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TV anchorwoman responds to a letter writer offended that she dares to be fat in public

By now you may have seen the pointed on-air response that Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor for WKTB in La Crosse Wisconsin, gave to a viewer who suggested that someone as fat as she is should not really be on TV, lest young girls get the idea that it’s ok to be fat.

Here’s the video. Some thoughts on it below.

Let’s go back, for a moment, to what the guy said in his email. (You can find a transcript of the whole video here.)

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.

While couched as helpful advice from a concerned citizen, the email basically suggests that Jennifer is, in essence, committing a crime against young girls by being fat in public. While Livingston, as a TV anchor, presumably “assaults” thousands of young girls by appearing on TV fat, the letter writer’s logic would presumably apply to every fat woman who posts pictures of herself online, appears in a play, or even just goes outside where others can see her.

Indeed, one woman I know has gotten similar, er, complaints, from people who’ve attacked her for “celebrating obesity” by posting pictures of herself on her blog looking something other than miserable and ashamed of her body.

In addition to the fact that Livingston’s weight is none of this guy’s fucking business, it should also be noted that the he’s simply incorrect in assuming that a person’s weight has much to do with the healthiness of their lifestyle. There are plenty of skinny people living less than healthy lives, including many in the public eye. (Has he ever heard of eating disorders? Or Keith Richard?) And fatness in itself is not a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle, nor does it generally add to health risks. Indeed, as author and fat blogger Kate Harding has noted:

Weight itself is not a health problem, except in the most extreme cases (i.e., being underweight or so fat you’re immobilized). In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events … obesity research is turning up surprising information all the time — much of which goes ignored by the media … Just because you’ve heard over and over and over that fat! kills! doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means that people in this culture really love saying it.

What you eat makes a difference to your health – not how much, or how many of the calories go directly to your waistline.

Meanwhile even those who actually want to lose a lot of weight don’t have many practical options besides gastric surgery, which carries its own health risks. Diets tend to be a mixture of quackery and false hope. They can be unhealthy and even dangerous – and the overwhelming majority of dieters eventually gain back what they lose. For most people, short of gastric surgery, the only way to lose a lot of weight and keep it off is to remain on a diet forever.

But the issue here isn’t really health. It’s body policing. As Livingston herself noted, fat people know that they’re fat. They don’t need it pointed out to them, even if the person pointing it out convinces themselves that they’re doing it for the fat person’s good. And frankly, most of those pointing it out don’t have good intentions. (It’s no coincidence that the favorite insult of the MRAs and other misogynists who hate this blog is to call me fat; I expect some will use this post an excuse for another round of fat-shaming.)

As Livingston noted in her reply to the letter-writer:

The truth is, I am overweight. You could call me fat and yes, even obese, on a doctor’s chart. But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family and you have admitted that you don’t watch this show so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale.

And here is where I want all of us to learn something from this. If you didn’t already know, October is National Anti-Bullying Month, and this is a problem that is growing every day in our schools and on the internet. It is a major issue in the lives of young people today and as the mother of three young girls it scares me to death. Now I am a grown women and luckily for me I have a very thick skin, literally, as that email pointed out, and otherwise. And that man’s words mean nothing to me. But what really angers me is there are children who don’t know better. Who get emails, as critical as the one I received or in many cases even worse, each and every day. The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground. And this behaviour is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that email.

Since Livingston’s video went viral, the letter writer has come forward to double-down on his fat-shaming, saying in a statement that he hopes “she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of Coulee Region by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year.”

I’m not quite sure why the letter writer thinks it’s Livingston’s job to “transform … herself” to meet his desired specifications. But I doubt there’s any point to arguing that with him unless he can first transform himself into something other than the real-world version of an internet “concern troll.”

After reading all this, I thought I’d take a look at MGTOWforums.com – where the regulars are not exactly shy about expressing their opinions about the appearance of women —  to see if the regulars had responded with their customary compassion and respect. By which I mean self-righteousness and fat jokes. I was not disappointed.

Bubbagumpshrimp, while himself fat, decided it was perfectly fair to attack the weight of a fat women who – gasp! – puts herself on TV.

The writer stated the truth without resorting to being mean about it. He didn’t call her fat or anything mean. He just referred to her as what she obviously is…obese. This coming from someone that’s a good sized guy. You can’t go into a career that has you on camera, be her size, and be shocked when people call you on it. You VOLUNTARILY put yourself out there to be judged. If you don’t want to be picked apart on your weight, go be an IT person or something.

