In Response

This Jennifer Livingston story has been everywhere the last two days. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, Jennifer is a news anchor who received an email from a self-described non-viewer of CBS WKBT, the program she anchors for. Why is that description important? Because this man tuned in, flipped channels, whatever, and came across this woman he has never heard speak before, and thought it was his right, his duty, to email her and let her know that she’s too big to be on TV.

In his email, he goes on to say that Jennifer is a poor role model for girls and a bad public personality because little girls could be tuning in, and gasp!, learning that being overweight is ok!

Funny enough, there’s no mention of the news anchors, the models, the Hollywood icons, etc. who are skeletal skinny, making young girls everywhere feel like this is what they have to live up to in order to be successful. What about those women? Is being on the heavier side so much worse than being unhealthily skinny? What about the millions of girls who suffer from eating disorders out of sheer terror that they won’t be accepted if they have large thighs, jiggly arms, pudgy stomachs? If they’re different? Apparently, big is bad; everything else is better.

The video of Jennifer’s response is below, and if you’re not one of the two million people who have seen it yet, I encourage you to listen to her eloquent, well-argued, four-minute speech about why behavior like this simply is NOT ok. I won’t recap all of Jennifer’s response, but I will point out that she uses the term “bully,” which she says this man is.

Shows like GMAThe View and E! News are focusing on this term and making IT the story. Is he a bully, or just a concerned citizen? Is he just an asshole? What does bully mean? It breaks my heart that this has become the center of the story.  People aren’t talking about acceptance, tolerance, of people’s differences; instead, they’re arguing over a term, debating if this man should be shamed into such a word.

I define a bully as someone who knowingly, purposely goes out of his way to be mean to another human being. Someone who says or does something hurtful, knowing full well it is hurtful. No, it doesn’t need to be repeated over and over; it simply has to be done. Now you tell me, do you think this man wrote an anonymous email to an anchor he admittedly never watches on TV to call her fat, to call her a bad role model to be nice? Answer me this, if a perfect stranger came up to you and pointed out your flaws, would you take it as a concern, or something else? “Your skin is really unfortunate with all of that acne, maybe you should see a dermatologist.” “Your teeth are awfully crooked, I don’t think that’s good for your health.” “Hey, you’re fat, because of you, my child is going to think it’s ok to be fat, too.”

Like one country crooner once said, “You don’t know what you don’t know…You’ve pointed out my flaws again as if I don’t already see them.”

How can we let appearances dictate what does and what does not make a person good? How does Jennifer’s weight automatically make her someone not worthy of being a role model? She’s successful, clearly eloquent and competent, has a great job that she’s even better at, but no girl should aspire to be her because then they’d also be aspiring to be overweight. People, this thinking is not ok!

My older brother Ryan is covered in tattoos. His back has a portrait of the Grimm Reaper; his hands and arms are inked up, too. He even has tattoos on his neck. My brother also works with homeless and runaway youth, working to get them off the street, back into school and on to college. He gives these kids a chance; he gives these kids a better life. He’s also a wonderful dad to an almost toddler.

So tell me, does my brother’s tattoos, which are one of the first things you’ll notice about him, negate all of his work with kids everyone else gave up on? Do his efforts getting them back into school, feeding and clothing them and giving them something to look forward to the next day mean nothing because he has tattoos?

Of course not, because appearance doesn’t dictate WHO WE ARE. Yes, it’s a part of us, but it is not us.

The guy who emailed Jennifer was not concerned. Why would he be? To him, Jennifer is a perfect stranger—nothing more than a face he happened to flip to while browsing the channels. He framed his rude, hurtful email as a concern, but it was nothing more than a way to cut someone down—someone different from him.

There is no excuse for this type of behavior, and we’re never in short supply of it. Look how quickly the public turned on people like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson when they put on weight.

It’ll be a sad, sad day when someone’s appearance determines his/her value. And what a boring world it would be if we all looked alike.

Cutting someone down does not make you taller. Hurting someone does not make you stronger. No, it makes you a bully.