Home BeautyBody Image The Newscaster, The Lawyer & The Letter: Bullying In The Digital Era

The Newscaster, The Lawyer & The Letter: Bullying In The Digital Era

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I’m still struggling with the fact that all of this actually happened.

Original

So, this newscaster and her husband are anchors for WKBT, La Crosse, Wisconsin. The wife, Jennifer Livingston, receives the following letter…

Hi Jennifer,

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.

…from this guy:

Kenneth krause

…which her husband then chose to post on his facebook page. The response was an outpouring of support from the pair’s supporters, and even strangers who aren’t entirely sure who they are but know full well they don’t support people writing letters like that.

The abundance of support compelled Jennifer to give a four-minute on-air response to the letter, as well as a polite reminder for us all to consider how our words affect one another, and what those words teach our children:

…and, you’d think it stopped there, right?

Of course not.

Our lovely letter-writing friend responded with the following:

Given this country’s present epidemic of obesity and the many truly horrible diseases related thereto, and considering Jennifer Livingston’s fortuitous position in the community, I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of Coulee Region children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year, and, to that end, I would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept.

In a move that absolutely no one found unexpected, our lovely letter-writer has declined to sit down on-air with Livingston.

I can’t be the only person dumbfounded by this, right?

At first, I couldn’t help but wonder why this was playing out in front of my eyes. Why would you write a letter about someone’s weight? Why would you respond to said-letter on air? Was it a slow news day?

But then, you take a closer listen to what Livingston actually said on-air, and it starts to make more sense:

“While I tried my best to laugh off this very hurtful attack on my appearance, my colleagues could not do the same, especially my husband, our 6 and 10 anchor Mike Thompson. Mike posted this email on his WKBT Facebook page and what happened next has been truly inspiring. Hundreds and hundreds of people have taken the time out of their day to not only lift my spirits, but take a stance that attacks like this are not okay.

She didn’t post that letter – her husband did. And, when thousands of people speak out and comment in support of your personhood, it feels like “the right thing to do” to speak out and speak up in solidarity with them. Furthermore, if you must speak up, why not turn it into a teachable moment?

Many may write off the letter as just “kind words” from a “concerned citizen,” but – again – taking a second look reveals a more condescending, insulting tone that left me wondering what the hell this dude’s life is about.

“Surely, you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community, girls in particular..”

“…your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years…”

“…obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make…”

…seriously? She might be humanitarian of the year, might’ve saved a baby dolphin from a hunting net with her bare hands then rode it back to shore, rescued a baby from a well, and saved the entire state of Wisconsin from financial disaster by flooding the state with money… it doesn’t matter what she’s done with her life, she can’t consider herself a role model because she’s fat?

And, yes, the “girls in particular” part just ruins my morning. The message we want to convey to young girls is that all of their successes as human beings are mitigated by whether or not they’re fat? Do we genuinely believe that this is the way to encourage them to be more fit? Not even fit… but appeasing to the male eye?

Because, really, let’s keep it 100 – that’s what this is about. A thin woman who smokes a pack a day off-camera is alright as long as she is appeasing to the male eye. A fat woman, denying our lovely letter-writer of his morning opportunity to view some eye candy, is deserving of being denigrated and told that she can’t consider herself “a suitable example for this community.”

Do I think she was wrong? Not at all. We need to stop telling people who are wronged that they need to be silent, turn the other cheek, “let it go and move on;” we need to start telling people who do this rude foolishness that they need to know their place and stay in it.

I asked you guys, once upon a time, who you allowed to call you to the carpet on your weight. Sooooooo many people said “Nobody, damn it!” But what saddened me even more, is the number of you who had stories about how cruelly and rudely a loved one told you that you were gaining weight. (Not getting fat.. just gaining weight.) We’ve created a society that is so anti-fat, that now any old stranger feels emboldened in approaching you about something so deeply personal as your weight.

I also feel some kind of way about people snarking on the letter-writer, smug though he may be. Either dissing folks because of their appearance is okay, or it’s not. We don’t have one set of rules for men, another for women… or do we?

I have to admit, though… I have to think about what “bullying” looks like in the digital era, and how it correlates to size acceptance in society. If bullying “is defined as the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others,” then do we not all know of countless examples of where someone has tried to coerce us to do something we didn’t want to do? Does “sabotage” count as bullying? Saying to someone, “you couldn’t possibly think of yourself as a role model” and then implying that losing weight would grant them the pleasure of that title… is this bullying? Do the countless e-mails I get calling me various forms of unintelligent, unappealing, and un-white count as bullying, as well?

