Does Height Matter?

The New York Times’ Room for Debate opinion section asks “Do We Want to Be Supersize Humans? If human bodies become taller, bigger and longer-living — is that progress?” Alexandra Brewis, a medical anthropologist, answers:

Height conveys all sorts of important meanings about each person’s own development history. A photograph in my office taken two decades ago shows me at 5 foot 6 towering almost two feet over an older Mayan woman. In this case, it shows the difference between having a dairy-rich childhood diet in New Zealand versus an early life struggling with rural poverty and food insecurity in Mexico…

We admire and value tall people in our society. We see shorter men in particular as less powerful and less poised for success. However, the assignment of these qualities to people based on height is arguably completely arbitrary. Viewed in terms of the ethnographic spectrum, many societies prefer moderate statures, or even small statures.

Does height represent progress? Probably not. Being short makes sense in many contexts. Perhaps not right here and right now, but as social and ecological conditions change, it likely will again

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Trade-Offs to Being Tall

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