I didn’t know that October was Bully Awareness Month or Bullying Prevention Month or any of the other names it is going by until the other day, when I not only received a pamphlet/pledge in my son’s book bag saying as much, but also watched a video that so many of my friends were posting on Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, it is a video of a news anchor from Wisconsin named Jennifer Livingston. In the video, she tears into one of her viewers who sent her an email message regarding her being overweight. She reads the email in its entirety and then rips the man apart for being cruel, and presumptuous and you guessed it . . . a bully. Facebook was riddled with “good for hers!” and “woohoos” and “watch this,” but there’s only one problem with what happened here - - - she wasn’t bullied, not even a little.
The man in question, Kenneth Krause sent her a private email and in it he tells her that she is overweight, a bad example for her viewers, and that she should be responsible for promoting a healthier lifestyle. None of his business? Yes. Is this man an ass? You bet. But did he “bully” her? No. Bullying is this word that gets thrown around so freely these days, and in my opinion, using the word too much desensitizes it and makes the real act of bullying itself inconsequential. Bullying is not merely saying something potentially hurtful without any real underlying malice, but is rather a repeated pattern that involves name calling, physical attacks or both. It is not, as in the above example, a man who sent a private email, not a public announcement, to a public figure where he tells her nothing more than what her own doctor or maybe even good friend would tell her – they’re “concerned” about her weight and her health. And in that circumstance too, she could tell her doctor or friend either thank you for your concern or it’s none of your business. But she wouldn’t turn to them, and anyone else in earshot, and lambaste them about how they are cruel bullies. Bullying in this case would have been if this man confronted her on live tv and said “hey fatty” or something to that extent, or posted hateful messages about her on the news station’s Facebook page, or if he saw her on the street and tormented and teased her. Bullying cannot and should not be defined as a mere message from a man where he expressed his thoughts on her being overweight and suggested that she get her health under control. Again, none of his business, and another form of unsolicited advice that some idiots are so prone to doing, but for the sake of what real bullying is, don’t compare the two.
Jennifer Livingston was on the receiving end of an insulting message, but SHE was the one who brought the private letter of a non-public figure to the public’s attention; she was the one who seethed and scathed calling this man a bully among other things. Now this man is all over the news, being forced to defend himself for something I’m sure he could not anticipate would make its rounds on Facebook and other social media as it did. In the end, Jennifer Livingston became the bully. She used her position of power to intimidate someone who is far less powerful than her. Did she have a right to feel hurt? Sure. But nobody else but her was ever intended to see that letter, nobody else needed to know it even existed. In fact, if she wanted to, she could have replied as intelligently and with as much gusto as she did in her news editorial via a reply email to Krause. Instead, she threw this man into the waiting public’s claws, when he did nothing more than express what doctors, and teachers, and so many others do on a daily basis.
I do not take bullying lightly. As basically anybody who is close to me knows, I did not have an easy childhood. I was teased, relentlessly at times, but even with my dark past and my painful memories, I would hesitate to call it “bullying” as that would detract from the children who are pushed, and poked, and teased relentlessly on a daily basis – who are harassed in classrooms, on their computers, and on their phones. Who cannot close their eyes at night because they fear what might happen the next day. Bullying is not a full-figured anchorwoman getting an email from a jerk who felt it necessary to call her out on something she, admittedly, already knew. Jennifer Livingston needs to grow up and teach her daughters some other, more meaningful lessons in life. Grace, dignity and pride; handling things maturely and privately when possible. Jennifer Livingston and her husband should be ashamed of themselves and embarrassed for using their public positions to handle their private problems, and for their lack of professionalism and abuse of their on-air placement. Can you imagine if every news anchor used the airwaves to go after everyone who ever said something insulting or hurtful? Jennifer Livingston should invest in a backbone and leave the heartfelt speeches for the millions of people every year who cut themselves, run away, kill themselves or others because what they face each day is far, far, worse, than anything one man can say in one letter.
My messages on anti-bullying will continue throughout the month of October.