John Leo

No identity group is complete without a dab of militance, and Tall provides it with "Fair Air," a firm demand by the tallness lobby for more leg room on airplanes ("Why we hate it and what we're doing about it"). We have been all through this with the size-acceptance movement (lateral division), which would like free extra seats for all wider-bodied passengers. As I understand it from what may have been a superficial reading of "Fair Air," advocates for the tall are not asking for anything like that. They merely want representatives of the tallness culture to be able to put their legs under the two or three rows of seats in front of them.

One of the vexing problems for the height-consciousness movement is that most people think tall people are doing well and should have no complaints. ABC's "20/20" pointed to research showing that women, corporations and children all prefer tall people. Some observers think the phrase "looking up" to someone indicates a strong pro-height social bias.

But this analysis comes up short. It fails to account for all the outright anti-height discrimination in everyday life. A non-tall person may say, "How's the weather up there?" (Correct reply: "You'll find out when you grow up.") Or, "Do you play basketball?" (Possible retorts: "Do you play miniature golf?" and "Are you a jockey?") And as we all know, the cry "Down in front!" devastates many tall and vulnerable teens. It's always hurtful to be looked upon as a visual obstacle.

This is why activists are demanding a height-friendly college curriculum (reading "Wuthering Heights" is a must). On the agenda, too, are height-themed dormitories where tall and pro-tall students can mix their distinctive cultures. Maybe a Ph.D. could be offered in tallness studies. There is even talk that dismissive phrases like "That's a tall tale" (which sadly associates height with lying) may be declared hate speech by the Irish parliament, or even by the whole European Union. Will this happen? Nobody knows, but it's high time.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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