Height discrimination

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Heightism is prejudice or discrimination based on height. In principle it can refer to treatment of either unusually tall or short people.

The term heightism was coined by sociologist Saul Feldman in a paper titled "The presentation of shortness in everyday life—height and heightism in American society: Toward a sociology of stature", presented at the meeting of the American Sociological Association in 1971. Heightism was included in the Second Barnhart Dictionary of New English (1971) and popularized by Time magazine in a 1971 article on Feldman's paper.

Some jobs do require or at least favor tall people, including some manual labor jobs, law enforcement, most professional sports, flight attendants, and fashion modeling. US Military pilots have to be 64 to 77 inches (160 to 200 cm) tall with a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches (86 to 100 cm). These exceptions noted, in the great majority of cases a person’s height would not seem to have an effect on how well they are able to perform their job. Nevertheless, studies have shown that short people are paid less than taller people, with disparities similar in magnitude to the race and gender gaps.

The Buddha's teachings

The Buddha's teachings have no place for height discrimination. The Buddha rejected discrimination based on birth.

Birth makes no Brahmin, nor non-Brahmin, makes; it is life‘s doing that mold the Brahmin true. Their lives mold farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and serfs. Their lives mold robbers, soldiers, chaplains, and kings. By birth is not one an out-caste. By birth is not one a Brahmin. By deeds is one an out-caste. By deeds is one a Brahmin.

  • (Majjhima Nikaya 98, Vasettha Sutta 57-59)

From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find... A being who has not been your father... your brother... your sister... your son... your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find.

  • (Samyutta Nikaya 15.14-19) [we have all been every shape, form, and color in previous lifetimes]

Ven. Bhaddiya

Ven. Bhaddiya was a dwarf during the time of the Buddha, ordained and attained enlightenment.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. And on that occasion Ven. Bhaddiya the Dwarf, following behind a large number of monks, was going to the Blessed One. From afar, the Blessed One saw Ven. Bhaddiya the Dwarf coming, following behind a large number of monks: ugly, unsightly, stunted, treated with condescension by most of the monks. On seeing him, the Blessed One addressed the monks, "Monks, do you see that monk coming from afar, following behind a large number of monks: ugly, unsightly, stunted, treated with condescension by most of the monks?"

"Yes, lord."

"That, monks, is a monk of great power, great might. The attainment already attained by that monk is not of a sort easily attained. And by means of it he has reached & remains in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself right in the here-&-now."

Udana 7.5

The Buddha repeats this praise in Samyutta Nikaya 21.6 and ends it by saying:

"Swans, herons, and peacocks, elephants and spotted deer, All fear the lion, although their bodies are not equal. Just so, amongst humans, if a small one is wisdom-endowed, There, certainly, he is great, and not the fool endowed with a large body."

See also

Race and racism