What were your thoughts on this whole situation?

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23 comments

Bethany October 4, 2012 - 4:26 PM

That was great! I don’t know her story and I don’t need to know it but we should all cease looking to the television to help our children define them or teach them what’s appropriate. For that man to say she’s doing a disservice to her community based on her weight is an asinine claim. Good for her for standing up for herself and others.

Dr. Gina M.-S. October 4, 2012 - 7:44 PM

I have been cyberbullied, mercilessly. The man’s behavior is typical of a “power and control” cycle often seen in domestic violence relationships. This man thought he can control a woman, who he fabricated a “relationship” from television. And he feels he can tell her, how she should look, appear and behave. It’s almost serial killer-like. He is preying on her. If you don’t like how someone appears on television, change the channel! Don’t write letters buttering them up on superfluous anecdotal stories. She doesn’t know him! And he was hitting on her like they had a relationship? WTH?

Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, recently bullied herself, stated that these men feel the loss of control from media and social media that they exact a hatred over women to do and say anything.

What would I do? Regardless if my husband put it on a Facebook Fan Page and made a response, I would send the letter to the police, start restraining order proceedings and sue the guy for slander. That would be me. He is not my provider, so he has no jurisdiction of what I do with my body. Forget him.

WellDamn24 October 7, 2012 - 10:13 PM

With all due respect, I think you are taking this way too far. I only write this because there are cases when what you wrote does apply, but a guy sending one email isn’t the same as him repeatedly contacting her.

Also, the frabricated relationship that you speak of is one that is often fostered by TV personalities and their employers. The more you like the personalities the more you want to watch them. They openly ask for feedback. As Livingston mentioned, she and her collegues are used to receiving feedback about the topics of their shows, the quality of their work, and even their appearance. Heck, I’ve heard of TV personalities changing their on-air clothing and hair styles based on viewer focus groups.

So let’s not make out that this guy is a bigger jerk and loser than he already is.

Deven October 4, 2012 - 7:47 PM

I saw this story on CNN this morning … it seems from this story that some people seem to think that because you are fat you should just not go out in public, let alone pursue your dreams and passions because of how other people might feel about your weight. Its as if he could not see her because of her weight and it makes me wonder how many people just see fat people as numbers on a scale and nothing else.

Juli October 5, 2012 - 10:05 AM

Don’t you know? If you insult a person that’s overweight, god forbid they’ve accepted themselves for who they are, it’s because you’re concerned about their health, not because you’re an a-hole. My sister is morbidly obese by all definitions of the word, has been since she was a toddler, but every medical test they can run on her that doesn’t involve her weight comes out 100% healthy. I’m not saying she’s a typical case or that we should all go off and eat our way into a BMI in the 40s but I am saying the only person who has the right to approach you about whether or not your weight is healthy should have a medical degree and should preface the conversation with, “Thank you for scheduling an appointment with me today.”

Yes, I’m excluding nutritionists, physical therapists and the like from that for one simple reason: they can’t interpret blood work, stress tests and enzyme levels to inform you that your lifestyle is hurting your body. They can just look at you and a few numbers on a sheet of paper and say, “Most people that have these numbers are at risk for X number of diseases.”

Susan October 5, 2012 - 12:10 PM

I’m glad so many people are supporting Jennifer. It’s awful that this man is so upset by her weight that would cause him to do try to cause another person so much pain.

Jennifer is right, she is more than a number on a scale!

BlackBerry Molasses October 5, 2012 - 12:49 PM

He decided to reduce her entire being to her weight and her appearance. Here’s the funny thing… she does not exist for his eyes. She is a wife, a mother, a professional, a sister (to someone famous- Ron Livingston of Office Space fame), a daughter. None of those things relate to him. This goes beyond bullying into how seriously dangerous male privilege and patriarchy are.
From youth boys are taught that they are owed the prettiest girl they can get… and that even the nerd/dork/shy or otherwise societally undesirable boy will eventually get the pretty girl. We see this in movies, on TV, in books… And if any woman dares to not be the “pretty” girl within his line of sight, than she is offensive and to be treated like an offender of the highest order.

