Sociological Images brings us a video talking about implicit bias against short men. The scientifically valid tool discussed in the video, the Implicit Association Test, measures how biased someone is against a group, even in ways they may not know about: if the test-taker is faster and more accurate at sorting tall men and good things into the same category than tall men and bad things, the test-taker is biased in favor of tall men.
The IATs have shown a systematic bias against short men– in fact, the scientist interviewed in the video compares the magnitude of the effect to that of race or ethnicity. Even more interestingly, this is almost entirely a subconscious bias. After all, outside of dating sites (in which women often request men 6′ or taller, partially so they can wear heels around their partner without feeling like they’re emasculating him, and isn’t that a rat’s nest of kyriarchy), very few people think about height as a gendered axis of oppression at all.
And don’t get me wrong: it is gendered. I would be very, very surprised if short women experienced the same bias that short men do. Height is, after all, a symbol of power: if you loom over someone, if you’re bigger than them, you appear more powerful than them on a very primal level. In Western culture, we associate men with power, women with weakness. A short woman is merely doing what her gender requires (and may actually experience a larger dating pool and less worry about high-heel-induced castration complexes). A short man is, in a certain way, failing as a man.
It’s also important to note that these biases are all subconscious. No one wakes up in the morning and says “fuck, man, short men are idiots and pussies, I fucking hate short men and am going to try to make them drink at their own water fountain.” There are very few anti-short-man hate groups. Even those portions of the Internet which have the primary function of stewing in their own grievances against every person who is not exactly like their readers usually only hate short men casually and in passing.
But for a lot of people, subconsciously, a tall man just seems… more imposing. More attractive. More like he knows what he’s doing. More charismatic. More of a leader. More of a man. All those little, intangible, gut-level things that can make the difference between a hiring or a promotion and a dead-end career or a night shift at Starbucks.
You can be racist, or sexist, or classist, or ableist, or even heightist without knowing it. You can appear to yourself like you don’t have a kyriarchal bone in your body and still perpetrate the kyriarchy without meaning to. The process of unlearning kyriarchal conditioning is just that– a lifelong process. (This, incidentally, is why a lot of people support affirmative action. You’re already getting a leg up from all the subconscious biases people have, you might as well let the rest of us have a chance.)