No topic has generated more debate and conversation among my Morning colleagues than the on-air reply a Wisconsin News anchor decided to give a viewer email.
If you haven’t seen it…here it is:
Let’s start at the beginning.
As someone who gets emails like this on a semi-regular basis calling me fat, questioning my sexual orientation etc… I get Jennifer’s outrage that someone who doesn’t know her, or watch their product very often would send an email like that. Jennifer felt the email went over the line. Her commentary on bullying points to an unsettling trend in our society. Social media and the relative anonymity of the internet allows us to set aside civility and criticize or judge people we don’t know. It can be a form of bullying and for those of us raising kids who will live in this environment…it’s a worry. Jennifer’s encouragement of kids who feel in some way that they are “less than” others is admirable. That said, I think there’s an honest debate to be had here over whether the guy was trying to bully Jennifer or whether he thought he was making a suggestion. This article from Poynter Institute shows a different side of the story that I think is a worthwhile read. Also, some of us who get these emails felt the it was actually pretty mild compared to some of the stuff we see. That doesn’t make it right. If Jennifer felt bullied…she should address it and she did.
I think there are two separate conversations that spring out of this one. First, to the point about social media; I am uncomfortable with some of the responses to Jennifer’s commentary. I say this as a person who needs to lose about 30 pounds. I stepped on the scale this morning and saw 230. That’s disturbing. But the responses on Facebook trend toward a excusing ourselves and each other from any responsibility in our own weight and health. I saw a comment this morning that said “weight is not a choice”. If I say it is…am I a bully?
The latest studies seem to be trending toward the idea that while there is a genetic component to weight, it only accounts for about 10 percent of that extra weight we carry around. In other words I can only blame about three pounds of the extra thirty I carry around on my Parents.
It’s uncomfortable to address this issue. No one wants to call a friend overweight…we love our friends and family as they are…but if we don’t address this problem, how good a friend or family member are we being? How do we balance the need for most of us to lose weight while still affirming and encouraging someone not to obsess about it?
My only disappointment in Jennifer’s commentary is its failure to address the need for all of us to confront our own weight in a responsible way with our personal heath professional. We do not owe it to strangers to address this. I owe it to my wife and my kids. I have a responsibility to them. My choices will influence their lives by example, and by making sure I am around to be their Parent.
We are in a business where, for better or for worse, looks matter. It’s unfair that the standard is so different for women. As Jennifer says…we all knew that going in. This email and others…far worse, should serve as a way to open a dialogue to how we treat each other (on TV or not) and I think it will. I also hope it sparks something in all of us to deal with those extra few pounds. Not for vanity or out of a fear we won’t be accepted, but out of a sense of responsibility to ourselves. I won’t always succeed but this is a nice reminder to keep trying and to encourage others around me to do the same.
Feel free to disagree or agree. I hope this starts a lot of conversation.