What We Can Learn From Jennifer Livingston
Today I was procrastinating some reading for school and came across this video…
I would love to find this man and explain to him how ignorant and disgusting he is. All anger aside (though I think a whole lot is justified), we as women, and members of society, can take so much from these four dignified minutes with La Crosse, Wisc. WKTB reporter Jennifer Livingston.
First and foremost, I think it’s important to address the literal surface issue here. This video reminds us that we live in a world where a woman is constantly judged based on her appearance. I, for one, think this is deplorable. Livingston shows in this video, as I’m sure she does in her daily broadcasts (which her shallow critic admitted he does not watch) intelligence, grace and compassion. Someone judging her appearance, and by default her lifestyle and her character, didn’t seem to concern Livingston as much as the heart of what this man did and said.
Which brings me to a point that I make somewhat reluctantly, but personally find to be an intriguing debate to engage in- this man watched one morning show and decided to personally attack someone he has never met. Before I indulge in any gender debates, I’ll acknowledge that women can be just as shallow as men at times. I am certainly not going to try and suggest that no woman has ever called another fat, or ugly, or a bitch.
For now, though, I would like to focus on the men. According to a study by Texas A&M professor Paul Eastwick and Northwestern University Professors Eli Finkel and Alice Eagly “men rate physical attractiveness as more important in a mate than women do,” which I have witnessed first-hand and am always bothered by. If I had a penny for every time one of my guy friends asked me if I have any “hot” friends to set them up with, I could buy enough “you’re beautiful, don’t listen to that idiot” stickers to coat the world in. Certainly men are sometimes judged on their appearance, but I can’t remember the last time I walked into a room full of girls watching a video clip of a man in his bathing suit scrutinizing his body. I am saddened to say I have walked into a room of boys doing that to a woman- and of Brooklyn Decker no less. Ideals that bring men to criticize even women who are as small, and Sports Illustrated worthy, as Brooklyn Decker are the same ones that inspire body image issues. They make some women think they should stop eating. They make some throw up when they do. They make some work out excessively. The idealization of a specific body type in American culture has detrimental consequences. Livingston’s response to this man exposes a crucial issue of masculine criticism of the female body, and bullying – their continuation.
In the last few years there has been an astonishing uptick in bullying, likely because it can follow kids home now. Bullying lives in email inboxes, social media chats and online videos. It is delivered with a ping to adults, like Livingston, who otherwise would have no contact with their judges. And bullying increasingly ends in the tragic stories of those young people that simply can’t take it anymore and choose to take their own lives.
Livingston point out that bullying is not organic. More often than not it comes from circumstances in a child’s life, often adult behavior they witness. Children’s development is immensely shaped by their environment, and I would place bets that the children who grow into adults like this man learned it from someone in their life.
My final issue I would raise with this shallow, judgmental man is the sheer physical science behind weight issues. Lifestyle, though it can contribute, is not the sole determining factor behind those numbers on a scale he finds so troubling. The National Institute of Health lists genetics and family history, hormone problems and medication as several contributing factors to weight gain. This man most likely doesn’t have access to Livingston’s health records. Moreover, she has no need to justify her weight to anybody with any sort of reason. Livingston has three young children. She works on a morning show, bringing news and important information to her community. She has a busy life and, in my opinion shouldn’t worry about a few extra pounds (I wouldn’t consider her “obese” by American standards at all). I think she’s a beautiful woman who has her head on straight.
The concept that weight is simply a choice must stop being the conversation among Americans.Those adults that consider it such and express those opinions instill the idea in younger generations. A friend of mine recently told me the story of her seven-year-old cousin who doesn’t eat very much. Why, you ask? Because she wants to look like my friend’s sister, who was so thin as a child that her parents took her to doctors to discover the cause. They found she was just a thin person. We all have different life factors, including health and genetics that we don’t control, that make us gain weight or lose weight. We all have different voices inside our head that tell us how we want to look or how we “should” look. We don’t need voices outside of ourselves to contribute. I implore women and men to end these harmful conversations. As individuals we can choose to stop accepting bullying, live and cyber, and quit having negative conversations about appearance (including with ourselves!).
I hope that people share the video of Jennifer Livingston facing her bully. For me it inspired anger, and frustration. The comments I saw on Facebook made me wonder if all men feel about women’s body the way this one did. It dredged up experiences in my past, stories from my friends, and a sense that maybe if I write something I can make one other person rethink their hurtful comments or there might be one more bully put in their place.