Bullied TV anchor Jennifer Livingston touched off a wave of discussion when she decided to address on-air a letter criticizing her weight.
The letter, which told Livingston “(s)ure you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular,” asked her to reconsider her lifestyle and her health choices.
Livingston went on-air to respond, saying:
“The truth is I am overweight. You can call me fat and yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart. To the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? Your cruel words are pointing out something 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 admitted that you don’t watch this show so you know nothing about me besides what you see on the outside–and I am much more than a number on a scale….
“To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience, that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”
The bullied TV anchor and her bold stance earned many supporters online, including a tweet from TV host Ellen DeGeneres.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 2, 2012
The bullied TV anchor’s Facebook page has also been covered with messages of support, Us Weekly noted.
Not all agreed with bullied TV anchor Jennifer Livingston’s reaction to the letter. Jenna Goudreau, a writer for Forbes, questioned whether the strongly worded letter amounted to bullying.
“While she is certainly correct that her weight does not impact her ability to report the news and that it is not her responsibility to conform to a size that would be “good for the community”—especially considering the countless media personalities who could be accused of appearing questionably thin—as a piece of hate mail, I’d deem this relatively tame.
“In an era of electronic anonymity, comments made on professional and amateur posts alike are increasingly cruel and personal. And criticism of one’s appearance cuts deep. Yet, judging by some of the comments and emails I’ve received–accusing me of stupidity, fragility, sexism, not being able to find a husband (I’m married) and of having idiot children (we do not yet have children)—I’m not convinced this warranted four minutes of air time.”
Stephanie Hanes, a writer for the Christian Science Monitor, agreed. While a little harsh, she said the letter did not amount to bullying:
“Obnoxious, sure. Calling it unsolicited or unnecessary “advice” would be kind. Despite the cordial tone, it is simply unacceptable – and rather sexist, I’ll add – to comment on a woman’s physical appearance as if that appearance was the substance of her work. Even with all that window dressing of the obesity epidemic. The fact that people feel entitled to these sorts of comments – and even feel helpful making them – says a lot about how far (or short, really) we’ve come in terms of accepting women as professional equals.”
Goudreau did admit that the bullied TV anchor did a good thing by opening a national discussion about bullying, and also by proving that someone who is bullied is perfectly capable of speaking up for themselves.