This part of the letter proves that:

“I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years.”

Meaning, she’s had the audacity to be offensively (to him) fat and he’s given her time to get herself together to appeal to him and she hasn’t done anything about it. She’s terrible!

and this part:
“Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. ” Meaning- “you are telling up and coming future women that its okay to offend the delicate visual sensibilities of men who only want to look at thin women! You’re a menace!”

She has chosen to love and accept herself as she is. That is a bold and revolutionary idea for women– since every message we receive tells us to denigrate and hate ourselves. Maybe she wants to change… maybe she doesn’t. But she sure as s**t isn’t considering him in her choices. And he dares to assume that she is. If he ain’t the most arrogant son of a b***h I ever did see!

Laura-Lee October 5, 2012 - 1:46 PM

I’m glad you used the example of the thin woman who smokes. I applaud the ideals of Michelle Obama and the call for a healthier society. However I think too many are still in the mindset that thin=healthy and active and a few extra pounds=Lazy and about to die.

It is this man’s thinking that is dangerous to young girls. It is this man’s judgement that causes young women to starve themselves. Anyone remember anorexia and bulimia?? Yeah, that still happens. People have been so focused on the “war on fatties” that they’ve forgotten other dangerous diseases and the judgmental rhetoric that helps cause it.

The internet and media do not help either cause with the uprising on online bullying. What’s most frightening is a lot of it is coming from adults.

Kahja October 6, 2012 - 4:52 PM

A complete and total double standard. Rick Ross was recently on the cover of GQ, shirtless (need I say more??). And is often performing and photographed with an open shirt. Could Gabourey Sidibe do the same???

Sam October 6, 2012 - 10:25 PM

I have to fight tears every time I watch this because, despite being very strong, you can hear the hurt in her voice. I hate the “cold hard truth” and “tough love” excuses people make for being hurtful. Why not just say what you mean-which is either I’ll shame you into changing or I’ll hurt your feelings trying. To take a page from the middle school guidance counselor handbook, he is only doing it to make him self feel better. I honestly believe that. People who are truly happy are so wrapped up in their joy that they just don’t have time to actively notice every single flaw on every single person and they certainly don’t need to send hateful letters to anyone who’s flaws they should happen to notice. That just isn’t the nature of genuinely happy people.

WellDamn24 October 7, 2012 - 10:06 PM

I have a slightly different take on this because unlike this website, most of what I’ve read about this conflict makes the crux of this issue bullying and not weight discrimination. It’s as if folks don’t think they can win the weight discrimination battle so they are focused on calling it bullying (which it isn’t).

There are many reasons to think this guy is a jerk. He makes it pretty easy with his email and subsequent responses. I’m not quite sure why his email stood out from the millions of emails that TV personalities regularly receive that crtique appearance.

But I’m all for Jennifer Livingston responding on air to his email. I do have a propblem with her only focusing for a short time on how her accomplishments have nothing to do with her weight before moving on to calling him a bully.

The guy isn’t a bully; he’s an a.ss.hole. He didn’t start some prolonged campaign to discredit and disrespect J. Livingston. He sent one email that hurt her feelings so much that her husband took to FB, in some techno, new age defense of his wife.

At the end of the day he is one jerk with an opinion. He wasn’t bullying her. I just wish Livingston had fully addressed what he wrote about, her weight, and not bullying..

Olivia October 8, 2012 - 12:26 PM

Why is the word “fat” being considered to be an insult? Maybe that is an issue that needs to be addressed. Being fat does not always equal unhealthy and even if you are fat and unhealthy-SO FREAKING WHAT?! Does that make you a bad person? If you didn’t get fat by sacrificing and eating children then it is nobody’s business. If someone tries to insult me by calling me fat-I will laugh at them. We give people too much power by allowing them to hurt us by calling us fat. It is just a word. Him saying she isn’t a good role model-now that is hurtful and rude and a few other words that I can’t say out loud.
Just an update: I read that he is not really an attorney-I think he is a security guard, he used to be fat as a child and the newscaster is a triathlete who has thyroid problems….

CrossEyed October 8, 2012 - 1:15 PM

Here’s where I get hung up: Of all the letters that have been received, why was this one chosen to report on? If she, and her coworkers receive such letters all the time, what made this one different than any of the others?

