NEWSFLASH: Being a jerk is always a bad idea, but it is an especially bad idea when a) you have no idea what you're talking about, and b) you choose to target someone who has the ability to completely break down your crap on her very own live show.
If you want to learn more about the actual correlations between weight and health and the associated myths that lead to bullying and bigotry like this, check out The Fat Nutritionist.
I want to take a moment to address a situation that has become a talking point in this community over the past weekend, especially on Facebook, that centers around me. On Friday, I received the following email from a La Crosse [SP] man with the subject line "Community Responsibility" and it reads as follows:
"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."
Now, those of us in the media, we get a healthy dose of critiques from our viewers throughout the year, and we realize that it comes with having a job in the public eye. But this e-mail was more than that. While I tried my best to laugh off the very hurtful attack on my appearance, my colleagues could not do the same, especially my husband, our 6:00 and 10:00 anchor, Mike Thompson. Mike posted this email on his WKBT Facebook page and what happened next has been truly inspiring. Hundreds and hundreds of people have taken the time out of their day to not only lift my spirits, but take a stand, that attacks like this are not OK.
Now we're going to have more on that in just a second, but first, 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.
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 woman and luckily for me, I have a very thick skin. Literally, as that e-mail pointed out, and otherwise. And that man's words mean nothing to me.
But what really angers me about this is there are children who don't know better, who get e-mails 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. This behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail. If you are at home, and you are talking about "the fat news lady", guess what. Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example.
So many of you have come to my defense over the past four days, I am literally overwhelmed by your words. To my colleagues and my friends from today and from years ago, my family, my amazing husband and so many of you out there that I will probably never have the opportunity to meet, I will never be able to thank you enough for your words of support, and for taking a stand against this bully. We are better than that e-mail. We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down.
I leave you with this. To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.
We'll be right back.