It’s that time again. Another video has gone viral on Facebook and other social media and, as usual, people are hyper-supportive of something that is completely stupid. First, here is the video:
For those too lazy to watch the video, news anchor Jennifer Livingston received an email from some random guy critiquing her for being overweight. She responded to him on air, reading the email as follows:
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.
Let’s get the facts out there right away:
- Someone sent this news anchor a private email.
- At no point in the email was Livingston harassed, nor were any factually incorrect statements made.
- Livingston admits that the reason the letter became public was that her husband posted it for all to see on his Facebook page.
- In addition to Livingston’s husband being the one who initially made this all public, Livingston herself went on television and spoke about the letter for about 4 minutes.
I have a serious problem with what’s going on here. Livingston is claiming that she has been bullied by some anonymous person on the Internet because he encouraged her to lose weight. That isn’t bullying. The man does not seem to have sent Livingston email after email. He was not insulting in his critique but, instead, factual. (Whether or not he was in good taste is a separate question.) He did not set out to mock her for some inherent trait like skin color. All he did was point out that she has been overweight for a number of years now, something which is objectively unhealthy. Livingston chooses to live an unhealthy lifestyle. Criticizing her for that is no different from criticizing her for the political affiliation she chooses or the religious beliefs she chooses to have.
I have other problems with what Livingston has said – she seems to say that the man has no right to criticize her because he doesn’t personally know her; she compares her weight problem to sexual orientation and skin color; she says that we should teach our children to be kind rather than think critically – but I’m going to largely skip that stuff. What really disturbs me is the continuation of this fat acceptance movement. It’s terrible. Being fat is not always a choice – many people are burdened with extra weight because their parents gave them a terrible diet, others have disabilities, some have diseases – but living an unhealthy lifestyle usually is a choice. (This is the point where someone inevitably ignores my intentional use of the word “usually” and points out specific examples where a person’s hands are tied in terms of diet and exercise.) The more and more we pretend like people are helpless to get themselves in shape, the more and more people will embrace bullshit excuses for staying unhealthy.
I don’t necessarily support sending off polite emails to overweight news anchors in an effort to curb obesity. Part of the reason is that I don’t know as there is enough time in the day, at least in America. But the primary reason is that I don’t think someone automatically needs to be a role model by virtue of being in the public eye. Perhaps if Livingston is active in her community and/or otherwise tries to be a role model, then her weight is a fair issue and I think she should address it to the best of her abilities. But I’m not convinced that she has to act like a role model just because she stands in front of a TV crew every day.