Today on La Crosse, Wisconsin's WKBT News 8 This Morning, anchor Jennifer Livingston responded to an email she received on Friday, written by a man, with the subject line "Community Responsibility." The email read:
It's unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn't improved for many years. Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Ugh. Classic. Concerntrolling at its best, and by best I mean worst. Livingston's husband (who also works as an anchor) posted the email on Facebook, causing a brouhaha — and an outpouring of support. But Livingston had an excellent, eloquent, on-air response:
The truth is: you could call me fat. And yes, even obese, on a doctor's chart. But to the person who wrote me that letter: Do you think I don't know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don't see? You don't know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family and you have admitted that you don't watch the show. So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside… And I am much more than a number on a scale.
Jen went on to say:
October is is national anti-bullying month, and this is a problem that is growing every day in our schools and on the internet. It is a major issue in the lives of young people today. And as the mother of three young girls, it scares me to death. Now I am a grown woman, and luckily for me, I have a very thick skin — literally, as that email pointed out, and otherwise. That man's words mean nothing to me. But what really angers me about this is there are children who don't know better… The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground. And this behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that email. If you are at home, and you are talking about the fat newslady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example.
Fatphobia is rampant, and fatshaming is, somehow, the one acceptable form of bigotry we have in this society. Magazines, TV shows and movies openly mock and rail against the overweight, revere "bikini bodies" and help to spread an atmosphere of intolerance. The amount of time this man spent crafting an email — with the intention of making a working mother of three feel ashamed of herself — is a sad testament to a toxic environment. Fat does not mean lazy. Fat does not mean non-athletic. But feeling bad about your weight can make things worse. Less than four months ago, a bus driver who was bullied about her weight made both headlines and, in a show of public support, chunk of cash. It's tragic to hear kids on a bus taunting a grown woman, but it's even sadder when a grown man does the same thing and cloaks it in concern, claiming it's about the "community" and "little girls," when his real issue is that he can't tolerate looking at a fat person on TV.