Once again, a woman from Wisconsin is at the center of a controversy over body snarking, and once again, a woman from Wisconsin has totally schooled the world on why this isn’t okay.
I’m talking in this case about former Green Bay Packers cheerleader, Kaitlyn Collins. Apparently somebody posted a picture of Kaitlyn from her Packers cheerleader days on the Chicago Bears Fan Facebook day with the caption, “Like If You Agree The Packers Have The Worst Cheerleaders In The NFL!” And the comments. Oh the comments.
Now as a diehard Packers fan, I can attest that the rivalry between the Packers and the Bears is longstanding and epic. And thus, it’s probably not that surprising that the comments got ugly in a hurry. But this level of body disparagement and the nasty objectification of women did not go unanswered.
Kaitlyn created the YouTube video that you see above and she was NOT playin’. She called some of these bullies out by name–which may be getting somewhat humiliating for those folks, especially as this story gets more and more public. And I think the point she made was clear and concise. I don’t really have a lot to add, except…
It reminds me somewhat of the case a few months back, involving the anchorwoman from Eau Claire, Wisconsin who called out some comments regarding whether or not she should remain an anchorwoman at her current weight. She called those hateful folks out on the air as well and the backlash was amazing.
I guess I’d like to point out three things here:
1. Nobody is safe from body snarking–not even gorgeous NFL cheerleaders.
2. I’m from Wisconsin.
3. You just don’t want to mess with us women from Wisconsin.
Well looking back, I’d have to say that this September and October have been pretty amazing months for fat activists. Both Jennifer Livingston and Stella Boonshoft rose from obscurity and went all the way to the Today Show. Jennifer Livingston even appeared on Ellen talking about her anti-bullying rant. Veteran fat activist Ragen Chastain appeared prominently on both Time and Newsweek web feeds yesterday after acquiring over 100,000 signatures on her petition asking Disney not to create special, 5’11”, size 0 versions of their characters just to fit in a Lanvin dress for Barney’s. Even yours truly appeared on Hallmark’s new Home & Family Show with Paige Davis last week. I attended the first plus-sized fashion show held during LA Fashion Week a few weeks ago. And I’m sure there’s lots of other amazing things that happened this month in the media and the public eye featuring us fluffier folk. What’s happening out there? Is size acceptance finally having a day in the sun? Maybe. And if so, it’s about darn time.
It’s hard to know what is fueling this blip. I know in Ragen’s case, it’s a combination of brilliant strategy and very hard work. And to be honest, I’ve worked my butt off as well. But the Home & Family gig happened as a result of one of my business partners running into a talent producer at the local coffee shop. And although both Jennifer and Stella’s journey began with a single, somewhat public step, I’d venture to say neither of them expected to end up on the Today Show. Is there something in the air? Is it because October is Anti Bullying Month? Is it because we’re on the heels of Weight Stigma Awareness Week and Love Your Body Day? Is the world finally catching on to what we’ve been trying to say for the past 50 years?
I hesitate to say that this is IT, and the world has changed for fat people FOREVAH. I’ve seen these moments come and go. This may just be a blip on the radar. But I think we should take heart that this blip has happened. I think we should Carpe freakin’ Diem and seize this darn day. Because in the size acceptance and size diversity movement things are often very hard. Sometimes it seems like everybody is against you or nobody is even listening. So all you rad fatties out there, let’s take a moment to store this time in our memories and savor it. Let’s keep it safe so we can pull it out on a rainy day. Because none of us activists in the public eye have done this all by ourselves. It is a movement. And every brave thing you do, every radical act of self respect and joy that you perpetrate in the world adds fuel to the fire. You are changing the world my friends. Keep up the good work!
The Fat Chick
P.S. One really cool activism project is the Fit Fatties Forum created by Ragen Chastain and myself. Why not hop on over there and take a look? Better yet, how about joining and posting a photo of you working out and enjoying your day in the sun?
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 doingher 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.