On the heels of the attempted shaming of Balpreet Kaur, another story emerged in which a woman’s physical appearance was put in the spotlight.
By now you’ve probably all read or seen the story of Jennifer Livingston, the news anchor who took a viewer’s critical email public a few weeks ago. In the email, the admittedly infrequent viewer wrote:
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. 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.
As a television personality, Livingston is used to critical commentary about her appearance or the way she does her job, but the accusation that her size made her a poor role model for young people spurred her to action and she responded on-air:
In the clip, Livingston focuses on the bullying aspect of the email and uses the opportunity to promote National Bullying Prevention Month. She’s the mother of three school-aged daughters; I can understand her concern.
As a non-mom, formerly-obese-currently-chubby-person, what offends me most about this viewer’s email and the public discussion that followed is the equating of a person’s appearance (her size, in this case) to their character, as if somehow physical fitness, or face it, thinness, is supposed to mean someone’s a better role model?
Hmmm, Lance Armstrong or Jennifer Livingston for Better Role Model for Children? I don’t know either one of them, but based on media reports of their actions, I know who would get my vote.
The bottom line is that it’s just flat out wrong to equate someone’s character to their physical appearance. Why? My answer is in Livingston’s on-air comments:
“The truth is, I am overweight. You can call me fat – and yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart. But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that 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 have admitted you don’t watch this show. You know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale.”
As are we all. (We’re also more–or less–than the number of Tour de France titles we possess. I’m currently at 0 because my bike has a flat tire.)
Adding insult to injury, so to speak, are the reports than the viewer-writer is a formerly obese person who has struggled with weight his whole life. You’d think he’s be more aware of the idiocy of connecting character and weight/shape/size. But apparently not and that’s an indication of character, in my book.
First, we had facial-hair shaming and now fat-shaming. What’s next, housekeeping shaming? (I’m so screwed, if that’s the case.)
Aren’t you glad I was on vacation when this story first broke? I’m so much calmer now.