I was inspired to write day after watching an interview of one of the most remarkable women, Jennifer Livingston. For those of us in America, her story has been one of the most talked about stories. Jennifer is a local anchor in Wisconsin and received an email from a lawyer who admittedly never watches the show, but admonished her about her appearance- more specifically her weight. He went on to say ‘Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain’, so Jennifer as a public role model should do more. The email was made public by her husband, who also works with her and Jennifer went on air and gave her own response. Instead of attacking the lawyer- which would admittedly be the easier move- Jennifer chose to take the high ground (see her response below).
As someone who has been attacked on weight on multiple occasions, this whole issue touches a nerve. I was particularly impressed with Jennifer’s response and I wanted to pen my own thoughts about it.
- Jennifer chose to lay out some simple facts- he was not a family member or a friend, or someone she interacted with a regular viewer- he was just a one off viewer who passed judgment and moved on. One of the points that Jennifer made really stayed with me-she said ‘You know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale’. I agree with this point wholeheartedly- as he admitted himself, the sender hasn’t seen the show before, and he is still willing to not just make a quick judgment, he is also willing to tell her what he thinks! For anything in life, we only take the advice or views of someone whom we believe are invested in us and our best interests. Why should I take the advice of someone I am meeting for the first time?
- Secondly, in the letter, the sender assumed she is doing nothing to promote a healthy lifestyle. In her interview, Jennifer wondered why the sender thought she doesn’t know how she looks-she knows she is overweight. I completely agree with what Jennifer is getting at- I have often had family members and friends come up to me and remind me that I used to be thin and now I am not. I always wonder, don’t they know I can see that, I remember that every time I look at the mirror-I honestly don’t need a constant reminder. And they don’t know the efforts I have put in, and the struggles I face- from afar, it is easy to cast judgment, for someone who is working hard on it and failing do you really think you are helping?
- More importantly, Jennifer brought up a very important issue too- when we start judging celebrities for their weight, then we move to people on the street- we don’t consider the impact it has on kids. We are raising kids with the values that casting judgment on others is completely OK, and they can go to school and bully a child about their weight. With real issues like bulimia and anorexia, aren’t we responsible for controlling such conversation or eliminating it all together?
- I am not disagreeing that weight is a serious issue and obesity is an epidemic. But instead of going to the source- promoting health eating habits and focus on exercise- we cannot focus on efforts on chasing every overweight celebrity to ask them to promote. I think at some level, the lawyer who sent the email didn’t send the email to promote a healthier lifestyle or in Jennifer’s interest- he just wanted to be mean and criticize someone on TV.
Jennifer, thank you for being so graceful about the whole issue- it took a lot of courage to go on TV, admit that you are overweight but that they are personal issues, and bring attention to the crucial issue of bullying. Your response was eloquent and full of grace, and you are an inspiration to girls and women everywhere!