It seems like everybody is talking about what television anchor Jennifer Livingston said on air on WKBT in La Crosse, WI. If you haven’t heard it yet, go on up and watch the video. I’ll wait. In her video she talks about how we not only need to stand up to bullies, but also be an example to our children and show them how not to be bullies.
October is National Bullying Prevention month, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that Jennifer has helped bring bullying about weight to the forefront. It seems to me that much of the discourse on bullying has been dominated by discussions of race or gender or sexual preference. It also seems to me that in many of the discussions about bullying, weight has been left right out of the equation. So I’m thrilled that weight is coming into the discussion and that “concern trolling” is being called out as a form of bullying.
I admire Jennifer so much for standing up to bullies in such a public way. She’s not only standing up in public, but she’s standing up at work. And working in television news is no picnic. I know she worked very hard to get that coveted morning anchor spot. She undoubtedly won that spot over a lot of other competitors. A lot of those competitors were probably thinner and more closely mirrored current societal standards of appearance for a television anchor. Just doing her job every day in such a public and competitive sphere is pretty darn brave. To risk all she worked for, to risk the wrath of television viewers and pundits alike, for ‘coming out’ as a fat person, takes amazing strength. And as a Midwestern girl, raised in Wisconsin, I can tell you that calling attention to herself in this way, putting herself forward like this in the town of La Crosse, WI flies in the face of a lot of our “nice girl” training. It takes unbelievable courage.
As a fellow producer, I also want to call out the producers at WKBT for having the guts to put this on TV. I’m talking about morning show producer Kelli Hoff andnews director Anne Paape as well as the rest of the producing team. News at the local level is an extremely competitive business. Allowing Jennifer to take that much airtime to share an extremely controversial and polarizing viewpoint takes serious guts. That producer’s job is on the line for this. It was a big risk, but luckily the response seems to be largely positive.
I am so glad that a light is being shined on this bullying business. Because I think it’s time that we understood the real costs associated with it. There’s the cost to kids concentration levels and education. Can somebody who’s being tortured every day really focus on school? Can they get the grades? Can they do what they need to do to compete for those rapidly dwindling and extremely valuable spots at their favorite college? Will they even survive school? Or will they take their own precious lives and thus deprive the world of themselves? And if they survive school, will they survive intact? Or will they commit suicide a little bit every day by being smaller, being less than, blending in, and not being noticed? Will these kids be what they were meant to be? Will they dare? Or will they let that part of themselves that is responsible for seeing that torture never happens again, that they are never hurt that way again, take charge?
That is what is so very exciting to me about what I saw morning anchor Jennifer Livingston do on television yesterday. She wasn’t just standing up to bullies that are after her now. She was standing up to every bully she’s ever faced. She was standing up to that part of her that told her that she had a good thing going with her anchor job and she shouldn’t blow it. She was standing up to the part of her that told her she should be quiet and blend in. She was standing up to the part of her that said she should be lesser so as to present a smaller target.
I want to thank both Jennifer and WKBT for standing up not only to the bullies they face now in the public and the board room but also to all the bullies they have faced their entire lives. Your courage is an inspiration.
AKA The Fat Chick