Cultural Appropriations · Rants For Thought

You’re Amazing, Jennifer Livingston

I wrote a poem at the age of 16, sitting outside the cafeteria windows at my high school. It was a rough sketch of my elementary school experience, where I was disgustingly and mercilessly bullied. I had never been able to put the feelings I had about the experience into words, but I was able to now – and re-reading it after I had written it made the tears come to my eyes.

I put it away for years, but I brought it back out when I was putting together the poetry for my book. At the last, I decided to include it, because it still spoke of the rawness and horror that I felt while writing it that beautiful summer day just before I went into grade 10. I didn’t want to forget my experience, and the experience of so many other kids who go through bullying.

I watched a video yesterday of a news anchor who had been sent a fatphobic email. Her name is Jennifer Livingston, and she addressed this disgusting email with grace and aplomb. She said everything I wish I could have said to my bullies way back in those elementary school days – and she spoke out for people who are still going through that stuff. Kids who are dying because of it. Kids who feel like they have no hope.

It’s funny, because I’ve had several conversations, similar to Jennifer’s broadcast, with ignorant people. No, it’s not any of your business what my weight is. No, you don’t have to tell me I’m fat, I already know it. Most fat people do – we’re not stupid, and being fat is rarely the result of just eating “bad food” or not exercising enough. I also know that I have an upturned nose, or that there are other physical characteristics about me that may not be pretty or conventionally beautiful. It doesn’t mean I get your scorn. It doesn’t mean you get to make fun of me, or make me into a big joke or someone to torment. That says a lot more about you than it does about me.

When I nanny, I really try my best to show kids their best characteristics, and celebrate them for all of who they are. I don’t believe that anyone deserves torment of any kind. Now, with the advent of the Internet, there are people who seem to get their jollies on running people down. That’s . . . sad. I can think of so many other things to do to improve myself than running someone else down.

So, thank you, Jennifer Livingston, for being inspirational and a real figurehead for children and adults everywhere. As a woman, I thank you for standing up for women of all sizes on national TV. As a fellow caregiver, I salute you for setting the example for the children we both take care of.

You rock. And you’re gorgeous. I loved your video. Click on the photo below to view what Jennifer has to say.

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67 thoughts on “You’re Amazing, Jennifer Livingston

  1. She is gorgeous and she does rock. I wish women like her had a voice when I was overweight and suffering from body image problems. It’s really something everyone should hear. Men and women alike.

  2. Sadly, our society seems obsessed with physical attraction, far more than with the content of one’s character. I pray my children grow up with enough confidence and compassion to never fall prey to the ugly, judgmental traps that litter the road before them as they grow into amazing humans.

    Have you seen Jennifer Weiner’s essay from Allure Magazine about the “F” word (“fat,” that is…)? Very powerful: http://www.allure.com/allure-magazine/2012/10/fat-the-f-word

  3. Great post! While I have two kids in public school and vehemently disagree with bullying, I encourage you to read an analysis to the contrary of what she did. http://bit.ly/PDX9oI . “To be sure, cruel words about a person indeed are or can be injurious. But this was not publicly posted. It actually was personal. It was she, or her husband, who chose to make it public.” http://bit.ly/S4a6ID

    1. “Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is
      “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons”. He defines negative action as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways”.
      Bullying seems to be the label anyone gets for disagreeing with anyone else, being a jerk or being ignorant.

      1. “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways”

        ….Isn’t sending an email to someone and telling them they are too fat to be on TV exactly defined by this quote you included?

      2. “Intentionally” is a very key word here. 1st,2nd degree murder, manslaughter, careless regard to life all result in tragic results, but they do not all proclaim the same intent.

