Friday 3 October 2014

On the Importance of Being a Man

One of the funnier stories of this past week has been the one about Kim Jong-Un’s disappearance. Kim III has not been seen in public or on TV for almost a month. In a country where personality cult is the chosen style of government, this is unusual to say the least.

One of the reported reasons for his absence is that he broke both of his ankles after touring a number of military bases and factories while wearing high-heeled shoes. The heels and his weight – he is reported to weigh over 120kg – proved too much for the young Marshall to handle and he required surgery and an extended stay in hospital.

Why would Kim III wear high heels? To appear taller, of course. His height is reported to be 1.75m although this may well be after putting on his heels.

Height is an important hallmark of masculinity. Research backs this up: tall men are more confident, earn more, acquire more education, get promoted faster, have better health, and marry earlier and have attractive wives. Height is also important for politicians: American presidents are almost always rather tall: Obama 1.85m, Bush Jr 1.82m, Clinton 1.88m, Bush Sr 1.88m, Reagan 1.85m, and so on. In fact, only four presidents during the past 100 years were below 1.8m: Carter (1.77), Eisenhower (1.79), Truman (1.75) and Coolidge (1.78). And out of the 24 presidential contexts during the past 100 years, the winner was shorter than the loser only five times. To look down at a US president, Kim would have to time-travel back to 1900-04 to the presidency of McKinley who measured mere 1.7m.

For the record, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are both 1.85m while Gordon Brown and Tonny Blair are 1.8m and 1.83m, respectively. The average height of a white male in England is 1.75m. 

Wearing heels, of course, is just one way how a leader of a country can demonstrate his manliness. Another option is showing up with a young and attractive woman by his side (or women, incidentally, Berlusconi is 1.65m tall) or marrying a well-known singer (Sarkozy is also 1.65m) or athlete. He can also prove his worth by doing plenty of manly things: riding a horse bare-chested, piloting an ultra-light leading a flock of migratory birds, piloting a submersible, flying a jet, shooting a tiger, hugging a polar bear, scuba-diving and finding ancient treasure, playing ice hockey with the boys, riding a Harley Davidson or a Formula 1, getting a black belt in martial arts. And invading a country or two.

I bet Putin (1.7m) must be really annoyed that Ukrainians recently elected someone who towers over him in meetings.