WritersButt Wednesday – Being mean sucks

Something in the news has prompted me to pull out my soapbox. I’m sorry, I do try to control myself, but I can’t help it. Unless you have literally sequestered yourself away from all media, and if so you won’t be reading this, you will have seen a recent story about Jennifer Livingston, a newscaster in Wisconsin who received a mean-spirited, bullying email from a viewer regarding her weight and how it detracts from her position as a role model in the community.

What the … What!?

In the unlikelihood that you haven’t seen what I’m talking about, here is the video.

Ginger drags out largest soapbox (she’s going to need it) stomps onto box, hands on hips, sassy head-wag primed for action.

One the one hand, I hesitate to address this rogue viewer because it goes completely against my nature to give someone like this any attention. That is what he’s after, attention and the best way to piss him off is to ignore him and pretend he doesn’t exist. Someone who has to cut down someone else to feel important is a nobody in my book. Invisible, inconsequential.

So when I saw Jennifer’s message, I wanted to tell her that he didn’t deserve her attention. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he wasn’t inconsequential at all. He’s not invisible by the fact that his words are now splashed on every news station, morning show, blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

His ‘message’ to Jennifer has an impact. What kind of impact is up to us, society, to take his message and use it as an example of what is not acceptable, that this sort of treatment of another human being will not be tolerated on any level.

Did he really think she’d read that email and say to herself, ‘Oh my gosh, thank goodness this good, well-meaning citizen reached out to me. That’s just the motivation I needed to lose weight.’


And then when the news station asked the emailer, Kenneth Krause, if he’d like to come on the show in the aftermath of Jennifer’s response, which has been astoundingly supportive of her courageous message, he declined but did pull out his dictionary and offer this response:

Wow!  Kenneth is actually offering Jennifer his help! I honestly can’t fathom a single benefit to be gained from a person so self-righteous, rude and misguided.

Mr. Krause, I suggest you sit back and attempt to learn from Jennifer. You can learn things like, dignity, tact, kindness, courage, professionalism, poise, empathy and compassion.

Here’s the deal, I motivate people all the time to get healthy.  I do everything I can to empower people, help them believe they are awesome, cheer them on and celebrate their victories, from the big ones to the very smallest steps forward. I try to be positive and encouraging.

You know why?

Because cruelty and insults are not motivating. Someone who truly wants to help someone else isn’t mean to them. So Kenneth’s guise of trying to reach out and be helpful is complete crap.

Ellen DeGeneres tweeted about this incident yesterday, which is where I first heard of it. She was applauding Jennifer Livingston and said she hoped to get to meet her. I hope she does too because I can think of no greater stage to get the message out that being kind and encouraging is more motivating than judgmental cruelty.

I once saw an interview with Ellen where she talked about being a comedian. She commented (and I’m going off memory here, so paraphrasing) on how it’s easier to get laughs by being mean or making fun of other people but that it didn’t feel right. And it wasn’t the sort of comedian she wanted to be. She said she’d rather be funny and still be kind and uplifting to people. To make people laugh and feel good.  I’d say she’s doing a damn good job of it.

Thank you, Ellen. Thank you, Jennifer. You inspire me to be a better person.


About Ginger Calem

I never met a notebook I didn't want to buy. Pens speak to me. Sticky notes are dear to my heart. Some of my best friends are those clambering in my head trying to get onto the page. And when they have their stories told, and I release them to the world, I hope they'll be your friends too.

Posted on October 3, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. Jennifer seems like an amazing woman. Hooray for her, for having the courage to take the high road, to speak for compassion instead of judgement, to be part of the solution to bullying instead of part of the problem.

  2. Fantastic post Ginger!!! Love your soapbox….let’s put it on the top of Mt Everest, The Statue of Liberty, the Space Needle, The Matterhorn! I couldn’t agree with you more!!! I’m honored that you are my sister….someone so good and true in her core, someone full of love and support to share.

  3. I love the way Jennifer responded to that email. Because it was bullying, flat out. I cannot imagine sitting down to my computer and receiving an email like that. It’s not okay. Not. Okay.
    And health is SO much more than a number!
    I’m so over people like this.
    Good for you Ginger and Jennifer, and Ellen and…

    • I’m over them too! Totally. Sick. Of. Them! As much as I’ve tried to ignore, so as to not give them ‘air time’ … I think it’s time to be more proactive on the other front. It’s been on my heart for a while and this just opened the floodgates … especially with it dealing with ‘weight’ and body image, something you know I’m have opinions about. 😉

  4. I totally agree with what you say in this post! I get so tired of people being rude and mean to others especially through the internet. I wonder if he would have the guts to have said to her in person what he did in the e-mail, doubtful. I’m so glad Jennifer responded the way she did. Thanks for sharing this!

    • That’s exactly it, Kara. It’s so cowardly to hide behind his computer screen. Even though he used his name, he’s still hiding, sending a random, cruel email. I do think that because we can ‘hide’ behind our screens, people are crossing the line more and more and it’s got to stop. It’s already out of hand!