    2. I understand what you are saying, from a news point, Jeremy, but I come from the midwest and weight is a frequent issue there. Michigan and Wisconsin are two of the ‘fattest’ states. Put in context of location, it does become a public and social issue and she *is* generating discussion and providing a public service in the form of a role model for young women who happen to not be a size 2. Plus, the fat hat and fat shaming in the western world is reaching an all-time high and impacting some people’s ability to get jobs and be active parts of their community. Sure, weight can be a problem, and every fat person knows that, but it becomes everybodies problem when we start singling out people as “less” who are actually still fully capable of functioning and contributing to our society. IQ and skill do not directly correlate with pants size.

      I was SOOOO happy when I saw this news piece. I hope more discussions like this one will follow. Maybe she didn’t need 4:20 and she could have been a bit more concise with her message, but I still like it.

      1. Thanks for the reply! We can certainly find common ground there. I immediately reposted this on FB when I saw it as I too agree with her. I do enjoy her strong response!

  4. Jennifer’s response was just wonderful. I love that she was so articulate while still being passionate, heartfelt, and honest. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. This is a great post. Very inspirational. I think people bully because they have something about themselves that they don’t like and making fun of others makes them feel powerful. And you’re right, the internet has made people feel like they can do and say whatever and live under the guise of anonymity. It’s sad. We can only hope that they are enough people like you and Jennifer and enough parents to teach children AND adults that bullying is not acceptable…to teach them that everybody is unique and special and should look at the good not the bad.

    Thanks again for your post.

  6. Her story touched me as well; also the topic of my latest rant, as it makes me angry. (very). I’m a chubby chick and I know it. I don’t need someone to tell me. And I’m proud to be who I am, who cares what size package we come in…. Your story is touching and heart warming and well said!

  7. It’s pretty disgusting that someone would take the time to sit down and write a hate email to her…what a loser. A lot of kids do get bullied and it sucks that those scars never really do go away. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.

  8. I have been cyber bullied once and I must say…no one deserves to go through the torment a bullied person feels. This blog provides me with a whole new mind set. Thanks

  9. I saw this on the news. I can’t believe someone would actually write that to her. I realize that everyone judges each other and has prejudices but there was such a lack of empathy with that guy and it’s just so cold. I’m glad that she isn’t letting it get to her.

  10. Calling a communist a communist, a black a negro and an overweight woman fat, are grave offenses tripping the fringe of racism.

    1. Are you nuts?? I have not heard anyone refer to a black person as “a black” except on television. You lack empathy, you are not nice, and yes – “your offenses trip the fringe of racism.” Yuck.

  11. It used to be that every family had one crazy, eccentric aunt that talked down at everyone. The perceived anonymity of internet communication has brought out the crazy aunt in so many people. Small-minded people think that it’s alright to say hurtful things in a comment or a blog or an email that they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. Ms. Livingston’s story is probably different from what you went through in school, where I’m guessing your bullies you were forced to confront daily. Children sometimes say cruel things, and others join in to fit in, and I blame their parents/upbringing. It sounds like you came through the experience a stronger person; More compassionate. Exactly the kind of person who can raise children to be better than your bullies. Here’s a *hug* from Hawaii.

  12. I do not disagree with Jennifer Livingston’s stance on bullies; I too suffered my unfair share in elementary and high school. I applaud her for using her show as a platform to draw attention to the very painful and extremely hurtful effects bullying can have on anyone, regardless of age. What I am really struggling with is how she can interpret this email as bullying. Have you actually read the email?

    “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. Sure 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.”

    The non-profit PACER Center defines bullying on its website as intentional behavior “that hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally,” in which the targets “have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.”

    Does that really sound like this situation? In my opinion it does not. Now, perhaps, this guy intended to write a hate email and concealed his bullying with false concerns for her health and well being. But again, in my opinion, that does not feel like the case here.

    Granted it is not the nicest email she has probably ever received as he did not sugar coat his opinion but he also did not strike her down or taunt her about it either. He did not mock her obesity, make fun of her or call her names; but instead he showed concern for her health and the influence she has as a public figure. I think so many people are anxious to jump on the anti-bully bandwagon and label any negative comment as bullying that they misconstrue constructive criticism as a personal attack. She is a professional television personality, having people evaluate you goes with the territory.

