The shouts of many

This morning my sister sent me a link  to the story about  Wisconsin news anchor Jennifer Livingston who was contacted by a viewer about her weight and questioned her suitability as a healthy role model for those in her community, and young girls in particular. Her husband is also an anchor on the WKBT network and posted the email on his Facebook wall. Hundreds of people have commented supporting Jennifer and the video has gone viral. This is Jennifer’s full response from the WKBT website.CBS This Morning also covered her story. Check it out here.

After I watched these I sat in silence for a full five minutes just trying to digest all that I had seen, and my reactions both emotional and intellectual. Jennifer’s main statement is that this story is not about her weight this is about bullying, and that bullying is not okay. Ever.

I was bullied at school. I was the chubby kid, the kid with glasses, the ‘teacher’s pet’. I was told by one boy that I should have a ‘wide load’ sticker on my back among other taunts. Luckily I have a very strong family who have taught me to stand up for myself and not let playground taunts define my whole identity. I was also taught that there is much more to a person than the way they look, or the size of their jeans, or the colour of their skin, or who they love. When I left the playground behind those bullies disappeared. I am so blessed that the people who surround me now are positive, encouraging, and life-affirming individuals. I have fought internal bullying, but my family, friends, and colleagues have only ever been a source of support and love.Many others are not so lucky and face bullies at school, at work, and even, sadly, at home. Over the past year alone we have many seen young people who have taken their own lives because of bullying. That is not okay.

Jennifer’s words in response to the bully are powerful; they provide a platform for further action. She says, ‘I am much more than a number on a scale’ and ‘I do a job not worth being critical of my appearance…talk to me about the stories I cover, not about my weight’. Jennifer raises (at least) two important points here. Firstly, we are all so much more than the number that blinks back at us from the bathroom scale; we are more than our quantity of body mass suggests. You cannot measure the weight of someone’s ability to love, their compassion, their humour, their intelligence, on a set of scales. Secondly, for most of us, our potential as people is not determined by what we look like on the outside, but rather our ambition and drive, our capacity to work hard and dedicate our lives to something that is important to us. We aren’t all actors and actresses or models who are vying for positions based on our appearance, and truth be told all those models and actors and actresses are more than their appearance as well – they are people who just happen to look a certain way. Jennifer Livingston is a brilliant news anchor: a position that relies on her ability to analyse what is happening in the world and share information with the public. It doesn’t matter what she looks like, or how much she weighs. In Australia recently our Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been the subject of public comment about the size of her posterior. That is not okay. Who cares about the size of her seat? Her job is to lead Australia and to support our nation, not to be a size 0.

One particular sentence in Jennifer’s editorial especially touched me, and rallied me into writing this today:

‘The cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.’

Do you want to be the one, or part of the many? I know that I would rather be part of a chorus of shouts from every corner supporting others. I would rather be joined at the heart with those of a similar conscious who declare ‘that is not okay’ when the one cruel voice decides to drag down, taunt, or shame, their target. I would like to shout out that it doesn’t matter what colour your skin is, who you love, what your clothing size is, what you look like on the outside. What matters is your ability to be the best you and support others to be their best self as well. Every one of us has something that is uniquely special and goals and dreams and hopes that have nothing to do with our external features or sexual preferences and everything to do with how hard we are going to work towards achieving our goals. Let that be the ground upon which we are judged.

Let the shouts of many embrace us. Let the cruel words of a few be lost to the background noise of clapping in support for our fellow human beings.

I feel passion for this, I feel the need to take this further, but for now, dear friends, talk to me.
How can we make this a shout of many?

6 thoughts on “The shouts of many

  1. FANTASTIC POST! one of the most powerful I have read in a really long time. and Jennifer sounds incredibly strong! i think in general strength is an incredibly admirable trait…but as women…strength is something amazing and so inspiring when it shines through. i generally think to myself when I get overwhelmed by how I could possibly make a big difference…what can I do on a daily basis that could possibly spread through others like a ripple effect. So…I strive to live a life I can be proud of…confident and proud…and then hope that I can encourage others to find their own confidence and pride as well!

    • Thank you Julia 🙂
      I agree with you so much! Leading by example and passing on the glow of strength and confidence is the best everyday action we can take to add our voices to the chorus!

  2. That must have been so hard to go through as a child, but look at the depths of character you have. You were indeed fortunate to have such a wonderful support system within your family and it saddens me for the masses of children who are bullied who do not have the good support at home. Why is someone’s weight even an issue in this country or any country for that matter? Ridiculous. Thanks for your very sweet comment in regards to my post on domestic abuse. I smiled at the “Steel Magnolia reference!” xoxo

  3. Such a powerful post – and I completely agree with you. I think we can start by supporting each other more – I know that I am quick to compare and get upset, more than I am to think about the person inside the body.

    I would love to see as many people as possible unfollow and unsubscribe from thinspo and images of superfit people at their fitness comp weight (the type that is uhealthily low in body fat and not ok for real life). I would love to see a culture that nurtures each other, where we can stop thinking ‘I’m fat’ and start thinking ‘I’m fine’.

    Much love Amy!

    • Thank you Kate!
      When I was deep in the midst of being depressed with my body I had hundreds of thinspo and fitspo pictures. I recently uncovered them all, and threw them out. I felt such freedom.

  4. AMAZING post!! i must live in a box and didn’t hear about this but ur point of it coming down to bullying is spot on. i got teased in school for being a teacher’s pet and it was so hard feeling like an outcast. but bullying has gotten infinitely worse over the years and i hit the point of wanting to literally go to the HS and beat some kids to death when they were making my little sister’s life miserable. of course i don’t condone beatings to death…but the point is that people can be SO cruel. and it’s always refreshing when people stand up and say, “it is NOT okay to be a bully!”

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