The problem in this country is that obese people are viewed as victims of a medical condition. The reality of it is that they are in a self-induced state. They have no one to blame but themselves. Putting someone like that out there to be a whiner when it’s obvious that she partakes in the all you can eat buffet line makes her exactly what the writer said…not a good role model for children.

Stewie displayed his rapier wit:

You shouldn’t be reporting on climate changes when you are so fat you are causing them.

Simple conflict of interest.

I don’t think she should be allowed to talk about earth quakes or talk shit about the gravitational pull of the moon either.

You know, because she’s FAT. (The climate and weather references are there because the MGTOWforum regulars seem to think she’s a weather person.)

DruidV, meanwhile, waxed indignant that a woman who doesn’t appeal to his boner is even allowed on TV:

This kind of shit is exactly why I killed my TV years ago.

Look, bitch, you’re FAT!

Listen, bitch, it’s perfectly a okay for anyone to tell you so publicly or otherwise. You don’t have the right to not be offended.

Let me say it again, bitch, YOU ARE FAT! and also very ugly, so I guess what you really are is FUGLY, bitch!

No, it’s NOT to be celebrated either, you nasty slob! It’s disgusting and pathetic. You should at least be ashamed of yourself, since laying off the buffet and hitting the gym is apparently out of the question, but then you are also female, which means you can’t even shut up about yourself long enough to see what a laughing stock you are. Three strikes and you are out, Bertha.

That said, couldn’t we pony up some $$$ to get this hideous broad (pun intended) replaced by a hot bikini blonde weather slut? It’s bad enough to have to watch our shitty weather play out, but do we really have to look at an indignant fat pig telling us how great and special she and her husband thinks she is at the same time?

Blah!

Blah indeed — because the letter writer’s missive to Livingston was really only a more politely worded, passive-aggressive version of this sort of hateful shit.

357 replies on “TV anchorwoman responds to a letter writer offended that she dares to be fat in public”

I haven’t been back here since a bunch of people left (and I got busy with school). This new troll is… really different from the old ones, to put it mildly. Do they even show up anymore? I kind of want to set the new one up against NWO and see what happens, like when they have two chatbots talk to each other.

further, Elizabeth, attributes like eye color and height are not the social or emotional equivalent of race. Pretending they are is willfully ignorant.

@ Multipas- yes, dear, me and nwo would have lovely chats as we have so much in common- you are a bit random, aren’t you?

further, Elizabeth, attributes like eye color and height are not the social or emotional equivalent of race. Pretending they are is willfully ignorant.

Mmmhmm, there is a reason I included the other listed traits a person might think is attractive or unattractive. I am not surprised you did not pick up on it.

@ elizabeth- that’s not the distinction I make- I finish the sentence as : ‘I am not attracted to minority x.’ Or ‘Minority x is not attractive.’ These two separate statements are equally offensive in nature.

You can consider them both offensive. What you cannot do is say “I am not attracted to X race” to equal “X race is unattractive.” Because it is not the same and never will be no matter how much you insist they are the same.

How could it not be racist if the only thing you’re using to group a whole bunch of people together is their race? There is no sweeping statement you can make about an entire race of people that could possibly be true, no matter what it is.

I kind of want to set the new one up against NWO and see what happens, like when they have two chatbots talk to each other.

Nah, instead how about we have dueling adorable videos?

I cast baby sloth!

@ princessbonbon- Ah, so racist ideals are alright if you really really feel them. Like if you get genuinely scared of minorities when you come across them in a dark alley. Or if homosexual acts genuinely disgust you. Nah, dude, you just want someone to apologize for your prejudices. Well, they aren’t alright, broadcasting them is certainly not alright, it’s alienating and hurtful, and that will not change no matter how hard you rail against it.

Hi, Katz! I’m doing fine; working on some other writing, but I’ve been in a lot of classes so I haven’t looked at it in a while. Seattle is amazing! I love love love living in the Pacific Northwest. (OMG BLATANT GEOGRAPHISM BETTER CHECK MY PRIVILEGE) I’m really trying to take your feedback and apply it to the one I’m working on right now, and hopefully it’s a little solider!

@ princessbonbon- Ah, so racist ideals are alright if you really really feel them. Like if you get genuinely scared of minorities when you come across them in a dark alley. Or if homosexual acts genuinely disgust you. Nah, dude, you just want someone to apologize for your prejudices. Well, they aren’t alright, broadcasting them is certainly not alright, it’s alienating and hurtful, and that will not change no matter how hard you rail against it.

