Jennifer Livingston, a morning news anchor for a CBS affiliate out of Wisconsin, took to the airwaves this week to call out a negative email she received about her weight. She referred to the email as an act of “bullying” and used four minutes of local airtime to respond to it. The full email, sent directly to Livingston by local lawyer Kenneth W. Krause is below. The subject line read: “Community Responsibility” –
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.”
While I absolutely think this email is rude and insensitive, would I call it bullying? I’m not quite sure.
“The truth is I am overweight. You can call me fat and yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart. To the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? Your cruel words are pointing out something 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 admitted that you don’t watch this show so you know nothing about me besides what you see on the outside–and I am much more than a number on a scale….
To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience, that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”
Was Livingston, a prominent local personality, a victim of bullying? Was this the proper piece of “hate mail” to address the issue of bullying and children? Locally, nationally?
My problem with using the term ‘bullying’ to describe this email comes down to this– I agree with Jennifer on the fact that bullying is a serious matter. We have seen some terrible consequences of bullying in this country. It hits close to home for all of us, too close to home for some. But once that term ‘bully’ is out there, it can’t be retracted. As a mother to two small children who just recently started school, I feel particularly uneasy about this issue. While I agree with the majority of her comments, I am unsure whether this was the right platform to construe them.
Help me out moms!
Should Livingston have trashed the email and gone on with her day or was her response appropriate?
Please comment below and let me know your thoughts.
I agree with you. I think she took a hurtful letter and tried to associate what happened to her with a larger social concern. I watched that clip as well and was more than a little surprised with the direction it took. That email was not bullying. Bullying would have been to start a Facebook page mocking her weight. The writer sent it to her personally and she admits she tried to laugh it off. Her husband was the one to make it public. Had they kept that letter private she would never have faced public scrutiny over it. I agree with them releasing it and addressing the issue as it is her right to talk about herself publicly if she so chooses. I do not think it was bullying though.
I just want to point out that I rarely leave comments on things. I only do when I feel like I may have something to add. To be honest, I was a little shocked to read some of your blog today. I am not saying that what you said was wrong, everyone is entitled to an opinion, I just happen to agree with you most of the time and today wasn’t one of those times. Bullies are a major problem in school today. And I agree that sometimes jumping to use the term “bully” may hurt a situation more than help it. Once a kid is labeled a bully, you can’t take that back. But this man took the time out of his day to send a hurtful, hateful email to someone he didn’t know. He may not have intended his email to be seen as bullying, but I think it is. And I think any time we can take some time to help teach our kids that the way you look, who you like, or the way you dress is acceptable no matter what others says, is a perfect time to do so. It took Jennifer a lot of courage to do what she did and I hope that at least one little girl that sees this video will realize that she is a role model. (I apologize if I misread or misinterpreted what your intent was.)
There is absolutely no need to apologize! I am behind everything Jennifer said, I was just questioning the medium. Trying to think critically over here, mom brain acts up a bit! Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Lisa
While his email was hurtful to her because she overweight and it’s something I’m sure she was self-conscious about, the email itself was not hateful. I am overweight myself and only recently have felt worthy enough to treat myself in a healthier way, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which is a major factor in my weight, but I also have dealt with depression and anxiety and low self esteem and while I appreciate my family and friends for always loving me no matter my weight, I see this email truly as a way of reaching out. As I’ve started to lose about 30 pounds my family has been nothing but encouraging, but I can’t help but think why they never thought to intervene sooner. Surely if I had an alcohol or drug addiction they would have felt it necessary to say something. Being overweight is not just a vanity issue, it really is a matter of health and it seems she really does need to realize that. I certainly want to be a better example to my daughter and promote a healthy body image. What he wrote to her was not the most delicate way of putting it, but it is the truth regardless and sometimes the truth hurts. (I don’t mean that to be sarcastic) So just because she was hurt by it, doesn’t make it a hurtful email in nature. I also think a lot of the problem people have with this is possibly because it was made by a man commenting on a woman’s weight. Just a thought. . .
