Jennifer Livingston, a television anchorwoman in LaCrosse, Wisconsin responded on-air yesterday to an email she received from a man criticizing her weight.
Livingston didn’t identify the man, who wrote that he was surprised to see her “physical condition hadn’t improved for years.” He added, “Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”
Livingston responded with a 4-minute editorial on bullying. “You don’t know me,” she said to the letter-writer. “You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family, and you have admitted you don’t watch this show. You know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale.”
In her editorial, Livingston urged children who get picked on not to let bullies define them or their self-worth.
Labeling deeply impacts our children – whether it’s by grades, looks, behavior, economic status, physical or mental categories. We have become quick to label in our culture, and therefore quick to identify and pathologize a myriad of human traits that may now include shyness as a ‘disorder’ in a healthy child.
Labels categorize children and separate them. They can also call out perceived winners and losers at an early age. This can carry on through school, through cliques, and through bullying.
When I was a child, I saw a TV show that affected me on a deep level for life. It was called “Free to Be You and Me,” and it emphasized empathy, tolerance and equality.
Perhaps Jennifer will have that effect on a few more kids today.
See also my previous post on Bullying Prevention Month.