From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Consider, for instance, the very common preference—on the part of both heterosexual men and women—that a man be taller than his female mate. This is just one example of the eroticization of a subtle form of male dominance and female subordination that permeates our everyday experience." --"What's Wrong with the Female Nude?" (2012) Anne W. Eaton
Heightism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals based on height. In principle, it refers to discriminatory treatment against individuals whose height is not within the normal acceptable range of height in a population. Height discrimination is most common against shorter than average men and is generally accepted and ignored.
Dating and marriage
Heightism is also a factor in dating preferences. For some people, height is a noteworthy factor in sexual attractiveness.
The greater reproductive success of taller men is attested to by studies indicating that taller men are more likely to be married and to have more children, except in societies with severe sex imbalances caused by war. However, more recent research has drawn this theory into question, finding no correlation between height and offspring count. Moreover, research on leg length and leg-to-body ratio conflicts with the notion that there is a distinct preference for taller mates. A 2008 study found that both extremes, tall and short, reduced attractiveness, and a 2006 study found that a lower leg-to-body ratio in men and higher leg-to-body ratio in women increased aesthetic appeal. Biologically, from an evolutionary perspective, these findings are consistent with data relating height to human health. Therefore, a biological or, more specifically, an evolutionary argument for the preference of a taller mate is questionable, lacking definitive evidence. Nonetheless, research by Dan Ariely found that American women exhibit a marked preference for dating taller men, and that for shorter men to be judged attractive by women, they must earn substantially more money than taller men. ("Ariely found that a 5'4" man would need to make $229,000 more than a 6' man to have equal appeal; a 5'6" man would need $183,000 more; a 5'10" man would need $32,000 more." Lori Gottlieb (2010). Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Penguin, ISBN 9781101185209 p. 239)
A 2012 study found that both men and women are willing to excuse height differences by using a trade-off approach. Men may compensate 1.3 BMI units with a 1 percent higher wage than their wife. Women may compensate 2 BMI units with an additional year of higher education. Furthermore, a 2015 study found that both men and women receive benefits for having a tall spouse. The husband's gains include beauty that results from his wife's positive attributes that are correlated with her height such as education. The wife on the other hand looks for a tall husband due to them generating higher earnings.
Nonetheless, on a cultural level in Post-industrial society, a sociological relationship between height and perceived attractiveness exists. This cultural characteristic, while applicable to the modernized world, is not a transcendental human quality. Quantitative studies of woman-for-men personal advertisements have shown strong preference for tall men, with a large percentage indicating that a man significantly below average height was unacceptable. A study produced by the Universities of Groningen and Valencia, has found that men who felt most anxious about attractive, physically dominant, and socially powerful rivals, were less jealous, the taller they were themselves. The study also found that women were most jealous of others' physical attractiveness, but women of medium height were the least jealous. The report, produced by Dutch and Spanish researchers, stated that because average height women tend to be the most fertile and healthy, they would be less likely to feel threatened by women with those similar features.
- Hitsch, Günter J., Ali Hortaçsu, and Dan Ariely. 2010a. “Matching and Sorting in Online Dating.” American Economic Review 100(1): 130–63