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.

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