The XX Factor

Check Out Jennifer Livingston’s Awesome Retort to Fat Shaming

WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston

Go Jennifer Livingston! That’s the verdict since the Wisconsin news anchor went on air to stand up for herself against a fat-shaming email from a viewer. Here’s the mean message:

Subject: Community Responsibility

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.

And here’s Livington’s heartfelt response. She delivers it with exactly the right amount of outrage and sensitivity.

My favorite parts: “The truth is I am overwieght. You can call me fat. Even obsese on a doctor’s chart. Do you think I don’t know that? You’re not a friend of mine. You’re not part of my family. … You know nothing about me that you don’t see on the outside. I am much more than a number on a scale.” Building to: “This behavior is learned. It is passed down. If you’re at home and you’re talking about the fat news lady, guess what, your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.”

Livingston ends by reminding adults to teach by example, and exhorting children who feel lost—because of weight or color or sexual preference or acne—“Do not let your self worth be defined by bullies.” She points out that it’s Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and she has crafted an excellent message for the occasion.

I’m a big fan of the videos in Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, in which adults often testify to how they’ve left their sadder teenage selves behind. But Livingston is harnessing a different sort of power: She’s defending herself, in the present, against a public version of the kind of attack kids privately face all the time. She’s telling someone who took a careless, thoughtless swipe at her to back off. And she’s refusing to be shamed or cowed. That sets the best possible example.