I’m struggling with the real tragedy here. Yes, this viewer had no real basis for writing to her about her weight. But it was her husband that took the letter and made a public outcry by posting it on Facebook. What point was that supposed to prove? That this guy is bigger butt-hole than the last who sent such a letter? His desire to protect his wife, led him to putting this information out for all the world to see…

I’m over being told how to think and how to feel by the media, and from where I’m sitting, this feels like just that. Our emotions are being forced out in response to this because it was posted on a Social Media Network and subsequently reported on.

I wonder, should some Weight Loss plan or product endorsement offer come from this, if it would be turned down… Also, I wonder what this story has done for ratings?

WellDamn24 October 8, 2012 - 4:50 PM

Thank you! I was wondering the same thing. I don’t know if it’s that she’s super sensitive about her weight (sometimes it can be a real d@mn tragedy for a White woman to be fat), or if she only receives positive emails and this is her first negative one.

Nevertheless, clearly this email sparked some severe pissivity in her household so her husband got all New Age cyber cave man about it and decided to fight for his woman’s honor on Facebook.

They seem to want to start some kind of bullying crusade. I’m not on board with that. I’m all for fighting bullies but this guy was just a jerk, and I’d have to go on a holy mission with no food, drink, sleep or sex in order to fight all the jerks in the world.

CleverOne October 15, 2012 - 12:43 PM

I love this site because it affords me the opportunity to hear a range of opinions- some with which I agree and some that leave me open mouthed. In many ways, I agree that the man writing the email was not a bully per se- he is a GIANT a**hole. An entitled, arrogant and just a little suspect in terms of why he’d even choose to say anything rather than just change the channel and shake his head that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because a fat woman is reporting the news. I do, however, think Ms. Livingston did the right thing in turning this into a teachable moment for anyone who has felt victimized by hurtful words. Bully (by strict definition) or no- he hurt her feelings. He hurt her husband’s feeling (what a man!), he hurt her brother, mother, father’s, whomever’s feelings. Period. He deserved to be called out on basing his scolding on her outward appearance. I laid out on the floor when Ericka mentioned the “saving the baby dolphin” bit but dang it- it’s TRUE! Who knows what the woman has done or been through but because she is not pleasing to your eye she should be ashamed, marginalized, or berated? No, no, no. You can look at ANYONE (including Mr. High and Mighty) and pick on ANYTHING about them, which is one of the points Ms. Livingston made in her response. But that does not take into account the whole person. I am often ignored or overlooked in my day to day life (how a 250 lb woman can be invisible, I still can’t figure out) yet those same folks who ignore or dismiss me because of the way I look actually know nothing about me. My friend is about 1/2 my size and crazy as she can be yet she is afforded attention that I could never get simply because she “looks good.” Some days I just laugh it off but on days like this- it admittedly hurts. I praise Ms. Livingston for using her public platform to tell this man, for all intents and purposes, to kiss her fat a**.

Janae October 20, 2012 - 7:45 PM

I’ve come to accept that people perceive me in a less than positive way because of my weight. I’m actually glad she decided to say something about it because some one needed to call that man out for being an a**.

What ticks me off about this whole situation is that it shows that people think that it’s perfectly acceptable to come up to a fat person they’ve never even met and say “You’re fat. Do something about it because I don’t think it’s okay for you to look like that.”

It gets attention on the news when it’s a actor or TV personality but for every media personality who gets that kind of email there are uncounted more regular folks getting talked down to by complete strangers who are supposedly ‘concerned’ about their health.

If it were any other thing about your personal appearance only your family and close friends would even dream of bringing it up. When’s the last time you heard of someone being told by a complete stranger that the state of their teeth was unacceptable and to make an appointment with an orthodontist ASAP?

I think it’s great that becoming fit and healthy is now on so many peoples to do list and that health and wellness is getting more attention in the media. I just think it’s crazy that the quest to develop healthier habits has somehow transformed into a crusade against fat people.

Sophia November 27, 2012 - 2:07 AM

I think that this man is a subtle bully. A low level bully. Yes, he doesn’t quite fit the definition of what a bully is, but he has bullying tendencies. For him to write her an email, it appears that he is trying to convince her to lose weight because she isn’t a good role model. He also responded again with another response. Therefore, him being a bully–makes a little bit of stronger case.

Besides the bullying, it is people like him who are being insensitive and wanting to call out someone over email. It’s funny how you people online believe that they can see what they want and hide behind it. That old saying is simply just not true, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Well, words do hurt.

