Better Than the Bullies – Thank You Jennifer Livingston

In case you missed it today, a fantastic video has been making the rounds of the internet. A television news woman who received a bullying e-mail from a viewer stood up to the bully on air – the video is at the end of this post.

I get hate mail every day – so much that I created a separate page for it (trigger warning – it’s my hatemail and my hopefully witty responses to it) Let’s be super clear: this isn’t about our health, their tax dollars or any type of altruism or social improvement attempt. Anybody who says it is, is just trying to justify reprehensible behavior. It’s purely about people enjoying being mean, people being bullies.  They want hate us, and try to get us to hate ourselves.  What is wrong with these people?  Who knows – maybe they feel bad about their lives, maybe they think that their value lies in being thin and the fact that I don’t value being thin is a threat to their self-esteem.  Maybe they have that “complete and total asshole” gene that the researchers are all talking about.

What is important is that bullying has a crushing cost and it is fueled by the pain and shame of the bullied.  If we stop giving the bullies our lunch money their funding source goes away.  If we stop giving them our power, then they don’t have any of their own.  Of course it’s easier said than done – there are a lot of people who aren’t in a place to be able to stand up to their bullies, many people who even think that they deserve to be bullied.

But what about those of us who can stand up to the bullies?  What if we could help?  Provide an example, an inspiration, a little light in the dark?  Near the end of the video Ms. Livingston says “we are better than our bullies.”  That idea inspired me – not that we are intrinsically better but that we can take a higher road, behave better than our bullies and be an example for people who are struggling with bullying.

So I decided to start a “Better Than the Bullies” site.  It will be a website of videos showing people standing up to their bullies – telling the bullies, in their own way and words, that the bullies have no power over them. I started collecting videos today, the page will go up in the next couple of days.  You can join in if you want:

1.   Create a video of your own and post it to YouTube, then send an e-mail with the link to ragen at danceswithfat dot org

2.  Pass the word along about the project on Facebook/Twitter etc.

3.  Send me your ideas and suggestion to make the project better ragen at danceswithfat dot org

Here is the original video:

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I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on October 3, 2012 at 9:49 am  Comments (33)  

33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was reading about this on Jezebel.com when I got your email about it. While there are the usual number of people defending the emailer and complaining about ‘obesity epidemics’ I was grateful to see that there were an equal number of people making SA points, and that their writings were far more intelligent and well considered than the comments by the OMG DEATH FATZ crowd. Gave me a smile to start my day with.

    • I love Jezebel, but whenever there are stories like this, I have to prepare myself for the comments section. I try to make my size acceptance stand rather than be mad at the world.

  2. I’m so happy that a public figure took a stand like this. I hope that there were kids watching, and that they took the message to heart.

    I am also incredibly grateful that FaceBook wasn’t around and email hadn’t yet taken off while I was at school. These days, it seems, there’s no respite from the bullies even at home, and my heart goes out to all those kids who suffer at the hands of their peers.

  3. I love this post, and I friggin’ love the idea of a Better Than The Bullies site! I shall most certainly send you some video, girl.🙂

    This post and the Jennifer Livingston clip (which I saw after a friend posted it to my FB wall) are very timely. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I’ve been through in my life, and the experiences of bullying I’ve had- both as a child and an adult, by men and women, by family, boyfriends and strangers on the street. Mainly because of this awesome clip of one of the X-Factor auditions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmUL72dIbTA)- this young girl was a victim of severe bullying, and her story and song really resonated with me.

    I found it inspiring, especially since there are parallels with my own life. This year has been really amazing- I married my fabulous husband, a story I wrote is getting made into a short film, and I’m finally getting a chance at the career I’ve wanted since I was 15 years old. I feel as though all my dreams really are coming true…and every time I accomplish something awesome, or grow further in confidence, it’s a victory against those who bullied me- not just for my weight, but because I was weird and quirky, because I was a nerd and a Teacher’s Pet, because I was a Good Girl, because I would supposedly never make a good journalist and I just shouldn’t bother.

