Happy Easter Weekend

Easter-150x113Just a note to wish everyone a joyous Easter or Passover or, for those of us who don’t observe either, an extraordinarily wonderful weekend.  Life is short so, as they say take time to sniff the roses or at least bite the ear off a chocolate Easter Bunny.

Authors seldom admit to shortcomings but I’ve been thinking my last post, “Who Owns You?” became a bit of a lecture and lost its way.  A lighter touch is more to my nature and I’ll try to keep that in mind in the future.

Enjoy your weekend everybody,

Jeanne

Who Owns You?

Freedom - 150x150Ask someone, “Who owns you?” and you’ll likely get a look of puzzlement or mild offense for suggesting the possibility they might be owned.  Many African American’s would surely find the question deeply insulting and hurtful.  Still, if you are brave or foolish enough to persist, most people will probably tell you nobody owns me.  Fortunately, that is untrue.  The truth, so obvious it is often overlooked, is that we each own ourselves.  So savor that thought for a moment because things are about to get a bit more complicated.

Somewhere long in the past humans reached a consensus that especially grievous behavior would be prohibited.  Murder, cannibalism, rape, robbery, arson and such became taboo and punishments worth avoiding were established to deter them.  As a group we exchanged the freedom to do terrible things for the expectation they would not be done to us.  We still owned ourselves but had attached a few strings to our behavior.

Since the day mankind first agreed, “Thou shalt not kill” those few, basic rules have  morphed into an endless maze of federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations.  They prohibit, mandate, limit, tax, license, charge, monitor, study, surveille, screen, fine, organize, credit, subsidize, incentivize, revoke, grant, seize, reward or penalize virtually every aspect of one’s public and increasingly, private life.

This returns us to the original question, “Who owns you?”  Well, you do own yourself but just how free are you to live as you choose and exert freedom over your destiny?  You’ll have to answer that for yourself.  I’ll just suggest that to the extent government adds conditions on one’s life your self-ownership is reduced correspondingly.

The government impacts everyone, certainly not just people of size.  Some tasks such as assuring clean drinking water, putting out fires or repelling an invading army are things most people consider necessary.  But when government intrudes into the most personal matters such as what one eats, or weighs, or their BMI, or their lifestyle or wellness choices – the principles of personal rights and owning yourself are deeply eroded.

Instances of government intrusion or targeting people of size will warrant their own discussions.  My goal today was to help you answer just one question.  Who owns you?

Mike and Molly

O.K., I’ll really date myself.  Back in the day I watched “The Cisco Kid” on Saturday morning TV.  Cisco and his buddy Pancho were like the Latin version of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  They inspired the band “War” to record their hit, “The Cisco Kid” years later.  I think that song was what got me to first really consider how much The Cisco Kid must have meant for minority kids.  Most probably hadn’t seen anybody with their skin tone in a positive way on TV since Ricky Ricardo.

In today’s movies and TV people of size are a lot like minority kids back then.  Positively portrayed larger people are few and far between.  This is why I find “Mike and Molly” so unique.

Mile-Molly-163x141Mike and Molly debuted on CBS in September 2010 and it was recently renewed for the 2016 season.  The main characters are Mike, a Chicago cop and Molly his grade-school-teacher-turned-writer wife.  It has a supporting cast with enough foibles and eccentricities to keep things lively but what sets this show apart is Mike and Molly are both very large people.

In fairness, Mike and Molly is just a standard sit-com running between 18 and 22 minutes an episode before commercials.  Its’ real value comes from dropping two people of size with ordinary lives into Middle America’s living room.  Mike and Molly have needs, dreams, goals and challenges just like everybody else.  They don’t live in some macabre, cliché filled, big person world.  When America sees them go through life it forces the realization that almost everybody has to adjust in one way or another to get by.

When people of size are humanized and shown without stereotypes they become easier to tolerate, easier to accept and a whole lot harder to hate.  That, I think will always be Mike and Molly’s real accomplishment.

ASDAH Added to Resources

ASDAH-220x70Today we added the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) to the organizations on this blog’s Resources page.  ASDAH is geared a little more toward healthcare professionals and a more inclusive, rational way of approaching the issue of size in caregiving and society in general.  They promote a “Health at Every Size” or the “HAES®” approach.  Since everyone is at some point a healthcare consumer ASDAH articulates an effective perspective for asserting one’s rights and expectations from the healthcare delivery system, regardless of their weight or size.

