The U.S. TV anchorwoman who went on air to respond to an email she received criticizing her weight gone viral online. It has received a phenomenal amount of media coverage. But I thought it was worth adding a bit more.
I’m not interested in debating whether the anchor, Jennifer Livingston, is obese. She admits that on a doctor’s chart she is. I don’t really buy that TV personalities have an obligation to act as role models for anyone. And I don’t assume that someone’s weight is an indication of their character or lack thereof.
On air Livingston said she was going to ignore the “hurtful” email because she had a thick enough skin – literally and otherwise (her words) – to withstand the criticism. It was her husband, an anchorman at the same station, who posted it on his work Facebook page. The response was immediate, supportive and “inspiring.” After the weekend, Livingston went on air to address what she described as a “talking point.” She read the email and then went on to describe it as a form of bullying.
After thanking her friends, family and countless people who rallied to her defense, she succinctly summed up the true importance of this incident.
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.”
As the parent of a disabled son and young daughter, I fear that one day either of them could suffer the humiliating, spirit-breaking heart ache of being bullied. Livingston is right: We can’t let others define us or our children. By loving and valuing our children we can instill in them pride in who they are and a strong sense of self-worth. That is the most important gift we can give our kids – and one that no one can take away.
Easy for her to say. Most of the time we tell our kids to “ignore” the derision as that is really the best thing for them to do most of the time Jennifer did not do that even as she said she was going to do so—saying so is even belying that one is going ot ignore something. It’s nice to say “we can’ t let”, but most of us do. We do because often we can’t help it and it does strike a blow that hurts. Bullies are also not people in the crowd, but people that have a “hook” in us, that we care about and have a good deal of control over the quality of our lives and our options.
It is difficult to give useful advice to those who don’t have a lot defense mechanisms and abilities when attacked. I don’t think Livingston’s response and advice is particularly helpful in such cases.
I think her standing up to the bullies was admirable. That’s what I have taught my children to do. Not to argue. Not to feel humiliated. But to say “I have a disability and I can’t help it if I…..(insert appropriate action here)…that’s just the way it is.” Generally, the bully would back down and feel humiliated, especially if others have observed the interaction.
This is certainly what I hope I can teach my children through talking about it and by my own actions. I can just hope that a bully will feel humiliated.