In "soft" sciences like sociology, it's much more difficult to detect manipulation of research, than in "hard" sciences like physics. Soft science researchers who strive for objectivity deserve an extra measure of respect. Sadly, far too many researchers are more concerned with pushing an agenda than with objectivity. These same problems are not unknown in the world of journalism. Since the soft sciences and the media have a powerful influence on social policies in this country, this affects every family and every individual.

Breaking the Science is about the broken "science" that's being used to create law and drive social policy.


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Weight, Weight, Don't Tell Me

By Mark B. Rosenthal

May 29, 2005

A front-page article in yesterday's Boston Globe opened with the statement, "Weight can have startling consequences for women's financial well-being, careers, and marriage prospects, according to research that found that women -- but not men -- suffer economic harm from being overweight." NYU sociologist Dalton Conley, who conducted the study, is quoted saying, "This is one of the core fundamental bases of gender inequality in the United States. Women are held to standards of objectified physical appearance that men are not." He explained that weight worked against women as they competed to get married and secure their financial futures.

Imagine for a moment that Conley had reported finding a correlation, not between weight and financial well-being, but instead between breast size and financial well-being. Imagine that the article had opened with, "Small breasts can have startling consequences for women's financial well-being, careers, and marriage prospects, according to research that found that women -- but not men -- suffer economic harm from being insufficiently buxom." In that case, the absurdity of Conley's assertion that men are not held to standards of objectified physical appearance would have been immediately apparent. It would have been obvious that Conley was measuring men according to the wrong standard.

Society does not penalize people for being overweight per se. Rather, society penalizes an individual according to how much his or her appearance deviates from whatever ideal applies to that individual. In our society, short men are penalized as mercilessly for being short as fat women are penalized for being fat. Evidence of this is all around us, if we would only choose to open our eyes.

Hollywood has long known this. Humphrey Bogart was shorter than his Casa Blanca co-star, Ingrid Bergman. Filmmakers, knowing that this would have been unacceptable to American audiences, used all sorts of tricks to make him appear to be the taller of the two. Bogart was one of the lucky ones. Most short male actors are relegated to playing unpleasant characters, and the audience sees nothing wrong with short males being subjected to ridicule.

Parents know this too. Would countless parents risk their son's health by seeking pituitary hormone treatments, if they didn't know that by doing so they were protecting their son from the lifetime of suffering that society, and women in particular, will sentence him to if he's too short?

Psychology Professor Charles Pierce of Montana State University has researched the correlation between body height and romantic attraction and found that short males are penalized. Professor Wayne Hensley of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has found that short males have more limited occupational opportunities and lower incomes.

Furthermore, since the advent of movies and television which allow the public to see presidential candidates, it has been impossible for a man shorter than 5 ft. 9 in. to be elected president. (Only 11 of the 42 presidents of the U.S. have been shorter than 5 ft. 9 in., and not a single one of those has been elected since 1897.)

It's not even remotely surprising that men who don't meet society's appearance standards for women suffer no penalty. Can it really be the case that Dalton Conley, professor at a prestigious school like New York University, can't figure this out? Or could it be that he knows his superiors will be much happier with him if he manufactures an argument, however disingenuous, that only women and not men face appearance discrimination?

 


 

U.S. Presidents by Inauguration Date
(source http://www.usconstitution.com/presidentsinorder.htm)
U.S. Presidents by Height
(source http://www.usconstitution.com/presbyheight.htm)
OrderFromToNameHeight
117891797George Washington6' 2"
217971801John Adams5' 7"
318011809Thomas Jefferson6' 2"
418091817James Madison5' 4"
518171825James Monroe6' 0"
618251829John Quincy Adams5' 7"
718291837Andrew Jackson6' 1"
818371841Martin Van Buren5' 6"
918411841William Henry Harrison5' 8"
1018411845John Tyler6' 0"
1118451849James Polk5' 8"
1218491850Zachary Taylor5' 8"
1318501853Millard Fillmore5' 9"
1418531857Franklin Pierce5' 10"
1518571861James Buchanan6' 0"
1618611865Abraham Lincoln6' 4"
1718651869Andrew Johnson5' 10"
1818691877Ulysses S. Grant5' 8"
1918771881Rutherford B. Hayes5' 8"
2018811881James Garfield6' 0"
2118811885Chester Alan Arthur6' 2"
2218851889Grover Cleveland5' 11"
2318891893Benjamin Harrison5' 6"
2418931897Grover Cleveland5' 11"
2518971901William McKinley5' 7"
2619011909Theodore Roosevelt5' 10"
2719091913William Howard Taft6' 0"
2819131921Woodrow Wilson5' 11"
2919211923Warren Harding6' 0"
3019231929Calvin Coolidge5' 10"
3119291933Herbert Hoover5' 11"
3219331945Franklin D. Roosevelt6' 2"
3319451953Harry S. Truman5' 9"
3419531961Dwight David Eisenhower5' 10"
3519611963John Fitzgerald Kennedy6' 0"
3619631969Lyndon Baines Johnson6' 3"
3719691974Richard Milhous Nixon5' 11"
3819741977Gerald Ford6' 0"
3919771981James Earl Carter5' 9"
4019811989Ronald Wilson Reagan6' 1"
4119891993George H. W. Bush6' 2"
4219932001William Jefferson Clinton6' 2"
4320012009George W. Bush5' 11"
OrderFromToNameHeight
1618611865Abraham Lincoln6' 4"
3619631969Lyndon Baines Johnson6' 3"
2118811885Chester Alan Arthur6' 2"
4119891993George H. W. Bush6' 2"
4219932001William Jefferson Clinton6' 2"
318011809Thomas Jefferson6' 2"
3219331945Franklin D. Roosevelt6' 2"
117891797George Washington6' 2"
718291837Andrew Jackson6' 1"
4019811989Ronald Wilson Reagan6' 1"
1518571861James Buchanan6' 0"
3819741977Gerald Ford6' 0"
2018811881James Garfield6' 0"
2919211923Warren Harding6' 0"
3519611963John Fitzgerald Kennedy6' 0"
518171825James Monroe6' 0"
2719091913William Howard Taft6' 0"
1018411845John Tyler6' 0"
4320012009George W. Bush5' 11"
2218851889Grover Cleveland5' 11"
2418931897Grover Cleveland5' 11"
3119291933Herbert Hoover5' 11"
3719691974Richard Milhous Nixon5' 11"
2819131921Woodrow Wilson5' 11"
3019231929Calvin Coolidge5' 10"
3419531961Dwight David Eisenhower5' 10"
1718651869Andrew Johnson5' 10"
1418531857Franklin Pierce5' 10"
2619011909Theodore Roosevelt5' 10"
3919771981James Earl Carter5' 9"
1318501853Millard Fillmore5' 9"
3319451953Harry S. Truman5' 9"
1818691877Ulysses S. Grant5' 8"
918411841William Henry Harrison5' 8"
1918771881Rutherford B. Hayes5' 8"
1118451849James Polk5' 8"
1218491850Zachary Taylor5' 8"
217971801John Adams5' 7"
618251829John Quincy Adams5' 7"
2518971901William McKinley5' 7"
818371841Martin Van Buren5' 6"
2318891893Benjamin Harrison5' 6"
418091817James Madison5' 4"
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