You’ll notice that our resources list is rather short with presently just five organizations included.  Just because a group or site is not included here it by no means infers they are without merit.  For now we’ve decided to limit our list to the more established, mainstream size acceptance organizations.  While we find some of the more edgy, niche sites poignant and interesting our focus here is to offer resources that hopefully all our visitors will be comfortable utilizing.  Thank you for tolerating our tolerance.

Noses Confess To Size Prejudice

Perhaps the most chilling words of the Hunger Games saga were, “And may the odds be ever in your favor…”.  It was intended to inspire the chosen who knew that except for one they would soon all be dead.  In a similar way larger people have long known their own game of life comes badly stacked against them.  Now a newly released study adds scientific proof to what people of size have instinctively understood all along.

SINL-Nose-109x150A March 21, 2015 Los Angeles Times article describes research by UCLA psychology professors in which they tricked subjects by telling them they would smell samples of various scents while viewing a series of pictures.  The subjects were further tricked by being told the study related to appetite, nothing more.  The secret was that the “scent samples” actually had no scent at all; each scent the participants reported was purely their unguarded reaction a particular image.

Along with pictures of “neutral” objects like a hammer, a desk or a doorknob, participants were shown a random mix of pictures of slim, heavy and very heavy people.   Separate “before” and “after” pictures of the same person heavy and slim were also shown.

The results were that much more unpleasant scents were reported when seeing heavier people.  The researchers concluded the study reveals a deeply rooted level of implicit bias against the larger person.  Put another way, it reflects a subconscious, negative predisposition about people of size.  An additional and truly disturbing finding was that heavier subjects reported among the worst scents when viewing images of larger persons.

The study authors noted that earlier studies had already established that heavier people produce a more consciously negative reaction than any of the twelve other most discriminated against groups (i.e., the homeless, the mentally ill, gays & lesbians, etc.).  While willful prejudice can be addressed directly, the implicit bias revealed by this study is more difficult to counter.  Doing that first requires turning the implicit bias into an explicit, consciously recognized one.  Imagine if just a fraction of the marketing genius used to sell beer or pick-up trucks was given to public service ads to end size discrimination.  The changes would be dramatic.

The unique contribution of this latest research is that the depth and scope of size discrimination may be more widespread and deeply rooted than widely recognized.  People of size know it’s not news to them.

Size Matters

The title got your attention, didn’t it?  Not to worry, you have not stumbled upon some lurid discussion of sexual prowess. In another sense though, size does matter intensely to this world in which we live.

We each have a refined, largely subconscious capacity to measure one another against norms, both physical and otherwise.  We constantly judge those we encounter against our own intuitive sense of what is normal, beautiful, graceful, athletic, intelligence, trustworthy and so on.  Add in cultural perspectives and the entire thing quickly becomes unwieldy.   These assessments help decide who we want to accept as friends, mate with, hire, vote for or follow.  Considering that we are such a competitive, imperfect species it is amazing we get along as well as we do.

The dark side of all this, of course can surface when people fall outside the range of what others find marginally acceptable.  Statisticians dryly call them outliers.  Even in just physical terms if one is too tall, short, wide, thin, heavy, ungainly, graceful, unattractive or beautiful they stand out and trigger reactions by some that range from subtle discrimination to much worse.

The roots of these reactions are complex.  It is partially cultural but also some of us are all too eager to seize any weapon in the effort to raise themselves on the social pecking order or satisfy unmet needs.

People of size are naturally prime targets for this brand of abuse.  Long-standing stereotypes still give cover to those who are inclined to inflict it.  They hear government and commercial crusades against weight that infer being a person of size is unacceptable.  In contrast, groups defined by race, gender, orientation or challenges now have much better public awareness that discriminating against them is at least no longer condoned.

I am too pragmatic to think the world will become a bias-free Nirvana where pretty girls won’t get more help changing flat tires than anybody else.  But certainly in areas of law and regulation size discrimination can be overcome.  Socially, where size acceptance depends on changing hearts and minds I believe gradual advances are possible especially by enlisting the media as other groups have done.