Saturday, March 30, 2013
Heightism -- contemporary update
Not long ago, I was reading the "Briefly Noted" section in the March 25th issue of the magazine. The third entry was a brief review of a book called The Force of Things. The second sentence of the review reminded me of the Heightism project from my junior year in college. The sentence read, "In almost every way, they are an odd couple: she is beautiful, tidy, calm; he is short, sloppy, irascible." Though the sentence uses the word "odd," not opposite, it is clear that in the context of this description, the man has qualities that do not reflect the woman's qualities. When identifying something about the male character that is "odd," when juxtaposed with the woman's beauty, the author of the review, rather than use a word such as ugly or unappealing or even plain, chooses to use the word short. Actually, the author didn't necessarily choose to use the word short. Most likely, the male character in the story is characterized as short. What's interesting though is that the author of the review chose to link the woman's beauty and the man's shortness as a way to contrast the characters. Clearly, in this context, the word short is intended to be negative.
The problem with this is that the values of the published work are then subjected onto the society that the publication represents. On its own, there is nothing wrong with shortness. But the publication indicates that shortness is indeed a negative. Who knows what difference one word in one review will make. But the more often the word, or similar words, or used in such a way, the more likely it is that society will embrace that value, which in turn will make it more difficult for individuals who happen to be small.