And back to the dueling adorable videos

(Discussion of Ozy’s Boner in this paragraph. Skip if you like.) Man, the reason I did an Unsolicited Boner Update as opposed to a hypothetical was that I *didn’t* want to contribute to the idea that POCs are inherently unattractive. Because, no duh, they aren’t, and it would be incredibly racist to say so. “Does Ozy get a boner for you?” and “are you beautiful?” are two completely different questions. (Also, as long as we’re Talking About Ozy’s Boner, I figure we should talk about it accurately: I didn’t say I’m not attracted to POC, I said that I am less likely to be attracted to black people than to members of other races. I am more likely to be attracted to, say, Asian people than people of other races. AND NONE OF THIS MEANS THAT PEOPLE OF ANY RACE ARE LESS ATTRACTIVE THAN PEOPLE OF ANY OTHER RACE. Christ.)

ttf: Okay, cool, so people with racial preferences ought to change them. How? I must say I’m not sure how people can make themselves be attracted to people they aren’t. I mean, obviously it would be a good thing if they did, equal attraction is a good thing, but I don’t think there’s a moral duty for people to do things they can’t do.

Grumbles: …Did you seriously just say that people who are tan have different personalities than pale people? Uh. You do realize that that’s not actually true, and has some fucked-up race and class implications, and seriously it’s *okay* to have an aesthetic preference, you don’t have to justify it with some weirdass idea that pale people are superior. We’re not.

Also, could we cut out the whole calling people who use a lot of self-tanner orange thing? It’s body-shaming and seriously not okay.

@ Ozzy- BNot really sure the how is as important as the why. If people are scared of black people in poorly lit areas, they ought to get over that. As to why, I’m not your therapist- you figure it out. If you absolutely can’t get over it, be bloody well sure you don’t make anyone else uncomfortable because of your racism. Simple.

Yes! It’s all gorgeous buildings and gardens. I keep expecting to turn around and see Boothby chatting with some cadets. People are really friendly around here, and there are actual BUSES! Living in Iowa with no car kinda sucked (although I did manage to finally pass the drive test a few days before moving, so I can get one if I graduate and move out of the metro area to someplace where you don’t have to sacrifice a goat to get a parking space.)

katz, yes I think that is racist, particularly so if one party is racially privileged and the other is not. And I think it is allowable in relation to sexual attraction. I don’t think sexual attraction is always immutable, but I think pretending to change sexual attraction is probably more harmful than just living with it, even if it is based on racism.

Look, I am not saying that a white person who is not sexually attracted to black people is the same as a Klan member. One is embracing & defending racism, and the other is influenced by it.

Also, both sloths and pugs are adorable. If anyone disagrees with that statement, they should be cast into the pit of despair. Sloths and pugs together are an invincible force, much like Genghis Khan’s horde.

I am pretty sure that if you went to most therapists with “I want to be more attracted to [insert group here]” they would just look at you funny. Except in a really nice supportive therapist way.

Here’s the difference that I see:
1) If you are scared of black men in poorly lit areas, it will cause harm to them, because being treated as scary when you’re not is harmful. If you are not attracted to most members of a certain group, the only harm it will cause is that you won’t have sex with them, and since they probably as a whole don’t want to have sex with you *either*, that is not a terrible loss.
2) Being scared of black men in poorly lit areas is almost certainly because of a racist belief that black men are scary criminals. Not being attracted to most members of a certain group may be because of -ist beliefs about that group (i.e. “they are all ugly,” Grumbles’s weird thing about tan women), but may also be a simple aesthetic preference.

Also, I’d like to say that my Unsolicited Boner Update earlier in the thread was uncalled for and I’m sorry. I don’t want to contribute to the idea that any group of POC are in any way less attractive than white people, and I hope I didn’t make anyone feel bad. 🙁

Sloths and pugs together are an invincible force, much like Genghis Khan’s horde.

They would be an epic sight to see, charging over the hills…well okay the pugs would be, sloths take it easy. 😀

Also, of course, the simple aesthetic preference may be influenced by a racist society! But I think the solution to that is a more diverse representation of people in the media and the general awareness that all sorts of people can be hot, not individual change, which I’m still not sure is possible for most people.

