The Horrible Bane of Heightism: A Price Must Be Paid!

Barb Wire

Let’s discuss why yours truly deserves reparations. It’s because of a life-long discrimination that left me short of what I should have received. In contemporary vernacular, I’m entitled. We don’t have to go back generations to make my case, though it probably would only enhance my claim.

It’s been a while since last raising the issue of bigoted, gross discrimination against yours truly, and against other people of, shall we say, less than optimal height. Let’s try one more time.

I demand equal outcome, and therefore equal remuneration, plus an end to the clearly wrongful discrimination that keeps people like myself down, in a manner of speaking.

We’re talking about height-ism.

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It’s as obvious as a redwood in a field of tulips. People of lesser height are not rewarded a slice of life’s blessings commensurate with their numbers in the population. We are short-changed. The rewards of commerce and popularity seem directly proportionate to the tale of the tape measure. This undeniable disparity must end.

Yes, yes, I know strictly speaking you had nothing to do with my shortness. But if I’m entitled, somebody has to pay. And you’ve got money, so…

We’re still working on an effective slogan. “Raise shorties to new heights!” sounded good at first, but on reflection it doesn’t quite measure up, if you get my meaning.

Back to the point…

When was the last time you saw someone Napoleon Bonaparte’s size dribble down court in an NBA basketball game? Nappy, for short, was 5-foot 6-inches tall, for the record. Or 5-foot 6-inches short, as your bias may prefer.

If you think that’s funny, that brings up another aspect of this shameful discrimination. Who was ever funnier than Charlie Chaplin, I ask? Hm? No one, of course! And the Little Tramp (a demeaning movie industry moniker that only reinforced the prejudice) stood a reasonable 5-foot-5. Laugh that one off, if you can.

To prove beauty is not bound by being height-limited, consider that Mae West weighed in, so to speak, at an even 5-foot, no inches. Some like to excuse her success by saying she made up for it in other dimensions. But that’s a cheap excuse.
Despite these exceptions, societal bias against people of modest altitude has so permeated our culture that it spawns self-conscious compensations. No, not lifts in the shoes or high heels.

We’re talking about prestigious persons of lesser physical stature yielding to the shame by stretching reality to painful heights. Why else would Judy Garland have wanted to be known as 4-foot, 11 and one half inches tall, rather than rounded off to a more honest 4-11? Likewise Gloria Swanson at 4-11 and one half and Dustin Hoffman at 5-5 and one half. Look what the culture has done to these perfectly upright people, making them strain for every extra millimeter. It’s shameful.

When otherwise accomplished people must publicly plead as if on tip-toes to be acknowledged another half inch taller, something is seriously wrong. Where, I ask, is the short pride?! It’s laid to rest as another casualty of generations of discrimination, that’s where!

I don’t want to get on my high horse, but even yours truly has felt social pressure to take faux pride in height. I must admit to a little sinful conceit that at 5-7 in bare feet yours truly finds himself appreciably taller than notables such as Billy Joel, 5-5, Brenda Lee, 4-9, and Paul Simon, 5-3. Put that song in your jukebox and play it.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge it’s shameful to gloat over height advantage. Tallness, we know from mom’s advice and from scripture (I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, maybe in Leviticus) tell us that it’s not how tall you are that matters. What matters is outcome. No, mom really didn’t say that, and neither does scripture.

That’s the point of this little epistle. A perceived slight, as it were, is only important to those perceiving it. It’s not a real thing. It’s a pride thing. Get over it.

If a Napoleon-sized point guard could shoot, dribble and rebound with the effectiveness of someone 6-4, he’d be signed up. If someone actually discriminates against another because the other is short, well, that’s life. The short guy, like the ugly woman, like the over-weight or too-skinny or not enough or way too much of anything may have an unfair cross to bear. So what? Where is it written that anyone should be punished for not liking your height, heft, looks, etc.?

Real payback is when we of the short set or the ugly set or any of those other disfavored subsets demonstrate our excellence. Skeptics will be blown away and mutter, “Did you see what that short, fat, ugly person did?! I never would have guessed!”

The counter balancing justice is that when those tall, handsome, fit and otherwise preferred types fail. That’s a monumental disappointment. How could appearances be so wrong? It runs against everything we assume.

As mom always said, and on her best day she never stood higher than 5-5, don’t judge a book by its cover. Read the small print.

About those reparations… Never mind. I’d rather earn it than pretend I’m entitled because I’m undersized. If you must, give it to one of those tall, can’t-miss fellows when he fails miserably because he assumed he had a leg up on those of lesser stature.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Mark Landsbaum
Mark Landsbaum is a Christian husband, father, grandfather and journalist who has written for a living for 43 years, ever since discovering he had no particular talents. He can be found on Facebook, Linkedin, and in the archives of the Orange County Register where he wrote another column for 10 years. He can be reached at

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