The News You Need To Read This Morning

Mass protests in Iran, Serial’s complicated legacy, and the research on height bias.

This is an excerpt from Incoming, BuzzFeed News’ morning newsletter dedicated to making sense of this chaotic world we live in. Join the club here.

Height obsession is everywhere on dating apps.

illustration of someone holding a phone with a heart and x at the top of the screen and a short king at the bottom of the screen

The bias against shorter men has been well studied. Taller men make more money and are perceived as being more competent, better leaders, and more intelligent. In a 2014 study, researchers found that height appeared to be correlated with the perception of masculinity.

And stigma is arguably at its most blatant when it comes to dating apps. One 2005 study found that men who said they were 6’3” or 6’4” got about 60% more messages than men who were 5’7” or 5’8.” Even though the average height of men in the US is 5’9”, many people state in their dating profiles that their prospective date must be at least 6 feet tall.

“We live in a society where height is still appraised, being tall and being attractive,” said Natalia Zhikhareva, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles. “Imagine if Prince Charming got off his horse and he’s 5’5”? We’re inundated with this message that that is what’s attractive and that’s what’s appealing.”

For shorter men and especially trans men, it can add to a sense of bitterness over something physical, which can further compound their risk for poor mental health. But therapists emphasize that because height isn’t something we can change (unless you want to go through a literally bone-breaking surgery), we shouldn’t waste energy on it, although often that isn’t easy.

“The first step is really just accepting,” counselor Natalia Zhikareva said, likening it to a poker game. “Those hands you got dealt is height and how you feel about it. You still have an opportunity here to play in a smart and clever way or you have an opportunity to sit there and dwell on this to the point it consumes your whole identity. And then you self-sabotage yourself unconsciously every time you go out on a date.”

Sham elections in occupied Ukraine

  • Four Moscow-occupied regions in Ukraine are slated to vote on joining Russia starting Friday, CNN reports. The votes in Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk are universally viewed as a sham by Ukraine and Western powers.

  • It’s likely Russia will use the sham elections as a pretense for annexing these areas of Ukraine. Voting begins today, AP reports, and will continue until Tuesday.

SNAPSHOTS

The blockbuster podcast Serial made Adnan Syed a household name. But its influence on true crime reporting isn’t so clear-cut. In its new episode following Syed's release, the podcast can't catch up with its own story.

Virginia Commonwealth University will change its fraternity rules and pay $1 million after a 19-year-old pledge died. Students will now be required to complete 12 credit hours at VCU before they can join a fraternity or sorority, alcohol will not be allowed at any event with new members, and Feb. 27 will be recognized as a hazing prevention day.

How do you deal with loneliness? Loneliness is extremely common, so we want to hear what you’ve done to overcome it — even if you’re still working on it.

Mass protests escalate in Iran over Mahsa Amini’s death. Meanwhile, the country’s president ditched an interviewer who refused to wear a hijab.

crowd of protesters raising up headscarves

Iran has been roiled by protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, while she was in the custody of the morality police in Tehran. Clashes between protesters and Iranian security forces have morphed into widespread dissent against Iran's hard-line Islamist regime, with women cutting their hair and removing their hijabs in public, defying the country's strict dress code.

On Wednesday, President Ebrahim Raisi was due to face questions about the deadly protests in a sit-down with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour. But he abandoned the interview, Amanpour said, after she declined to wear a headscarf.

"The interview didn't happen," Amanpour wrote on Twitter. "As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to speak with President Raisi."

In the past, the Iranian government has targeted people who defy the mandatory headscarf law and protest the treatment of women in public spaces. But authorities have expanded their enforcement of women's dress code in recent months, arresting and physically harassing women who they believe are wearing "loose hijab," the UN Human Rights Office said. There is no official count of how many people have been killed amid clashes with police this past week.

Harry Styles wants to act, but he shouldn’t.

harry styles in a purple cape holding a skull

My Policeman, a film starring Harry Styles that was just screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, is not good, Elamin Abdelmahmoud writes. The film never gets out of first gear and remains subdued, not skillfully holding tension like some movies. But even still, Styles is unambiguously the weakest part of a janky and uneven film. For much of the first act, you can practically feel him figuring out what acting is in real time.

Unfortunately for Styles, My Policeman is not the only film he is starring in at the moment — this week, the much-maligned Don’t Worry Darling arrives in theaters, but ahead of its release there has been thorough documentation of just how bad Styles is in it.

It’s not uncommon for pop stars to try their hand at acting. Jennifer Lopez was at the top of the box office and the album charts at the same time in 2001 with The Wedding Planner and J.Lo, and Eminem pulled off the same feat in 2002 with 8 Mile and “Lose Yourself.” Lady Gaga earned a Best Actress nomination for A Star Is Born. But because of Styles’s dearth of talent, it occasionally feels contrived, like a play at pop star omnipresence.

Still reading, eh? Seems like you might want to get this in your inbox. No pressure though. Just some food for thought.