Cloudiah, I would make a big distinction between opinions, beliefs, feelings, and such, which are things people can consciously choose and change (feelings are a bit squishier, but usually when you change your opinions, your feelings follow), and sexual attraction, which is not something you can just choose. It just feels wrong (to me) to suggest that someone is racist for something that they may be unable to change, may greatly wish to change, and may run counter to everything they believe.

You can disagree. I certainly appreciate that you’re leaving room for that to be allowable. And this may all be hypothetical! Maybe there is no one who is attracted to absolutely no one of a specific race (I’m assuming we’re discounting cases like “I’m only attracted to my husband”). Maybe–very likely–the only people who aren’t attracted to anyone of a specific race are racist in much more obvious ways, making the whole thing moot.

Suzzallo is awesome. You’ve got to love a library named after the guy who was fired for blowing taxpayer money on an enormous, cathedral-like library. It just feels like Henry Suzzallo’s mummy should be in a sarcophagus in the basement, sealed up in a room full of first editions and a dozen mummified reshelving clerks to serve him in the afterlife.

Yeah, the distinction I made between quietly having no boners for minority groups and announcing your lack of boners on a public forum- still stands. Again- deal with your racism as you can personally and privately, don’t try and normalize it, and don’t try and pretend it is written in the fucking stars- people have gotten over a whole lot more challenging things than racism. And, for the love of fuck, when you get called on it stop playing the semantics game and trying to figure out what hyper-literal thing the person who said you were being racist really meant and how that makes them wrong- just stop being a racist. Christ.

It just feels like Henry Suzzallo’s mummy should be in a sarcophagus in the basement, sealed up in a room full of first editions and a dozen mummified reshelving clerks to serve him in the afterlife.

THEY ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO TELL YOU THAT UNTIL YOU ARE A SENIOR

@ ozzy- I made the point earlier our aesthetic preferences are heavily influenced by ideology. Pretty much exactly the same way we are taught to fear black men.

There was some really good hot sauce at Pike Place Market, but it was ten dollars a bottle, so I didn’t buy it because I’m racist against expensive sauce.

@timetravelling vitamins

As to the serious question, I don’t give a shit about their sexual preferences, I do give a shit about their racism. And yes, they ought to make an effort to drop that. If, as a result, they become attracted to minorities, um, fine? I’m sure minorities everywhere will rejoice? But certainly not the point.

Okay, so we agree then? Because no, it’s not okay to be racist. I said like WAAAAY earlier that everyone should try to get over prejudices, and this MIGHT incidentally affect their boners. I just said that you can’t directly affect your boner by the power of will, and I thought you were arguing against that.

Seems now like you were never disagreeing with me to start with, so, uhm, good?

Except that whole part of allowable racism. That’s weird. It’s not like you should go screw minorities because you think you will appear less racist- that doesn’t make you less racist at all. In fact, boning people or not isn’t at all the point. The point is people saying any racist attitude ought to be accepted. That is so clearly not the case.

“Allowable” was a poor word choice. More like “possibly unchangeable” in relation to sexual attraction, which should be contrasted with publicly held racist beliefs/attitudes/actions which are definitely changeable.

“Allowable” was a poor word choice. More like “possibly unchangeable” in relation to sexual attraction, which should be contrasted with publicly held racist beliefs/attitudes/actions which are definitely changeable.

Exactly. Change what you can change, but when it comes to your boner’s behaviour you’re probably not able to control it by will.

@ Cloudiah- I am using a third person ‘you’, , I don’t mean you, Cloudiah, internet poster. I’m not sure racist beliefs in relation to attraction are significantly different than any other racist beliefs. What I do know is the only people that it serves to pretend they are acceptable are the people who hold those beliefs. What we really should be asking is who is benefiting and who is hurting from a conversation that includes acceptance of certain racist attitudes. Certainly not minorities- all those conversations do is perpetuate and apologize for their systemic ideological alienation. Pretty much what people want is to hear that this racist attitude is ok, that it doesn’t matter that it hurts other people, and there should be no limit on what people feel morally justified in expressing in public. Well, people really ought to be less concerned about whether or not they should feel guilty about their racist attitudes and more concerned about perpetuating their racist attitude by pretending it’s alright because they can’t be helped. And far more concerned about how oppressed groups feel when they read people trying to be racist apologists. At the very least there is some serious ‘othering’ going on here, and what is particularly frustrating is everyone is conscious of it and still trying to convince themselves it’s ok. Well that’s not your call to make- if you’re feeling particularly racist and you cannot stop feeling racist no matter how hard you try then, by all means, you can say absolutely nothing at all. Just quietly wait until the urge to say the racist thing goes away, and you have done your part in not participating in perpetuating racism.