Love this comment. Just because it was intended to be a privately sent email doesn’t make it ok or less deserving of being called bullying. Yes everyone is entitled to their own opinions and rightfully so, however that doesn’t mean its ever ok to speak hurtfully towards others.
I love this topic and your thoughtful take on it. Thank you for initiating this discussion. I agree with you that by making this email public, Jennifer took the role of victim and ran with it, rather than trashing the email or responding one-to-one with the sender. While I agree the sender’s comments were cruel and obnoxious, I would have preferred to see Jennifer using her celebrity/platform to start a discussion.similar to the one you’re introducing. Good work!. .
I believe she was right, and I’ll tell you why-
A thoughtfully-worded, polite letter can still be bullying. Just because he was mature and articulate in expressing his thoughts does not make them any less hurtful or inappropriate.
The societal attitude toward larger people is unconscionable. I wasn’t as aware of it until I married a large man, and began to see how often people thought “fat jokes” were ok, or how easily they would remark on his weight as if their hurtful comments were acceptable.
The truth is, body size has very little correlation with health. Upon reading another blog about this video, I stumbled across http://www.fatnutritionist.com/. I recommend checking out what this lady has to say for anyone who wants to better understand the prejudice against people of size in America.
I agree. I think that the letter was inappropriate but I do not feel it was bullying.
I agree, I don’t think it was bullying either. I’m not sure exactly how to categorise it, to be honest.
This was timely for me, as I recently received a personal attack comment on my blog. Naturally it went to moderation, as it was a first comment. I haven’t published it. I haven’t really decided what to do with it. I could publish it and respond, but what would be gained?
I do see Jennifer’s point about staying strong and not letting such thing get to one.
It puzzles me that a lawyer sent the email. Seems like odd behaviour for a lawyer.
I usually don’t moderate my blog comments and if I do get a personal attack comment I just let it sit there. Sometimes I will respond if it seems worth it. For example, an argument that needs to be clarified.
I’m with ya on the whole lawyer thing. Seems bizarre to send an email like that~ Much love! ~Lisa
I agree that the letter was politely worded, but trust me, some bullies can be very polite and the things they say can be even more hurtful, because nobody tends to see them as bullying. Had the letter been aggressive, or full of profanity, say, everyone would have said, “That letter is obviously from a complete idiot and you shouldn’t even think about what it says.” But in this case, it was subtle enough that she was confused at first. I have no doubt in my mind that this letter is an example of “polite” bullying. And I think her example to stand up to it, also in a polite way, was a good example that many kids need to see. Perhaps some of them, with terrible self-worth due to the criticism they receive every day, polite or otherwise, will look at this woman and say, “She’s beautiful! She doesn’t deserve that.” And maybe on some level that will translate into a possibility for how to look at what’s happening to them.
I just put that comment in with my business name, sorry. This is Jan Elizabeth here 🙂
My definition of bullying is a relentless, brutal campaign taken against someone to undermine and hurt them – sometimes to completely destroy them. Those poor kids who commit suicide because it’s the only way they see out are victims of bullying. People who receive one mean letter written by someone who has an acid tongue are not victims of bullying. I do totally admire her for calling him out, though. I just don’t agree with labeling it a case of bullying.
I never leave comments on blogs but this subject I feel very strongly about. I think if you have never been bullied you would not consider this bullying. The comment that I read that bothered me was the one saying “My definition of bullying is a relentless, brutal campaign taken against someone to undermine and hurt them – sometimes to completely destroy them.” Bullying can be one time someone saying or doing a hurtful thing. It does not need to be constant or “relentless.” All it takes is one comment to hurt someone. My younger brother was bullied because he was quite and often the new kid. We moved several times. One mean comment or action can be enough to destroy someones self-esteem. I think we as a country need to be more vigilant when it comes to bullying. I am very impressed with this woman and speaking out. Bullying gets swept under the rug too often. This is a huge problem in our society that causes serious grief and sadness often with young kids. Regardless of your thoughts on this particular event I think we can all agree that bullying needs to stop.