An Anti-Racist Activist's Perspective on Heightism, Weightism, and Other Lookisms
by Mara L.
October 2005

I was logged on to my favorite anti-racist chat, my politically correct refuge where I could be free to be me, when I saw this:

Typical short girl complex.

replied one male poster in response to another person's post. Notice the fact that he said 'girl', even though both members were over 25 years old.

That town is full of short girls who wear 8 inch platforms to look normal. Don't date anyone from there.

another person posted in a different thread.

[Certain race] girls are fat.

and therefore should be undesirable.

I moved to Asia but I'm too fat to get a boyfriend here, so I have to date foreign guys.

There has to be a better reason to date interculturally.

Women of our race are thinner than women of [certain race], so I prefer them.

He should've given a better reason, like his love for his culture.

As someone of below-average height and above-average weight, I was offended, even shocked by such ignorant remarks from allegedly enlightened people. I see such ignorance when I venture onto far right wing, racist, and sexist sites, but I had not expected to see it on an activist, anti-racist African- and Asian-American site.

These folks - including myself - have taken up arms against racist hiring policies, helped out at voter registration drives, informed people about stereotypes, and protested against racist and sexist depictions of women, people of color, and gay people. But even civil rights activists can succumb to biologically lookist, heightist, and weightist hatred, because it's obscure and viewed as a joke.

I felt betrayed, like I did when a close friend of mine made a bigoted comment about my culture.

I know firsthand how heightism can be almost as cruel as racism. I know why some women wear 3 inch platforms. I did an experiment one day: Steve Maddens versus sneakers. I found that I was treated with more respect when I wore platforms than when I wore flat soles. With normal shoes on, my feet are usually stepped on three or four times a day, people 'accidentally' hit me with their swinging fists in the streets because my face is at their fist level, I am called out of my name as 'hobbit', 'dwarf', 'elf', I am constantly ignored, and people stare at me when I try to say something serious. I am publicly laughed at when I try to wear the latest styles, and am shoved and pushed at the rock concerts/clubs that I enjoy because people can't see me. I can't see anything at larger anti-racist rallies, and people sometimes can't even see my sign.

But when I'm wearing platform soles, my feet are never stepped on, people LISTEN to me, men even approach me for dating, and I am actually treated like I belong when I attend concerts and nightclubs. I am not laughed at when I am singing on stage; I am told that I am attractive, and I am even subjected less to gender and racial stereotypes. People RESPECT me a thousandfold more at 5'4" than when I am at my natural height. I'm still the same weight, gender and ethnicity, wearing the same clothes, but I get that much better treatment for a little past four more inches. This is wrong. I don't even want to repeat the huge list of problems I've had to deal with regarding to weightism.

Years ago, racist 'blackface' shows were considered funny by whites. Nowadays, the likes of Chris Rock still tell racial jokes, albeit in a less bigoted fashion. But nobody can deny that racism is not a problem in today's society.

The average 5'4", 120 lb. minority woman can understand sexism and racism, but will not take heightism and weightism seriously. Just like some wealthy WASP males don't care about the more common issues of sexism, racism, and classism, people who aren't short or fat generally don't 'get' heightism and weightism. That doesn't mean they can't 'get' it. Today's white people are aware of racism, and today's men are aware of sexism, and tomorrow's non-short, non-fat people will be aware of this other bigotry - if we educate people about it.

Anti-racist and anti-sexist people who promote biological lookism are like men who prefer 'natural' women with no makeup or plastic surgery, yet are attracted to busty, big-eyed, model-like women: a look unnatural to 90% of humanity. By doing so, they abhor the hoi polloi and worship the natural elite. Height increasing surgery is derided on the aforementioned anti-racist board, but people there still boast of being 6'2", mock short people for having 'Napoleon complexes' (from being oppressed all the time!). They tell naturally fat people to stop 'eating westernized food' (hint: fat people are naturally fat no matter what they eat), make fun of 'short loser boys' and even men and especially women of their own race for being short. Only NATURAL beauty and superiority are praised. Cursed be those who were born inferior, and let's call them sellouts if they choose to improve themselves through surgery! Sounds like whom? Sounds like the Nazis and other racists whom they hate.

And yes, you can change what you find attractive. You can deprogram yourself. I used to be brainwashed into thinking that tall and thin men were attractive. Now, after becoming socially aware, I prefer shorter, fatter guys, and am attracted to people of all colors and races, rather than just my own. Open your damn mind and who knows what you'll find?

There are no safe places left in the world, nowhere we could be judged for the content of our character rather than what we look like. It goes beyond skin color and gender. We aren't viewed as humans, but as objects.

If you look at it closely, biological lookism is the very root of racism and sexism. When you take away cultural constructs, race and gender are both based on how you look. And short/fat women and minorities face a double barrier. Unlike social class or cleanliness, biological lookism is not surmountable. We work so much on helping the poor and battling racism that we neglect to fight biological lookism, which is as immutable as skin color. We exalt the beauty of ethnic looking people, but we still fail to appreciate the worth of short and fat people because they are despised not only in Western culture, but in our ancestral cultures as well.

Look, Eurocentrism/racism is not our sole enemy. Hierarchies of every origin - all value systems based on immutable characteristics be it race, birth, height, gender, or skin tone - must be defeated, whether they come from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, or anywhere else.

Some people of a scientific bent consider this pursuit of perfection 'innate, evolutionary, ancestral'. This is a dangerous idea. If we contend also that racism and sexism are forms of lookism, then they must be innate as well. But racism and sexism are detrimental and uncivilized. Even if our ancestors were lookist, racist, and sexist, we should not be. This is the 21st century and we aren't cavemen. People shouldn't be judged by factors beyond their control, whether they be race, gender, or appearance.

Biological Lookism: lookism based on factors beyond one's control. Height, weight, body shape and skin tone fall into this category. Discrimination based on this must be stopped!

Social Lookism: is based on the way somebody grooms himself, behaves, and whether he is appropriately dressed. This is the only good form of lookism, because it encourages hard work and civilized behavior. If you are a dirty loser geek and you make no effort to improve yourself, you don't belong in the anti-lookist movement, just like people who don't want to work don't belong in the anti-classist movement. You belong there on the couch in the pro-lazyist movement.

Biological lookism is the highest offense against democracy; it is a form of aristocracy because it's based on how somebody is born. Any true American should fight it.

Let's redefine beauty and ugliness on our own terms. I propose that anyone who is clean, takes care of himself, dresses neatly, and is decent and respectful, is beautiful.

Anyone who is dirty, has bad hygiene, is evil or cruel (particularly biological lookists) and dresses unprofessionally and inappropriately, is ugly.

The 'beauty mask', the 7/10 proportion, and other supposedly 'universal' biological markers for beauty are discriminatory, unegalitarian and therefore unsuited to any decent society.