I had seen this on the Bully Project even before my sister, who lives in La Crosse, brought it up. A man named Kenneth Krause, who had caught the morning news program in that town one day, had this bit of constructive criticism to share:
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.
She responded to it publicly, on her news broadcast, stating that she was well aware of her appearance, and that his narrow-minded focus on it was petty and insulting. He ended up replying to that segment by doubling down on his position and offering to help her lose weight in any way he could, which prompted me to post in the comment section:
It’s unusual that I pay attention to whatever viral video is burning up the Internet, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your assholery hadn’t improved between your first letter and your second. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example of etiquette for the Internet community, young people in particular. Choosing to be a Grade-A asshat is one of the worst choices a person can make, and one of the most annoying habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a fifteen-minutes of fame Internet celebrity of infamy to present and promote a douchebag-free lifestyle.
But beyond the snark, I want to expound on a couple of things in regards to this story that I feel ought to be stressed, and are being overlooked a bit. There are a number of people who have come to the letter writer’s defense saying that Mr. Krause was not using any hateful languish or attempting to intimidate, and that they not only feel that he was not being a bully, but in fact was right on the money. Obesity is a serious problem in the United States, they say. Why shouldn’t we try to combat it?
Here’s why: BECAUSE YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
Obesity is a serious problem for Americans, replete with accompanying health issues. No one is going to question that. However, it is Mr. Krause’s premise that Jennifer Livingston’s appearance on television contributes to the problem by giving tacit permission and acceptance to being overweight. And he stated it while firmly affixing that element to one of gender. Mr. Krause did not write to Al Roker. He didn’t write to Joe Scarborough. Hell, he didn’t even write to the Food Network. And he didn’t write to this guy from Channel 8 who (gasp!) even went to visit kids in a classroom, possibly encouraging obesity amongst budding camera operators!
No, he went after the female news anchor.
In his comments, one can discern that Mr. Krause’s sole assessment over an extended amount of time boils down to seeing her on television years ago and thinking “she’s fat,” and then seeing her recently again, years later, thought only “she’s still fat.” And that was sufficient enough that this man, and indeed let’s not forget that this is a man who is berating a woman over what girls look up to, felt the need to step in and attempt to stem the tide of American obesity through her. The very notion that Mrs. Livingston’s sustained appearance on television would somehow promote obesity is mind-numbingly stunning. Has he turned on the television lately? I don’t know how to break it to him, but the video media’s obsession with long and thin for women hasn’t declined in favor of plumper ladies in parallel to America’s increasing waist line. As any image conscious young girl could tell him, you’d be hard pressed to find a channel, or a magazine, or a movie for that matter, where you wouldn’t be continuously presented with a non-stop cavalcade of thin, fit, gorgeous people. Kenneth — wouldn’t you think that with all these thin role models on television everywhere else, if such images encourage people to be what they see, that obesity would be on the decline in America? If Mrs. Livingston is outside the norm for news anchors, wouldn’t every city in America with a thin one have a smaller obesity problem?
But here’s the real problem, Kenneth, and here’s why I say you’re doing this wrong. You see, there’s something else on the rapid rise along with obesity, Ken, and that’s eating disorders. They’re exploding in number, and most of those cases (seven to one in fact) are female. I understand, obesity carries health problems, but so do eating disorders. Did you know that anorexia nervosa has the highest rate of premature mortality of any psychological disorder? Yes, even more than clinical depression. Did you know that one in every fifty women has been bulimic?
One in fifty, Kenneth.
These girls and women are not being given the message that it’s okay to be overweight. Just the opposite. In fact, people with eating disorders have managed to override their own innate desires for sustenance because they can’t live with themselves being fat. And lots of them don’t live. Like Sarah. And Melissa. And Bethaney. And Charlotte and Anna and Alice. These girls don’t need more images of women telling them to be thin. They need women whose presence encourages them to be strong, to pursue their dreams, to live –for the love of God, to LIVE.
I would hope that, should any of my three daughters desire to become news anchors, they would believe that the most important aspect of succeeding at that job (or any job) isn’t in their appearance, but in being GOOD AT THEIR JOB. And Mrs. Livingston’s job is to report the news, and my understanding is that she does a pretty good job of that. Her appearance doesn’t affect that at all. It only affects things when a sufficient number of men like Kenneth turn the channel because they don’t think the anchor woman is attractive enough, and it affects the television ratings. There’s where the job performance factor has traditionally hit women on television and shortened their careers — when a certain percentage of male viewers stop looking below the neck. Their ability to do their jobs is overshadowed by the need to promote that image Kenneth wants to see. Young, fit, thin. “Healthy.” And that’s what a lot of television stations give them, where it just feeds into the machine that chews up and spits out young girls.
So to those in the world who believe that they are fighting the good fight against obesity in the U.S., please know this: You have no hope to win this war by waging it upon the bodies of the Jennifer Livingstons of this world. It must be fought within the hearts of the Kenneth Krauses of this world first.