    But, just like the young lass in that video, I’m going for my dreams, and I do want to inspire those like me, who had shreds ripped right off their self-esteem and were made to feel worthless. But, at the same time it’s so bittersweet looking back on those times. I’ve come a long way…but that young girl with hardly any friends or any confidence is never far behind.

    So, to my brothers and sisters who have been bullied…enough is enough! Let’s show them just what we’re capable of, and what our awesome bodies and minds can do. Let’s steal our dreams back, and be fat and fabulous at the world!

    Big fat hugs,
    ERIN

  4. PS- Here’s a couple of my favourite anti-bullying songs to inspire everyone.🙂

    By Taylor Swift: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYa1eI1hpDE

    By Demi Lovato: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_8ydghbGSg

  5. I have shared this video on my facebook page and was thrilled to see that people I know of various levels of fitness, size and political polarization all seemed to support her. Several people I worried would criticise her also shared her video with positive remarks! Wonderful!
    I am hopeful that this will get some serious dialogue started and those not currently in the know will learn about SA and that fat shaming IS bullying and bullying is not acceptible.
    I know that I am not alone in this group for having been bullied. I was bullied for being from a broken home, for being smart, for being fat (and I so was not fat as a child–I’m solid–but it fueled a very unhealthy view of my body that was further perpetuated by my mother as well). My father was the “town drunk” so I got teased incessantly about that. What was the most disgusting torment for my personal experience was when the bullying got worse when my father committed suicide. It breaks my heart to think that others can and will be bullied as I was in a similar fashion.
    I made it through my childhood and teen years, but I wouldn’t say I made it through unscathed. I do feel that I am a better person than those who bullied me, I do not feel I am a better person for being bullied. I wish whole-heartedly that we could irradicate bullying. Bullying is getting some notice of late and I am happy that the spotlight on bullying includes fat shaming as a form of bullying. There are way too many people who do not believe it’s bullying. IT IS.
    Bravo, Jennifer, and bravo, Ragan! I hope that your new site goes well, and I’ll see what I can do about a video for you!

  6. Thank you for sharing this- I was just going to send you the video in case you han’t seen it!

    “The cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

    Elisabeth

  7. I saw the video last night after a friend posted it on Facebook. If you’re interested (and I think that you’re on the West Coast so it shouldn’t have aired yet), Ms. Livingston is interviewed on the Today Show around 8:10-8:15ish. The Today anchors were amazingly not making a big deal about the obesity epidemic, and instead focused mainly on bullying and her reasoning behind coming out.
    After she mentioned her husband in the video, I searched their station’s anchor list and found him. He appears to be average sized, which makes me wonder if that’s why it angered him in some ways more than her since he was the one to share the e-mail first. She mentions she has a thick skin and was just going to ignore it, which I think is common for larger people and women especially. We’re so used to being abused for having the audacity to exist, that we block it out. As a news anchor, I’m sure her husband has also received plenty of his own complaints about his performance, but I bet he doesn’t have people telling him that his weight means he is a poor role model.

    • What I especially love about Ms. Livingston’s response is that she never engages with the concern troll’s faux concern. She never attempts to justify herself. She simply lets him know that he hurt her feelings, calls him out for his bullying, and tells him that it’s unacceptable. Brava!

      • From what I saw on another FB page (one that posted the guy’s picture), she mentions that she had had some back and forth emails with him and he continued to defend himself (even after she mentioned responding in public to what he wrote) saying, “If self-righteous indignation works for you, you’re welcome to do it. But some things need to be said, Jennifer. Your problem hurts others in addition to you and your daughters.”

        Just another fat-phobic concern troll.

