That Time When Jennifer Livingston Kicked Everybody’s Butt
I’ve been sent this by quite a few people over the last 24 hours – so thanks to Jen, Sarah, Maggie (and Maggie’s sister!), Maria, Marina and Catherine for sending it my way. Keep the good links a’comin’!
You might have seen it already, but if you haven’t – this is a US news anchor basically kicking more ass than I realised it was possible to do:
She was sent an email from someone who purports to watch the show all the time… Oh, wait, never, and so obviously knows a lot about her and is in a fine position to dole out advice. Clearly. The email, with the subject line of “Community Responsibility,” reads as follows:
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 has not 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.
You’ll have to excuse the brief lapse into swearing, but this guy is evidently an asshole. Oh, hang on – he’s interested in her health. Because a surefire way to improve someone’s life is to say something cruel to them that will no doubt hurt their self-esteem and confidence, and probably give them a negative body image that will stick with them for years to come. Of course! That’s where I’ve been going wrong!
Ouch. Just burnt myself with my own sarcasm there.
Anyway, as I pointed out here, people receive mean messages/emails/comments all the time. I’ve had a very, very brief experience of that myself, and it sucked. But what makes this instance different is that Jennifer just went ahead and kicked ass. I know, I’ve said that already, but it’s the only term I can think of to describe it.
In a moving and articulate, well-worded and thoughtful response, she pointed out a few things that I’d like to elaborate on a little bit more. Because this girl is now my hero.
Firstly, she goes right in there and faces the fact that she’s overweight head on. “Don’t you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see?” I have to say, that really hit home with me, and I’m sure it will with you guys too – because let’s face it, if you’re overweight, you do know it. Deep down, it’s something you know, even if you’re not ready to acknowledge that yet. But I am pro-body-confidence no matter where you sit on that BMI scale, because – as Jennifer rightly pointed out – we’re all “much more than a number on a scale.”
Nobody should ever, ever feel defined by their weight. Ever. It happens – I’ve said before that I played into the idea of acting like a “bubbly, fat girl” because I didn’t know how else to act, but that is wrong. There is no reason that anybody, anywhere, should have to do that. You should be you, regardless of your BMI, your waistline, or anything else – and the idea that you have to fit into a certain stereotype to escape from all these other conceptions is a fundamental issue that is making between one third and half of young girls fear becoming fat and engage in dieting or binge eating.
And if she’s being held up as someone lacking in community responsibility – what about the fashion designers that insist on using emaciated models from magazines to the catwalk? Or whoever it was that decided “Photoshopped” was the new normal?
It’s wrong. And it’s screwing us all over, from one generation to the next. So says Jennifer:
“This behaviour is learned… 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.”
This lies at the heart of the body image problem, and it’s why I keep saying – probably annoyingly often – that if we’re going to stop the snarking culture, we all need to make the choice to step back and just stop doing it. Because we might not mean, deep down, our snide comments – in fact, I’m willing to bet that most of the time, we’re just doing it for laughs – but that stuff can hurt, and it can ruin lives, and it can influence other people, including children, to perpetuate the same cycles of assholery that brought that guy to write that letter.
Everyone, the second they step into the public eye, opens themselves up for criticism. I have no idea why that absolutely has to be the case, but apparently this is gospel about our society and – supposedly – it’s something we cannot change. And that’s why this sort of smackdown needs to happen. Because if we’re going to keep doing the Heat-magazine fat-watch, or pouring scorn on the people we see on TV, then we’re going to need things like this to put it back into perspective and remind us that we’re all – all – people who deserve to be treated well, and to be happy, regardless of how we may look on the outside.
I don’t have a huge amount more to add on this topic, really, because I can’t put it any more eloquently than the woman herself, who said – beautifully:
“We are better than that email. We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down… Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn…that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”
Jennifer, I salute you. You’ve given the world a timely reminder that bullies are assholes by responding to them with dignity, not shame.
And by completely, totally, kicking butt in the process.