Short Discrimination is Alive and Well
While it is commonly acknowledged that short people often get the short end of the stick in regards to jobs, respect, dating, and other parts of life, it is not generally acknowledged that this type of discrimination constitutes a real problem that needs to be addressed. It is most definitely acknowledged as an inconvience, but it somehow falls into a zone of inattention and apathy amongst the population at large.
It is discriminatory to use a handicap, age, or marital status against individuals with regard to employment or opportunities. These categories are protected by law because it is generally acknowledged and understood that a negative bias is used against them. Even discrimination against overweight individuals has been acknowledged (most notably against several airlines for firing heavier flight attendants), as these lawsuits illustrate. These traits have nothing to do with a person's qualifications for most jobs - and neither does height. While discrimination against height is allowed in most locations, a few jurisdictions officially have anti-heightism laws - Ontario, Michigan, San Francisco, Victoria (Australia), and Santa Cruz.
The glass ceiling is real, and not just for women and minorities. Is it a coincidence that most corporate executives and public officials are taller than average? A full 30% of men are 5'7" or under but only represent 3% of the executives at Fortune 500 companies. Short people also earn about $800/inch less per year than taller workers and fare poorer for job interviews. (sources here)
The media outlets contribute to the problem of heightism with nary a thought. For example, as I was reading through The New Yorker this week (June 19, 2006), Hilton Als offers both a generous tribute to Gregg Toland and a non sequitur shout-out to Toland's height in The Cameraman. "A wispy, laconic man of five feet one, Toland was born in...." There is no other mention of this anywhere else, no any explanation offered for what relevance it has to the topic at all. Was it difficult being shorter as a cameraman? How does this relate to Toland's work or life? We are left in the dark, with only a budding suspicion that the author was surprised to find that a short person could actually contribute something of worth to the evolution of filmcraft.
There are definitely practical and understandable difficulties that crop up from being short, just like for lefties (Yes, I am that too), that does not constitute discrimination. To reach some of my cabinets that are above my head, I often climb onto my kitchen counter (think nothing of the terror of almost falling sometimes). Chairs are often too deep and are too tall for me to comfortably sit in. Clothes are obviously a pain. Luggage and shopping bags are too big or long and drag or bang painfully into my legs. I am at armpit level on the subway or large crowds, and have even once seriously feared suffication at a crowded college party. At a parade, gathering, or meeting, I often can't see anything because anyone in front of me is in my line of vision. These are understandable and somewhat immutable problems that aren't a product of discrimination so much as a regression towards the average (taller) height.
As a female, I've been shielded from some of the indignities that short men must suffer through. I've never been stuffed in a locker or mocked by potential dates. For men, height is much more the measure of his worth and success, and the degree of respect he is given is most definitely dependant on it.
Still don't buy it? Ask women whether their gender contributed to being passed up for raises or promotions. Ask minorities if they're looked at funny or queried if they know English. When I balk at the derogatory short comments, I'm ridiculed for being "overly sensitive" or "ridiculous." Let's stop pretending heightism doesn't exist and realize that it is a problem that should be discussed with sincerity instead of snickering.