How Heightism Changes Our Understanding of Strength and Competence

In her new book, lawyer Tanya Osensky argues that constantly monitoring height is a symptom and driver of a pervasive "heightism" that unjustly frames tallness as powerful and shortness as weak.
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In her new book, lawyer Tanya Osensky argues that constantly monitoring height is a symptom and driver of a pervasive "heightism" that unjustly frames tallness as powerful and shortness as weak.
Shortchanged: Height Discrimination and Strategies for Social Change.

Shortchanged: Height Discrimination and Strategies for Social Change.

Shortchanged: Height Discrimination and Strategies for Social Change
Tanya S Osensky
ForeEdge

The moment our children are born, nurses measure their height. At every doctor's visit, they measure it again, and at home we mark their vertical growth on the wall. For most people, this ubiquitous practice sounds unremarkable, harmless. In Shortchanged, lawyer Tanya Osensky argues that constantly monitoring height is the simultaneous symptom and driver of a pervasive "heightism" that unjustly frames tallness as powerful and shortness as weak, especially in men. Osensky notes the prejudicial influence of heightism in workplace hiring and promotion decisions, playground bullying, the dating market, and the often-pathologizing medical discourse around shortness. While unimpeachable on logical grounds, Osensky's case would have benefited from detailed, real-life narratives of heightism's effects; the best sections evoke her own experience as a short woman with a short son.

A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.

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