In the January issue of Glamour an as-told-to story by the “fat news lady” (her words) appears on page 35. The Wisconsin TV news anchor Jennifer Livingston shares her story of receiving a viewer email in which she was disparaged for being obese. The email in part reads:
“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.”
Livingston was hurt and outraged at the comment as was her husband, colleagues and community when she shared the email on television. Thousands of letters of support poured in and her story made national headlines.
Livingston, it turned out, has a one-year old. For those still clueless that means she had not long transitioned through pregnancy and childbirth—her third. She also doesn’t balk at the O-word. Obesity. She admits she fits the label at 5 ‘5” and 233 pounds and was still obviously struggling to eat healthy, exercise and take her low thyroid medication as she tried to shed post-baby weight.
But what she and most of the women who heard her story do have their ire up about is this notion that she could not possibly be a role model to girls or that she had somehow chucked her responsibility as a public persona.
Come again? So beside the fact that some random viewer judged her solely on what she looked like on his flat screen perhaps not knowing she had recently given birth, that she has a low thyroid condition that makes it twice as hard to shed weight, or that she actually runs and tries to eat healthy, he also implied that women in the public eye aren’t a role model to girls unless they are what, slim, healthy-looking, perfect?
I’m not sure what the “ideal woman in the public eye” looks like but since when does a woman’s character, morals and values—qualities that make up a suitable rode model–take a back seat to her looks? Jennifer Livingston and by proxy, any woman in the public eye could be the role model of the century, but the viewer had made his decision about her solely based on her weight.
Just what does that say about society, about women, about overweight people in this country when a new mom can’t even get a pass?
I hope Livingston, as well as all of the supporters who came to her defense loudly, conveyed that it doesn’t matter what size you are or whether you are even in the public eye or not. That your character and moral compass have nothing to do with your jean size and that the quality of your soul has less to do with your scale number–and more to do with your heart.
That’s what I hope anyway.