  8. A picture of this guy has been posted (along with facebook page link, phone number, address etc). The picture shows a overly buff older mail standing behind a bicycle. He looks, and reminds me a lot of people like Bob from The Biggest Loser, Jillian Micheals, and even people I know personally like a friend of my husband’s. These people are what I call fat-phobes. They absolutely cannot see anything beyond a person’s weight. They’re disgusted by even the smallest bit of fat on a person. I’ve heard my husband’s friend talk about people who would not be considered fat at all by most people, how disgusting they are because they have love handles or they gained just a bit of weight. People like these are obsessed with weight, with exercise, with food, with nearly everything in the quest to maintain their perfection. I wish someone would come out with a mental illness to describe these kinds of people because I do fully believe that they have a mental illness, one that is triggered very much by society and how society sees fat people. There’s a start where the way some of these people eat has now been classified as an eating disorder but it’s not the eating itself that’s the disorder, it’s the thought processes behind it, and more needs to be talked about there.

  9. Is that tool unaware that presenting unrealistic presentations of size diversity leads to eating disorders? He is saying that a woman on tv who isn’t thin is hurting girls when the opposite has been shown to be true over and over again.

  10. I wish that I could be a part of your project, but I don’t have the capability or know how to do a video clip (and really don’t have time to learn right now). Hopefully a future project will have a non-video aspect so that I (and others who can’t / don’t know how to do video) can be involved too!🙂

    • Hi Lys, I’m so sorry that this project doesn’t work for you now but there will definitely be future, non-video, projects. If you want I can put you on my Project Army list – they hear about all the projects first and get involved at the ground level. Just let me know if you want to be added. If not that’s completely cool as well. Thanks🙂 ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  11. One of the lines from his e-mail that was most telling for me was the “in particular girls…(should not be seeing fat people and getting it through their little girl minds it’s okay to be fat and unattractive). This just sounds like some over-privileged dude going off like a do-do bird who expected his victim to just accept his abuse.

    I’m glad she called him out and that he now looks like an idiot of massive proportions to all of the nation, although sadly I’m sure many out there agree with his skewed viewpoints.

  12. “maybe they think that their value lies in being thin and the fact that I don’t value being thin is a threat to their self-esteem” Again, you nailed it. I have said that many times myself but not as well as you have. I believe this is the foundation of the hate for fat people. By accepting our fatness, it devalues their self worth etc. I just love it. Thanks so much.

  13. Janeen, perhaps you’re onto something.

    http://mghocd.org/bddbp/

    From Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School:

    What is BDD by Proxy?

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder by Proxy is a condition whereby an individual is overly concerned with someone else’s appearance. This person of concern may be family member (e.g., spouse, child, parent, or sibling), partner, friend, or stranger. Individuals suffering from BDD by proxy experience impairment in their daily lives due to these intrusive concerns. This condition also may entail time-consuming obsessive behaviors regarding the other person’s appearance that cause anxiety and may interfere with interpersonal relationships.

    • Lisa, I strongly suspect my now deceased mother may have had this (along with, possibly other issues). It was very hard to get anyone to understand that her obsession with my weight, skin, hair, teeth, you name it, wasn’t just a mother’s ‘normal’ concern for her daughter’s appearance (at least, not until she started on my nephew’s fiancee). I only found out that BDD by proxy was a thing a couple of years ago, and there’s still very little written about it. These days, obsessing over other people’s physical flaws is so much more of a popular pastime than I ever recall it being, that I’ve no doubt plenty of these cases slip under the radar, just as many genuine eating disorders escape notice in a society obsessed with calorie restriction.

      I’ve encountered the kind of person Janeen mentions – I don’t know whether they have similar tendencies, but I find I have to temper my urge to rush in and be the douche whisperer (never advisable, as Ragen’s pointed out in the past) with the fact that being around this kind of person is, understandably, pretty triggering for me.

  14. Awesome idea, Ragen. Way to harness this positivity. I have posted my video and I can’t wait to see what other people come up with.

    http://fiercefatties.com/2012/10/03/were-all-alright/

    Peace,
    Shannon

  15. Being overweight since i was a teenager, i was teased. I was not the type to stand up for herself..in fact i never did. Now older, i ended up with anxiety, depressed and with a very low self esteem, i never went out because i was scared of rejection. It’s sad how people feel entitled to make comments on you, when they have no clue what you’re going through. I remember a family reunion some time back ( when i was getting better,) that it was one of my relatives mission to point out in front of everyone that “i needed to join a gym..” needed to exercise etc. etc. needless to say i was beyond mortified and felt like crap.