    Quite honestly, I think he did her a favor. He brought attention to something she herself admitted needs addressing, she said in her interview she wants to get healthy. Sometimes we need that unsolicited, outside pressure to force our hand and get our heart and mind focused.

    1. And I completely disagree with you. And yes, I read the e-mail.

      The beginning of it already makes me think that the writer should mind his own business: “It’s unusual that I see your morning show.” If he doesn’t watch the show, how does he know she is not being a role model? She can address other issues on that show every day that help people get through that day. I don’t watch the show either (as I don’t live in the US), so I don’t have anything to say about it.

      So that must mean he is only basing his statements on her appearance. Which he states rather nicely: “your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years”. So her body is a condition? And why does it need improving anyway? Just because the writer doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean it needs improving.

      Then he says that Jennifer is not suitable as a role model. Again, how can he know that if he doesn’t watch the show? But wait, of course… because for the writer a role model is being thin. I get it now, stupid me. Not the fact that she can inspire people to love themselves the way they are, not by having a career on television and chasing your dreams. Forget about all of that, little girls, make sure you are thin first.

      “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make.” Like someone said before, obesity is not just a combination of eating too much and exercising too little. There are several other aspects that have a say in it and people get bigger BECAUSE they diet. So obesity is not a choice and even if it was, that would still be ok. People are allowed their own choices in life.

      But here’s probably what it’s all about: “and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.” Dear writer, please don’t assume things! He is suggesting that Jennifer has the habit of overeating and eating unhealthy food all the time. If the writer is not in her life every single day, he cannot make ANY statement about how Jennifer eats. If you don’t know what a person eats, keep your nose out of that business. Most people know at least one person, very thin, who can eat whatever he/she wants. So health and weight are two separate things. If you really care about “health”, you have to say something to every person who eats unhealthily, not just the fat people.

      He concludes with hoping that she will reconsider her responsibility and present and promote a healthy lifestyle. Again, weight and health are separated. And unless she eats unhealthy food every day on the show, she is not promoting any lifestyle.

      You say he did not mock her obesity and showed concern for her health. It’s true that he didn’t call her names, but he is not concerned about her health. He just doesn’t like that she is overweight. It has nothing to do with health. So your first observation was more accurate: he did conceal his bullying with false concerns.

      And something what you say makes me a bit concerned too, actually: “She is a professional television personality, having people evaluate you goes with the territory.” (She actually acknowledges that in the video too). Yes, an evaluation of your competencies, not about how you look. If I get evaluated for my work, I seriously hope it’s for how good or bad my work is, not because I have red hair or brown eyes or what size I am.

      This is absolutely not “constructive criticism”. There are different definitions of bullying and this might be a disguised form. It may not seem the worst kind of bullying, but I can imagine she gets mail like this all the time. And pretending to be concerned for her health, but actually saying that she is too fat to be on TV, is the same as the bullies on the playground, only now it looks more grown-up.

      He did not do her a favor. Nobody needs unsolicited advice.

  13. The bully is a “personal injury” attorney.

    Since when are ambulance chasers respected as the arbiters of what is healthy and/or moral?

    I’ll take someone with weight issues over a strip mall lawyer any day.

    Team Jennifer, here!

  14. Thanks for sharing that, and your thoughts. Her words truly are inspiring. It’s a shame that so many people think that anyone who doesn’t fit a certain size is making a “choice”. Those people should choose to think for a change.

