Edwards and Bruce Lee proved that at the top, one need not be deterred by lack of height.

Martial arts

Many short men find that, after a lifetime of physical intimidation, they wish to even the balance. Martial arts provide an excellent opportunity to do this. Not only are most martial arts designed for those lighter on their feet and more agile, but many (such as Aikido) favour the vantage of being below the opponent's centre of gravity. Martial arts schools are generally populated by people of less than average height for these reasons.

With training, even a mediocre student can manage to get off a punch in one tenth of a second. A more gifted and practiced karate student can easily make a powerful kick in the same time. Just as importantly, the ability to avoid, block and counter offensive strikes makes your average drunken thug very much less of a threat. A cringing individual will attract aggressive attention, while an air of genuine competence will deter attacks in itself.

Other than in random encounters, the awareness that an individual (however small) is quite capable of defending himself, and regularly trains to ensure he can do so, will command respect in others that goes beyond mere compensation for shortness.

So apart from possibly life-saving (or beating-saving) skills, a worthwhile hobby and social function, martial arts can provide one with a leaner, fitter, more agile body, and increase personal self esteem immeasurably. As a confidence building measure alone, for one not satisfied with their physical make-up, it is worth the effort.

Body building and toning

Weightlifting will quickly benefit a shorter man. Extra bulk in the right places will improve upon a negative perception of smallness, and substituting pounds of muscle for pounds of fat will be far more aesthetically pleasing. It is hard to argue that an hour every day or so cannot be afforded to this exercise. Weights are cheap and can be made at home should money be particularly tight. Joining a gym is the best bet, preferably with a friend. Stretching and weight training is something no able bodied short man has any excuse for not doing, particularly if he bemoans his lack of size. Size - of exactly the right type - is there for the taking.


General fitness and stamina through running, cycling, swimming and so forth will improve an entire attitude to oneself - both body and mind. Relying on a body to cope under taxing conditions, learning what works and what does not, for the only body one will ever own, is an essential life skill. Everybody wants to be fitter, and once the process starts it is so self-rewarding that it is no longer an effort - exercise is a pleasure anticipated while sedentary, or restricted. The endomorphines released are a natural high, a pleasurable reward which truly feels of the purest kind - one which has been earned through honest labour.

When a person works on their body to improve it, they undertake a labour of love. The body may hurt its owner for the work and effort involved, but it will reward them too. It will adapt, and learn to bend, lift and manoeuvre as required, become stronger and more agile, and gain stamina. In this relationship between oneself and the body, one becomes more aware and appreciative of its function. One learns to love the body that responds to and for your needs, gain respect for it, and perhaps not curse any bad luck which presents itself in any shortcomings.

6. Looking forward

Society progresses, and useful abilities of individuals change with its demands. Since the industrial revolution, the more basic ability to lift heavy weights and so forth has been in lesser demand. Even then, being strong or stocky rather than tall was the desired attribute. Being tall has come into fashion in much the same way as being overly thin has become necessary for a woman to be officially classified as attractive.

Leadership is more of a beauty contest than at any other time in history. Besides being treated as an attribute in itself, height gives a candidate more attention, solely due to an ingrained impression. Today, the likes of Churchill, at 5'4", would be instantly dismissed as a no-hoper who nobody would take seriously. Society should decide that it is not in its interest to dismiss such potential in such a trivial fashion.

An entire underclass is spontaneously generated, wherever HD manifests itself. Such underclasses have existed before, of course, and were acknowledged as such in society. Only the TWG has remained privileged throughout, a position still largely based on perceived macho strengths. As such base instincts become less prevalent in society, it is hoped that physical intimidation will diminish. In an enlightened society, it should be seen as unacceptable as racial discrimination.

It is worth challenging insulting stereotypes whenever they appear in the media and advertising. Ad agencies and TV producers -somewhat to their dismay - can no longer generate a collective laugh at an individual's expense by gratuitously insulting the fact they are black, Asian, or female. They must treat them much more carefully, but are still free to make fun of a small man's height. Heck, he might even be white and middle class, so surely nobody should mind.

Prejudice is tempered when the target of that prejudice takes sufficient collective umbrage and such slurs become seen as unacceptable in polite society, and the purveyors of such prejudiced messages find their work unwelcome, so that they are forced to accept HD is not welcomed by nearly half the population personally, and a greater proportion indirectly.

7. Conclusion

At present, short is seen as an unquestionably bad thing, with conventional wisdom holding many unkind assumptions about the character of such a person. This must be challenged whenever it is presented - personally, institutionally and commercially. Business understands the bottom line, and once it is understood that they lose market share by negatively portraying those shorter than average, they will stop acting against their own interests. Individuals should be encouraged to understand that HD is not a subject short men laugh along to, and they needlessly make an enemy whenever they indulge.

"Body fascism" is set to be around for a while. The media spotlight started deciding character on trivial appearance some time ago, and the trend is far from dying down. Being short does not fit the profile of a successful individual, and as a self-serving prophesy, short people are not often accepted to such positions. The image is insidious, as short men get perceived, and thus relegated, to the lower end of any given pecking order.

So it is important to accept that whatever the competition, a short man is going to be burdened with overcoming a societal prejudice, just as he would if he were gay, or from an ethnic minority. Indeed, as many ethnic minorities are shorter than the average Westerner, they face a double prejudice.

A shorter man should make the absolute best of his body. Being a healthy, strong individual will usually command greater respect than another who is quite average in body form, but taller. Having a body into which considerable effort and discipline has been constructively applied will give a fully justified sense of pride, and an increase in confidence. In all probability, disadvantages caused by lack of height alone in society cannot be overcome in our lifetimes. But we can greatly mitigate its effect in how it affects our confidence, and how our physical form and ourselves are perceived.

Society may judge a person in large part by their height alone. We do not have to join them and reinforce prejudice by harbouring such negative feelings towards ourselves. HD is caused solely by prejudice in others, so it is up to us to associate our character with more worthy aspiration than simply height. It is a moral imperative to fight this discrimination that allows - on random chance - one to be born into high regard or treated to a lifetime of semi-contempt.

If you have any questions or comments about this essay, please contact me at