By now I’m sure that most of you have heard the story about the LaCrosse, WI television news anchor who responded on air to an email she received from a viewer who took her to task for her weight. He scolded her for being obese and setting a poor example. If you haven’t seen it, click here to go to her news station’s website.
Before I continue, I will add the disclaimer that, obviously, this is a touchy subject for me and I’m sure that I’m not objective. That said, my first reaction when I saw the news story this morning was, “You GO, Jennifer Livingston!”
I so admire her for the grace, composure and eloquence she demonstrated in her editorial response to the critical email. I can only imagine how much it hurt to read his words. Even if she thought, “What a judgmental a-hole”, I’m sure she felt the negative comments as if they were physical blows.
On air, she acknowledged her weight and made no excuses. It wasn’t until I saw an interview with her and her husband that I learned she has a thyroid problem that makes it difficult for her to shed the extra pounds. She also regularly works out and is fit enough so that she runs in 5K races and triathlons!
How dare that man assume that obesity is her choice and then castigate her for being a poor example for young people because she’s overweight. You want to talk poor examples, mister? What about the fact that, without knowing anything about this woman other than the physical shape you saw on your television screen, you decided that she’s lacking in character, good judgment and the will to lose weight.
I’ve never met Ms. Livingston, but when I listened to her editorial, I was so proud of her for her response. She acknowledged that she’s obese. However, she clearly and rightly stood up for herself and took a stand against people being needlessly cruel and critical toward each other. By standing up for herself with dignity and forthrightness, she demonstrated that she is a terrific role model. Her character is not defined by the number on her scale.
I was bullied a lot for my weight when I was younger. There was one fellow student when I was in high school who would bellow, “Thar she blows” whenever he saw me, even if it was across the campus quad. Was this kid a bona fide jerk? Hell yeah. Did knowing that reduce the pain and humiliation I felt every time. Hell no.
You want to make a case about what lessons and examples we present to young people? Let’s start with demonstrating that it is not okay to bully someone else for any reason. Don’t pick on them for their weight — whether they’re heavy or skinny. Let’s banish terms like “Four-eyes” or “metal-mouth” and not tease other kids because they wear glasses or braces. Teach people of all ages that it’s not acceptable to mock or persecute someone who’s gay. How about instead of reinforcing negative opinions we show kids that they aren’t making themselves seem better by tearing down someone else because they think they’re less. Let’s foster kindness and acceptance in each other and how to support the people around us.
October is National Anti-Bullying Month. Today, Ms. Livingston stood up to a bully. She and her husband are teaching their young daughters how to deal and stand up for themselves. Those girls are fortunate. When it comes to mothers, they have one hell of a great role model.