As for her husband, I get the feeling that maybe he put that letter up there because he was tired of folks emailing his wife being condescending to her. Sometimes, people have their limit, and their limit expires when they are hit with one more thing.

Nevertheless, this issue needs to be addressed regardless how it came out. People discriminate against people because they feel threaten, inferior, or believe that they need to feel superior so they pray on someone weaker. He thought, in his condescending manner that he would “enlighten” this woman into losing weight. As she said in the piece, she knows that she is overweight. Most people who are in tune with themselves know what their concerns are. However, he had no right to express those concerns in that manner.

I come from a situation where I had folks who have talked about me being thirty pounds overweight. They’ve tried to “bully” me into losing weight. However, I’ve stood firm in my ground and said…I know that I can be healthier, and I will be when I am ready to be. It is very difficult for one to get out of their comfort routine sometimes and change. It’s mind of matter, but sometimes, your mind isn’t in emotional gear to do what you want to do…

I will say that on my on weight loss journey to be overall healthy, when I do exercise and eat well, I feel better ABOUT MYSELF. It is not all about appearance, either, even though that it a reward itself. It is about living a long, graceful life that you decide that you want to live. Maybe some people are happy being overweight. Maybe their extra weight isn’t hurting them as bad as they think, but it is their choice. It is not up to any of us to say negative comments to try to gull them into losing weight.

From someone who have had experienced this, I can tell you when someone makes comments like that, it makes you rebel and not want to get healthy at all because you are like…I am not going to lose weight for someone who think I should. It’s your body, your mind, and your esteem that you have control over. Not them.

Phoenix Woman July 29, 2013 - 11:12 PM

Oh, he’s a bully, all right.

Instead of backing off, he doubled down, because his goal now is to save face.

See, a woman — and a fat woman — dared give him, Mister Mighty John Galt Superior Being Dude, backtalk. That’s how he sees it.

And because he has now lost face among his male peers for being Dissed By A (Fat) Woman, he feels he must try to win back his reputation as Mister Big Swinging Dick by, well, acting like a dick. Not realizing that all he’s doing is digging the hole deeper.

Bernadette August 5, 2013 - 2:23 PM

I agree that this guy is a jerk of the highest order and deserved to be told off, but I guess I have an issue with how much power we give to others that allows them to hurt our feelings. I refuse to allow anyone to get me off of my square, so I am quick to check anyone who decides to “weigh in” (no pun intended)on my world. I’m not criticizing Ms. Livingston, she handled it the way she saw fit, but if it was me, I would’ve backed up this issue to the point where the viewer thought he had a right to comment on anything. I would’ve never even engaged him on my weight, because his opinion is as irrelevant as he is on the issue. Instead of debating my self-worth with someone who doesn’t know me, I’d drop-kick him back across the line he crossed so hard, he’d think twice about crossing it again. Folks need to row their own boats, and not be so worried about what’s happening in someone else’s.

Cassandre February 17, 2014 - 9:47 PM

this makes me so sad and sick to my stomach that in this day in edge the hate that exists in this world runs so deep and i just pray for the day that we don’t judge people by their size.. we already have to deal with judging based on race, etc.. this was wrong on so many levels and i am happy for the positive support once her husband posted the letter.. thanks for sharing this..

Moin@Skin February 19, 2014 - 11:57 PM

I saw this video over FB and I strongly condemn this act. Obesity if not a sin nor it’s a bad habit. I appreciate you for sharing such a useful thing here.

I believe that a bloggers has more responsibility than just posting and you’re handling it in very good way.

Candace February 20, 2014 - 9:32 PM

I’m sorry but this case was not bullying. This was one person sending one private email to someone expressing his dislike for her weight. He didn’t call her names. He didn’t sending repeating emails. He didn’t make it public. SHE AND HER HUSBAND MADE IT PUBLIC. Then her producers decided that she should answer this on air. Gee I wonder why. No this is not bullying. Her weight is her business and he doesn’t have a right to say anything. But as one of the other commenters stated viewers do that all the time. It comes with the job. If you can’t take it, you’re in the wrong business. I don’t feel sorry for her.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 21, 2014 - 12:05 AM

…but what makes him – or anyone, for that matter – think its ok to send something like that to a stranger in the first place?

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