  16. Great idea for the site.

  17. Nicely posted. I appreciate your wit and that you are also gracious and patient to those who just don’t get it yet. Persistence will work sometimes and even one who opens their mind, is truly wonderful. I am going into staffing for an eating disorder treatment team and will share you post. Thanks for you work and inspiration to me.

  18. I’m torn after seeing Jennifer’s original response and then the subsequent Good Morning America clip in which her husband defends her by calling out a medical condition (thyroid related) and lists her physical activities (running triathlons) and that she is attempting to lose weight. Her fatness is now justified. I almost get the feeling he is the one that needs to be validated, not her. I could be wrong and it wouldn’t be the first time😉

    But why do we have to validate ourselves with excuses? Are we not who we are by sake of the fact that we exist? What happened to the fact that some of us are fat just because we are? Or that in reality, it’s no one’s business but our own and those we *choose* to share it with. Granted, that’s what they did…in a way. I still don’t like it. Maybe I’m just being too jaded…

    • No, I get what you’re saying.

      I don’t think anyone should have to defend their size.

      But just the same, I completely understand why some people do.

      • Oh yes, I definitely understand why people defend their size. It’s just unfortunate that anyone should feel they have or need to. I just wish people didn’t have to feel the need. Or when the opportunity is granted to show the public that “hey, I’m a-fucking ok just as I am”, they have to have a “reason”. Yeah, I know there are reasons but still…kinda bugs me when people have to justify. Just “be”.

        Ok, done ranting😉

    • I think it was good in a way that he said that she ran triathlons. Many fat people think that you must be thin to be active or athletic so they never try or give up too soon. I thought I couldn’t run a teen because I carried a few extra pounds so I gave up. People of all sizes heard that she ran triathlons. It says to the world that one can be fat and active. It is one step to killing a stereotype.

      • I, too, think it’s good her husband mentioned she’s been doing triathlons, although I wish it hadn’t been in the context of defending her weight. I actually wish more news people had picked up on this, because it emphasizes how healthy, strong and active she actually is. This could blow the minds of people who carry the stereotype that if someone is fat it’s because they’re a couch potato.

        I heard too many media people–even Whoopi Goldberg on The View, of whom I would have expected better–excuse the a**hole who insulted her by saying things about him along the lines of, “Well, he approached her the wrong way, but if he had just said he wanted to help her become healthy, it would have been okay.” If news had gotten around that that she might be just as healthy as her bully is, it might sink in to some people that fat does not equal sedentary.

        • But see, it doesn’t sink in. People tend to think that those who say that are lying or that they shouldn’t be doing those activities because they could give themselves a heart attack. The idea that fat=unhealthy and sedentary must be defended at all costs you know!

  19. Thank you, Ragen, for taking the ball and running with it! I’ve never made a video before, but I am motivated to research how to do so in order to add my voice to many others.

    Regards,
    Kim R.🙂

  20. wow, kudos to every last one of these comments! you are all elegant and graceful warriors!

  21. Holy mother of Gawd, I’ve read through some of the hate mail you receive. None of these haters know how to spell, punctuate, or construct a coherent sentence, and you’re doing a wonderful job of pointing out their own stupidity and bigotry. Don’t stop what you’re doing.

  22. Here’s an interesting tidbit, Jennifer Livingston is Ron Livingston’s (of “Office Space” and “Sex and the City” fame) sister. He has also issued a statement defending his sister. It makes no excuses, he calls her a wonderful role model. “[Jennifer] brings an exceptional dedication to her job, her family, and her community, and has been a role model of mine for many, many years,” (I found this on MSN, I do not know the original source)

    I have hope that this message is getting out to many, many people and I hope that it is helping educate people that fat is just a body size. One can be an accomplished, wonderful, healthy person without being thin.


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