Today, all over the globe, bloggers in the Bloggers Unite program's "Blog Against Abuse" event are raising awareness of pet and animal abuse. Others are doing their part in ending the abuse of the elderly, women, children, and other groups.
I'll be discussing a group of people who are often overlooked: short people.
True: this particular "abuse" issue falls short of the seriousness of the other forms of abuse I mentioned; but it is real.
First, what's short, and what's not?
The average woman in America is 64 inches tall. That's five feet, four inches, or about 162.5 centimeters.
Only 5% are five feet (152.5 centimeters) tall or shorter.
The average man in America is 70 inches tall: That's five feet, ten inches, or about 177 centimeters.
Only 5% of men are five feet, four and a half inches (165 centimeters) tall or shorter.
The average American man's eyes are about five feet six inches (roughly 167.6 centimeters) off the floor.
I've seen other numbers given as average for America, but all are around these values.So what?
Almost everything we use is designed for people, often men, who are at least as tall as average.
"Eye level" peepholes in doors are often about five and a half feet off the floor: roughly six inches above an average woman's eye level. With the exception of a few specialized devices like the Super Wide Angle DoorScope
, people whose eyes aren't at the right height have to be athletic or ingenious to see through the peepholes. Sometimes both.
And, for five percent of American women, those "eye level" peepholes are half a foot or more above the top of their heads.
You may have heard of the studies that show a positive relationship between height and success in business: particularly in leadership positions. And, tall people seem to enjoy more social success.
I think the studies are true enough, but I'm not particularly upset by their findings. But then, I'm not upset because the prejudices and preferences of this society mean that I never had a chance to be a male model.
Some roles, like being a supermodel or a CEO, rely on the way human beings react to each other. It's useless, at best, to make believe that we human beings aren't what we are.The lower to the ground you live,
the more interesting it gets.
However, short people are overlooked in many practical, everyday ways.
If you think I'm taking all this personally, you're perceptive. I was five feet, eight inches tall before hip replacements (and maybe age) took me down an inch. That's close to the national average.
However, since I grew up in a mostly-Scandinavian community, where guys six feet tall or more weren't all that uncommon, I got used to looking many people straight in the collar.
My wife is five feet tall, 152.5 centimeters: Well below average in America, but close to average in Japan (at least, back in 1948: things have changed since then
.). I used to joke that we might find life a little easier, over in Japan.
In the quarter-century of our marriage, I've had ample opportunity to see what it's like in the lower 5th percentile of height.
People down there have two choices when sitting in a normal chair: let their feet swing in the air, or sit with their back in its proper position, their knees well onto the seat, and their toes pointing up.
Climbing onto a chair or stool to look out the peephole is a routine. Or, as an alternative, shouting through the door in an effort to guess the identify of whoever is out there.
Buying clothing isn't easy. I think women have a harder time with this, since most women's wear seems to be designed for someone six feet tall who weighs 98 pounds. Children's' clothing and shoes are an option, for fit if not style.
When my wife and I get groceries, she hasn't always waited for me to catch up with her. I've seen her do a sort of reverse-basketball-dunk, getting packages from upper shelves.
At home, she, and the daughter of ours who is the same height, have been known to climb the lower cabinets and use the counter as a walkway, to access the upper kitchen cabinets. (Please! No flame about this! My culinary skills are marginal at best: My wife really doesn't want me working in the kitchen.)
This doesn't sound like "abuse," but consider this what your life would be like, if
- You lived in a world where counters were at elbow level or above
- The peephole in your apartment's door was well above the top of your head
- The only chairs that fit you were in an elementary school's classroom
- Clothing that fits you is mostly in the children's section
That's where about seven million women, and about as many men, in America live.
I've focused on American culture and people, because that's what I'm familiar with. I do not know what it's like, living in the bottom five percent in other cultures.What to do?
Although I list a couple of spots online that deal with "heightism," I don't suggest that you join or support some sort of "shrimps of the world, arise!" group.
I want you to do something harder: think; and maybe change the way you think.
- The next time you decide where a peephole goes, remember: tall people can bend down. Its harder for a short person to lift their eyes.
- If you design equipment or furniture, keep the shrimps in mind.
- Do you look down on short people? Do you
- Refer to them as something like "shrimps?" Think! Is that respectful? (I know: I used that term myself.)
- Assume that someone who's shorter than you are is less mature than you are? Less intelligent? Less capable? You could be wrong.
- Have you ever seen someone shorter than you are during school hours and asked, "why aren't you in school?" My wife was asked that. She was in her twenties at the time.
I know: several of those examples only apply to designers and construction workers. Odds are that you aren't in that line of work. But, you might know someone who is.
And, you might be an architect, you might install doors as part of your work, and you might design the furnishings we all use.Come on, is this really important?
But consider this story.
Jane and John Doe are a young couple. Jane is five feet tall, a fifth-percentile American woman. John is a fiftieth-percentile American man, at five feet ten inches.
The two of them had spent a year or two living in apartments. Jane was tired of reaching the peephole to see if the knock at the door was the plumber, or that creep from 319.
Jane had to trust John's judgment about the house they bought. Let's say she's a high-power corporate lawyer, or a starship captain: or come up with your own explanation.
The description of the place was good, and John assured Jane that the cabinets were at a practical height.
That included the one with glass doors, the one with a top shelf at eye level.
The picture below is of that "eye level" shelf: seen from John's eye level. That's Jane, reaching up to the "eye level" shelf.
As promised, here are a couple of relevant links.
Instead of crying out against "heightism," though, I'd rather that you do something harder: think about yourself, and the world we live in.