  15. Thank you for your post about this beautiful lady named Jennifer. She has my for for Woman of the Year! Bullying needs to stop. NO ONE is perfect…No One! That is in the Bible. There are flaws in each of us. We were equally created, Everyone is different, there are even differences between Twins, Triplet and other multiples. Jennifer is such a strong woman to speak up against bullies. Bullies, beware people have had enough with your bull. and that is what it is…BULL. Thank you again for your post. I appreciate it very much. 🙂

  16. Who would have thought that ignorant bullies with very simple minds are smart enough to create blogs on WP, smart enough to read other people’s blogs (like this well-written and freshly-pressed blog), and then be smart enough to make jackass comments sounding like 12-year-old juvenile delinquents? It’s amazing that these low IQ, socially inferior and inbred-crossed-eyed subhumans are even able to perform these simple tasks! Oh shucks, do I sound like a bully? Just stating the facts…

  17. Ms. Livingston gassed up the situation a bit. Yes, the man was wrong for sending the email (didn’t seem intentionally malicious to me, but it was definitely ignorant and uncalled for). However, part of bullying is exerting power (physical, psychological, structural, etc.) over someone weaker. A random (and in many ways irrelevant) person sending an email isn’t in a real position to be a bully. His words hurt her feelings. I get it. Still, calling him a bully is making monsters out of mosquitoes.

    I do commend her for using her platform to speak out against bullying. I think linking a judgmental email to the cause kinda misses the point, but hopefully some good will come out this discussion anyway.

  18. I see a lot of bullying in politics which is really ridiculous…goes to show you can still be “educated”, “powerful”, “wealthy”, and still be an asshole. I thank u for opening your heart. I have a son who is 11yrs old and on the Autism Spectrum. I often forget he is “special needs” and I hope more people that meet and work with him do to. THANKS

  19. Kudos to you on your post! Your articulation sets a great example of someone who does not accept another persons projection of limitation of “you are not enough”. Anyone who tells me this — loudly or subtly, verbally or through body language — reveals their own poor beliefs and thoughts. This is projection and a sad state of consciousness.

  20. So, the bullied (Livingston) becomes the bully. That is exactly what she became when she went on air exposing Krause for the cretin he is. I am not sure the original email is even bullying, but because Livingston took it as such, it is. I can talk. I am fat, obese, morbidly obese. I hear people make comments about me. I do not view it as bullying, however. Livingston should lose weight. So should I. But, who is the bigger bully? In sports, flags are usually tossed at the person that hit back after being hit. The penalty flag goes to Livingston.

    1. I disagree with you, Rotten. When she “came out” about the mean e-mail that was sent to her, the actual sender of the e-mail was unknown. So her intent was not to have the person be exposed and publicly shamed because at that point, he was unknown! Her intent was to make herself feel better and let the world know that it’s not okay to judge a person by their appearance. Deep down she wanted all the fat people in the world to know that they are good people and mean people are just trying to make THEMSELVES feel better. Is that being a bully? No way. He took it upon himself to EXPOSE who HE was and send a reply to her reply. Who does that? He just wanted his 15 minutes of fame, and he succeeded. He’s a douch bag.

  21. What Livingston did was definitely not bullying, she simply brought attention to a very important issue that has affected and continues to affect many people. She made the person realize what they had done and what their actions could do to a person if they did not have a support system. She used the media (which usually enforces this bullying behavior) to do quite the opposite…to empower other people and bring to light the very harmful behavior of others.

  22. I still find it nearly impossible to believe some guy would actually take the time out of his day to write such a letter. I’m guessing Jennifer has a lot more going for her than he. All he proved is that he has far much too free time.

    Your authenticity shines through in this piece. Well done!

  23. Completely agree! Bullies do seem to think it is OK to burden their targets with their failings as a human being. Tare too weak to realise they are the losers in life. If they can’t accept people as they are, well it is their lack of education and socialisation to blame! Nothing gives another the right to put you down, and not expect a come back. I have heard about, and seen coverage of this incident; it has been classed as a ‘violent outburst’ by some in the media. I think mainly by those who wished Jennifer had just disappeared and cried, or given in like a ‘good girl’ and lost weight to appease. It is a ridiculous state of affairs that a person, who is apparently ‘grown up’ would do this to another human being. What kind of life do they run exactly? It seems you never truly leave the playground in this life, with idiots like that springing up.

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