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the weight of the world

October 9, 2012

As with all good things, like the current crusade against bullying, there will be those who latch on to a cause that doesn’t quite fit their situation and try to cram themselves into it, whether that’s for attention or to fit in or whatever. I’ve talked before about people calling racism or sexism when the truth of the matter has nothing to do with the color of their skin or the lack of dangly bits between their legs, and this is much the same.

Bullying is wrong and it seems to be at epidemic levels in our country. Either that or we suddenly have a generation of kids with no external skin, who haven’t been taught that bullies are just big mouth jerks with a very little penis/penis envy (depending of course, on the bully). I tend to believe that it’s a combination of both.

But that isn’t actually what I sat down to write about today. Earlier this month, WKBT News anchor Jennifer Livingston went on air to claim that she had been bullied by a letter. Now, originally, I watched the video (which can be found here: ) and thought “good for you, standing up for yourself”…but something has been bugging me.

Well, a few things, but in particular the fact that the portion of the letter that she read on air didn’t seem like bullying to me. Arrogant? Yes. The gentleman who wrote that letter was clearly not being nice. And honestly, like Jennifer I have to ask, do you think you’re saying anything about us that we don’t already know?

I mean, I’m fat. I make no excuses or equivocations about it. I am overweight. I have been at least a little bit all of my life. Want to talk about bullies? Try being a size 16 in a size 6 world in high school. None of us who are fat, who have to go to the named-for-comfort “Women’s” section or at Plus Size stores do not know that we are fat. Many of us are embarrassed by it, ashamed of it.

And you know what, Mr. Letter-Writer-Man (and a handful of people I know in real life), that shame? It doesn’t fix us. It only breaks us further. It doesn’t motivate us to lose weight. It doesn’t change our eating habits. It most certainly does NOTHING to get us into a gym or out on the streets to walk.

I read something recently (for the life of me I can’t remember where) decrying the rise of “body acceptance” and “size acceptance” demands from fat folks, the argument being that he shouldn’t have to accept anything that isn’t good or healthy, and yes fat people are disgusting.

The thing is I don’t need anyone to “accept” my body. It isn’t about acceptance, it’s about recognizing that I’m human. (this goes for LGBT folk, foreign folk, different religion folk, etc, etc…). Accept THAT and speak to me, treat me like that, like I’m an actual human being with feelings and needs and I won’t care that you don’t like fat.

I think this man wrote a letter because HE is bothered by fat folk. Like many, he feels fat people shouldn’t be on television, in any capacity. But that? Is HIS problem. Obviously it’s bugging him enough to write a letter.

Jennifer though, I imagine the letter stung a bit. I imagine it pissed her off. But I also think she co-opted the campaign against bullying for her own, so that she could go on air and publicly call this guy out. Unfortunately, it makes her more of a bully than him.

See, a bully uses some kind of power over the one he’s bullying to hurt, to control, to humiliate. This letter writer had no power but that of his words, which were not overly combative or hostile…more unsolicited opinion, to be honest. Jennifer, however, has a viewing audience. She has a TV presence…and apparently so does her husband. And she used that power to humiliate this letter writer.

Now, a word to those of you who have fat chicks (and dudes) in your life that you are worried about and want to get them to lose weight. Shame is NEVER the right choice. LOVE always is. Us fat folk have numerous reasons for why we’re fat (mind, I said reasons, not excuses). There are medical reasons (some conditions and some medications), there are emotional and mental reasons (eating disorders are only the beginning here) and some of us just eat too much.

The really lucky have elements of all three.

Want to be helpful and supportive? Help them find comfortable clothes that fit, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Find stuff that is flattering, and doesn’t make them look like a wall slathered in wallpaper. Volunteer to walk with them. Do it at their pace, don’t be impatient, don’t complain when they have to stop. You aren’t hauling around those pounds. You don’t have any idea how much work it is.

And here’s one more tip, from someone who goes out to dinner with friends frequently. If you’re sitting down with a plate PILED with carbs and grease, but give us a dirty look when we go back for seconds at the salad bar? Not helpful. Learn what a serving size is. When you eat with your fat folk that you are trying to help be less fat, show your understanding. Serve yourself a serving size and eat with us. Make conversation.

Believe it or not, it helps…and who knows, in the long run, it may help you too.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2012 3:26 pm

    I had a lot of conflicting thoughts about it.

    1. I sort of thought it backfired slightly. She got a bit of press for standing up to him, but then he released another statement and a picture: an extremely fit professional, who kept the same condescending-by-offering assistance tone. The thing is, from a media perspective, I bet a lot of people looked at him subconsciously and thought “oh…he actually knows what he’s talking about.” The story’s gone mostly cold now from the national conversation.

    2. 10 years ago, even 5, I’d say this was a bullying letter. Honestly, I kind of thought “here’s a guy using shame and covering it with eloquence to express his opinion. It’s a rather arrogant opinion, but it felt like an opinion. To me, if she was going to say she was getting bullied, the letter should have looked something like this:

    …You big fat smelly cunt, choke on a…

    *that* to me is a bullying letter. That is a paraphrase of some of the notes I got as a kid *15 years ago*. Being hispanic, I had a few racial epithets put in the mix as well. The letter she received had none of that. I couldn’t help but feel like saying “you have no right to say you’re bullied. You’re in the media’s eye, and you got off easy, unlike some of us.”

    Of course, maybe she’s gotten many of those in private, I dunno….

    • October 9, 2012 3:36 pm

      On your first point: Yes, it did backfire a little. I think that maybe if it was a more clear cut case, with valid points, it might have lasted a little longer in the public consciousness. Then again, maybe not, since we’re more worried as a nation about celebrities DUIs and blaming other people for what we see is wrong with the country.

      And to two, I think that was kind of my tipping point. I’ve gotten my fair share of bullying, both live and in person, and by email/letter…and yes, this guy was a dick, and he’s arrogant and a waste of breath, but this letter was not a bullying letter.

      You’re right. She may well get plenty of those too? But if so, why not pull those out as a show of what being bullied over your weight looks like?

      It makes her unsympathetic, in my eyes, and it does harm to the anti-bullying campaign in my opinion.

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