Ellen DeGeneres recently tweeted a link to a video of News 8 morning anchor Jennifer Livingston who recently denounced an email that was sent to her from a local viewer Kenneth Krause who criticized her for being overweight. Since then the video has become viral on Youtube with supporters and critiquers of Jennifer clashing over whether Jennifer’s lengthy speech accusing Kenneth of being essentially a vicious socially harmful bully was justified.
For those of you have don’t know what I’m talking about, see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUOpqd0rQSo&feature=g-logo-xit
To me Jennifer’s speech was excessive, verging on farcical.
Firstly, whilst I can appreciate that it may have been hurtful to Jennifer for her appearance to be critiqued by a stranger, Kenneth did in fact have a valid point to make.
I believe it is absolutely fine for people to choose to be overweight or pursue whatever lifestyle they wish as long as their actions don’t harm others. It is an ordained right and freedom for people to do so. I note too that there for some people for whom being overweight or obese is not a choice, rather a symptom of a larger health problem such as a stomach tumour or a glandular problem or other health problem in which case, I offer my condolences.
However, the vast majority of people in America who are fat are so by choice. Jennifer is presumably one among that majority of persons who are fat because they chose to be that way.
Jennifer’s comments revealed a (some would say understandable) sensitivity and insecurity about her weight and missed the point by refusing to put aside her personal feelings and acknowledge the larger issue at play here.
Kenneth was not critiquing Jennifer as a person, rather Jennifer in her role as a person of significant influence and authority within her community. These are two separate beings altogether.
I believe that those who put themselves in the limelight, especially those with the special position and social role of a news anchor on national television who is given considerable powers of influence and authority do have a higher level of community and social duty to fulfill.
Such persons have an arguably significant moral duty to be a positive role model for both children and adults watching them at home and maintain a reasonable standard of physical, social, intellectual and moral adequacy befitting such a role. I am sure that Jennifer may be a good role model in many respects but she is not a good role model in the physical sense.
In America there is a severe health crisis with over 30% of adults obese and with the highest levels of obese children and teenagers in the world. In this dire context, it is ever more crucial that those people in positions of relative power or influence recognise their special position and aim to present their best image of healthiness to viewers at home. To label a suggestion to adopt a healthier lifestyle to better Jennifer’s ability to do so as being bullying makes a mockery of the severity of the consequences of obesity.
Even the obese know that they have chosen to be that way. Much like people who are addicted to cigarettes, so are the obese addicted to food or are, at least, unable to change their life-threatening lifestyle habits. Those who smoke are subjected to constant non-smoking advertisements and messages through the media and their communities, why should obese people be held to a different standard? Jennifer seems to think so.
Furthermore, by categorising Kenneth’s email among issues of racism and sexual discrimination, Jennifer shamefully denigrates the meaning of ‘bullying’ and applies it far too liberally. Racism and sexual discrimination are crimes of hate and passion, whilst the campaign against fat is one that has grown out of a desire to see a healthier, happier America and a legitimate concern for family, friends and others who may be reducing their lifespan as a consequence of obesity.
It seems that many on the internet would agree with me:
“If anything Kenneth is being bullied by Jennifer because she is using her power in an attempt to belittle him.”
“I was TRULY bullied as a kid. I was beat up and picked on. You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to compare that email to true bullying.”
“…because it dilutes the meaning of the word. to compare a private email from one adult to another to public shame, ridicule and physical abuse of a child in front of other children is just shameful. Most people being bullied cannot get away from the bully. they MUST go to school, they MUST be around the person. She could have just deleted the email and go on with her life.”
Readers, what do you think about all this?