Change what you can change, but when it comes to your boner’s behaviour you’re probably not able to control it by will.

This is a fairly odd claim. We know that sexual preferences, perhaps beyond very basic “I like cock” sort of things, aren’t somehow innate or unchangeable. Men did not en masse involuntarily begin to be disgusted by pubic hair sometime around 1987.

If you’re like “Well, I don’t like sexually; I can’t help that, it’s just my boner which I have no control over” you’re passing off responsibility for your internalized $ism to your cock/clit. You could lay back and roll with it. You could also seek out counteracting media, images and stories of $marginalized group being portrayed as beautiful or sexy. Maybe you change your mind, maybe you don’t, but the seeking out with an open mind is an act of will.

Pretty much what people want is to hear that this racist attitude is ok, that it doesn’t matter that it hurts other people

My sense of this converation is not that people want to hear that their racist attitude is okay, but:

– people don’t have a lot of control over their sexual attractions.
– people shouldn’t be shamed for their sexual attractions.
– people shouldn’t feel forced to have sex with people they’re not attracted to.
– sexual attractions are undoubtedly informed by the culture we grow up in.
– north american culture is very racist.

In one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, he talks about people’s responses on the Implicit Association Test (which is apparently controversial, and I’m totally open to being corrected about this). He reported that, for one student who took the test every day just to build a baseline, he found that his results (bias for whites) didn’t change, until one day, they did. What happened on that day was that, watching the olympics, the student was unthinkingly exposed to a lot of black people doing awesome things.

This was different from his day-to-day experience of his racist culture in which he was unthinkingly exposed to a lot of news about black people being criminals and being chairman of the national republican party.

So the takeaway I got from all of that is: we can’t necessarily change our unconscious preferences, but we can change our conscious ones, so that we create more positive exposure for minorities, and thus change our culture.

Look, I’m not saying your sexual preferences are because GENETICS. Obviously lots of stuff is because SOCIETY. I would even guess that most odd preferences still comes from environmental influences somehow, even if it’s less obvious with odd preferences than with mainstream ones (because, like, where would they otherwise come from? I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a foot fetish gene for instance).

And I’ve been saying ALL ALONG “work on your prejudices, and this may in turn affect your boner”, so we’re not disagreeing really. It’s just that the key word is “may”. There’s no direct control over boners, or other feelings for that matter, like there is over words and actions (or even thoughts for that matter – it’s easier to decide not to think certain things than not feel certain things).

But yeah, I also agree with vitamin D that you shouldn’t sit on the internet giving boner reports, but once again, that’s WRITING, something you have direct control over.

This is a fairly odd claim. We know that sexual preferences, perhaps beyond very basic “I like cock” sort of things, aren’t somehow innate or unchangeable. Men did not en masse involuntarily begin to be disgusted by pubic hair sometime around 1987.

If you’re like “Well, I don’t like sexually; I can’t help that, it’s just my boner which I have no control over” you’re passing off responsibility for your internalized $ism to your cock/clit. You could lay back and roll with it. You could also seek out counteracting media, images and stories of $marginalized group being portrayed as beautiful or sexy. Maybe you change your mind, maybe you don’t, but the seeking out with an open mind is an act of will.

I concur.

OK, I think we’re pretty much all on the same page here; I did suggest presenting people with counteracting media like 5 pages ago. There’s just a big difference between saying that sexual preferences are not innate and unchangeable and expecting people to just change their preferences with the flip of a switch, which was the implication underlying the original “rethink your preferences” idea and Vitamin Fool’s whole “if you won’t stop being racist…” rant.

@ Katz- Oh, I never said it would be easy. I said you should do it anyway. Or, if you absolutely can’t, stop talking about your racist preferences.

Vitamin – are you thinking of the racism as applying to anyone of any race preferring people of their own race, sexually? Or are you thinking of whatever-the-majority-is of any given country not being interested in whatever-the-minorities-are in that country? I’m not having a go, or wanting this to turn into an argument again, I’m just wondering if you’re framing this in a specifically US context.

I’m also curious as to why we should be thinking of people in general as potential sex partners or not. It kind of generalises, doesn’t it? What about those people who don’t think of anyone – their own race or others – sexually? They could still find people of any race beautiful, attractive, interesting or whatever, but it’s not about sexual preferences at all.

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