A Coat of Many Colors
by Glen Sommers

Glen Sommers

It may seem that some of us ink-stained wretches approach every facet of size acceptance as if it was a landing on Omaha Beach. But it is nigh impossible for us to sit in humble silence while forces swirl around the ones we love and leave their indelible scar tissue. We may be known for throwing a little tea into Boston Harbor but (at least in this space) the motives are rooted in only wishing happiness and fulfillment in every fat person’s life.

As God wished the shepherds to feed His sheep, true activism is directed at changing the institutions and people that wish to parlay their fears and inadequacies upon those who are most likely to accept them without a fight. True activism also makes available to a person the tools by which they may learn to cope with discrimination. Hopefully, this is something this space will always provide. When I see another person of size lashed to a cross, I feel a deep, gnawing anger at the prejudices and stereotypes that hung that person out to dry. I feel it personally.

For those who think history is only dates and names, take a second look because you will find something comforting there. History predicts the future; no matter how much social discord was ingrained in society, hate will eventually fail. There is no magic wand that changed the flow of time, just groups of people who banded together in a single, powerful focus that eventually swept away the strangleholds on peace and freedom. Prejudice and stereotypes are the main weapons that the perpetuators of hate and fear use in today’s civilized society. Nobody has to storm the Bastille in our country, but the weapons and challenges we face are nonetheless as insidious. Infighting size discrimination, obviously taking our lawmakers to task is very much a part of our agenda. With the weight charts screaming that over 40% of Americans are overweight, it seems to me we’ve got a large voting bloc developing. But the breaking down of stereotypes and institutional bias takes other skills. Communication and education take a much-needed step into the limelight. Our brothers and sisters on the streets and in our neighborhoods are vastly undereducated about size acceptance. Size acceptance is not as objective as racial and sexual discrimination---people just don’t wake up in the morning thinking about it, let alone being conscious of issues like genetics, harmful diets, etc. Ignorance gives birth into the bigotry that enervates people with weakened character and intellect.

This is the challenge that belongs to every BBW. While some people are only satisfied if they are storming up Iwo Jima, communication and education are everyone's challenge if they want the bigotry to end. Something in your life brought you here. You don’t find Dimensions next to the Parade magazine in your Sunday paper. Part of this communication is expressing yourself until the people know what it is like to walk in your shoes. To a bigot you are “fat and lazy”. To your sister you need to exercise more. To ones with knowledge, you are a complex product of genetics and dieting. The bottom line: society does not know what a BBW is nor how she came to be. It does not comprehend that she need not be a target of derision, but a source of inspiration. There are three levels that a BBW interacts with: A society that can seem heartless and indifferent, a size acceptance movement that says it cares, and the woman inside her that has needs, dreams and desires just like any other human being. From these elements, she must continuously educate and demand what is hers.

The concept of what a BBW is can be woefully ignorant even within our movement and regretfully within the hearts of too many of our BBWs. The beauty and the intelligence of the BBW have been undersold. Ever the more reason for her to stake her ground and speak out. As time marches on, the social and economic power that you can wield will become very obvious. You can start to see retailers ducking the bias and going after what’s in your billfold. Size acceptance is still grappling with what are the needs of our ladies of size. With better education and a desire to reach out to all BBWs, the ladies that are mired with self-esteem questions can be handed the tools to finish the job on a positive note. One day, the facets of her life will come to know she is an exquisite being, a wearer of a coat of many colors.

These colors are the many and varied aspects of a BBW’s personality that define her as a special part of the human experience. They should also serve as a guidepost for any entity or person who wishes to assist her through the passing of life. Foremost, she was a woman long before she was a BBW. As a giver of life, she has a spiritual reverence for it. To reach a woman, one must speak to her heart and allow her mind to do the rest. She is deeply concerned about the quality of life for the ones she loves—thus she is a benevolent nurturer and a source of overflowing empathy. I also believe she is unusually intelligent and intuitive. I don’t know if there is a study on this, but for my money, the BBW has smarter than average intelligence. The final element that makes her special is how she has coped with the many prejudices she may have encountered. While some have struggled with these, I’ve found a lot of ladies have used them to their spiritual benefit. When life does not come easy, you develop an awareness or an appreciation for the meaningful things in life. Love, family, tenderness, honesty and other basic emotions are not taken for granted. Simple pleasures are savored. When good comes, it is appreciated. The senses of life are heightened. All in all, the kind of woman I would choose to spend my life with.

But the time is now to take your talents and blessings and stand up to be counted. The window is opened for your voice to he heard. However, this you must do: history shows what happens when you don’t grab your window of opportunity. As 70’s feminism washed through the cities and the backlands, initially it was a formidable force. Gloria and Betty pushed their vision of total equality and it found a moderate but very vocal audience. When men take notice, you know something is afoot. The concept of total equality played well because it rhymed with the vision upon which this country was founded. But at some point, the wheels came off. The feminist message started to carry militant overtones. People like Bella Abzug grabbed the forefront. The message came across as “separate but equal”. That is when the body of the American woman needed to stand up and let their desires be heard. The majority of women wanted to be equal (as they should be), but they didn’t want to stop being a woman. It was nice having the door held open, and they didn’t want that to change. The average woman didn’t want to be a man. Consequently, the movement didn’t connect with the mainstream and, for the most part, has withered away.

Our size acceptance movement is still in its infancy. It has a way to go before it finds maturity. It is still searching for its voice; it still doesn’t have a generally accepted message and it’s not sure to whom it needs to speak. It needs you as most assuredly as we need it. This is a time for all of us to step forward and let ourselves be known and demand what is ours. From society, we simply will not tolerate bigotry and must do what we can to communicate, educate and to draw the line. For the big jobs, we have organizations that have strength on the national and local stages -but they need your input. Demand more from publications that want to be your friend. There is more to being a BBW than makeover tips and sunny vacation spots. If Mode doesn’t cut it, tell them what you need and then vote with your pocketbook. If Lane Bryant makes you want to pull your hair out, there is some other merchant who will be happy to give you what you want. If some people took the time to understand how beautiful a BBW is inside and out, maybe you wouldn’t need to stand up so strongly, but that is how history has played itself out. For those who are afraid to speak out because of self-doubt, please allow me to share something personal with regard to how I feel about BBWs.

My long-term marriage had ended. It was a marriage that never should have been, but even though mismatched, I had given it everything my heart could muster. Kids are worth that. I don’t take love lightly and the loss of family devastated my personal life. I hid in my job, afraid of having my soul raped again. I knew what I preferred since puberty, but I had never admitted it to anyone and really never to myself. So after a year of looking at four lonely walls, I took my first steps back into the world. I sought my preference; I sought my home. In the bosom of a BBW, I found what my life had been missing. I found an unbridled love that I had never before experienced. With only a hollow shell to work with, these ladies taught me how to love again. I believe in you and the power, the beauty and the intellect you bring to the table. Rise and be heard! Claim what is yours and apologize for nothing. You are truly stunning in your coat of many colors.