  5. Julie O'Connell

    As a person of size, or big-ass woman, I’m not sure what I think of this. It’s still hard, even for me, to admit that my problem is out for the world to see instead of inside my head. I eat when I’m not hungry, and I don’t stop when I’m full. If I had an acknowledged mental issue (and this might be, someday) no one would dream of making fun of me. But because my issue causes bat wings and the aforementioned big ass, I’m a target. I’m lazy. I have no self-control. I’m a loser. Everything in our society tells us so. My friends and family tell me so. “Just try harder”, they say, implying that if I just had a little more brains and backbone, I’d be a size ten.

    We all want to be healthy and fit, and if someone doesn’t look it we comment. If we don’t comment, we judge internally. After all, there is a war on obesity in this country. The dork who wrote the letter probably said what a lot of other people were thinking. If he had no tact or diplomacy, that implies there was something not to be talked about. Her weight. She could very well be healthy, and as fit as she can be, and still never be a size ten.

    I admire her ability to call this guy out. I wish she didn’t have to. I wish we could stop judging books by covers.

    • I’m so glad you chimed in here, Julie. You are one of my bestest of the best, most treasured friends. And you know that I truly adore and love you … YOU! I don’t freaking care what size you wear. That does not change who you are. And you know I get all Ginger-Freak when you put yourself down.

      I too wish she didn’t have to call this guy out. I wish he wasn’t a poopy-head, self-righteous fool. I wish that no one was. And I especially pity the fool who hurts my friends because of their ignorance and un-wanted and un-warranted judgement.

      Feeling that others, especially friends and family, believe that ‘you are great if only … lose weight, have control, try harder …” That is total BS to me. No! People are great because they are great! Period.

      Your worth to me and to many others has nothing to do with your looks. You teach me every day to be a better person, a more giving person and to always be, above all else, a friend.

  6. “Wow, thanks for pointing out that I’m a fat, sick slob! I was completely unaware of my weight and potential health problems until your email showed me the light. I will gladly submit myself to you for support and advice since you’ve been so helpful so far.” Oh, sometimes I can’t help the snark. I have been living under a rock, so I this is the first I’ve heard of this incident. Thank you, Ginger for this post. Jennifer has brains, beauty and courage. Cheers to her and her uplifting message. Fashions, styles and trends all change; what never goes out of style? Class.

  7. Well, I live under a rock and this is the first I’ve heard of it. It took a lot of guts to do what she did, but she admits that without the support of her colleagues and husband she would have just brushed it off. I think we’ve brushed this stuff off too long. Thanks for sharing.

  8. What’s the old saying: Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes. I did a lot of work with weight management and compulsive eating issues when I was a psychotherapist. If losing weight were as simple as everyone who doesn’t need to do it seems to think it is, we would not have so many overweight people in this country. There are several ways that our bodies resist weight loss (based on its primitive assumption that food supplies will fluctuate drastically over time so hanging onto fat is a good thing); weight and eating can have complex psychological baggage for some people, and not everyone who is overweight is necessarily over-eating (that is way too simplistic).

    The obese are an oppressed group in our society, prejudged and discriminated against on a daily basis. And worst of all, they often believe they deserve this treatment because they themselves buy into the “it’s easy; why can’t you do it” mentality.

    My son’s best friend growing up looked like the Pillsbury dough boy. His metabolism was the slowest I’d ever seen. My skinny son ate more in a day than Mike ate in a week. But Mike was quite active; he walked, mowed the lawn and did chores for his elderly parents (he was a menopause baby) and played basketball with his friends. Under the outer layer of fat was solid muscle. More than once, Mike was the one who backed off the bullies who tried to pick on him or his friends. Imagine their shock when he turned out to be stronger than they were. 🙂

    • Love your story! So often times the bigger body types are in better physical condition than thin people… 🙂

    • Kassandra, thanks so much for chiming in. A appreciate your professional perspective. It’s a delicate issue. What upsets me is what you point out, “And worst of all, they often believe they deserve this treatment because they themselves buy into the “it’s easy; why can’t you do it” mentality.”

      The reason this upsets me is that when you believe you deserve to be treated in such a manner, it’s a harder battle, should you chose it, to make the steps to get fit and healthy. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe it’s that much harder because that would be focusing attention and love on yourself and if you are always made to feel like crap and think you deserve to be treated that way, why would you treat yourself any different?

      • You are exactly right, Ginger. If you believe there’s something wrong with you, that you are not okay, because you are heavy, then not only do you not deserve the kind of long-term self-caring commitment that is required for healthy sustainable weight loss, but you’re already convinced you’re a loser and won’t be successful.

        The thinking goes like this: “Everybody acts like it’s easy to lose weight and there’s something wrong with me that I haven’t done it yet. But when I try to lose weight, it’s hard. So it must be me. I can’t do anything right, so why try.”

  9. What an incredible woman with such amazing grace. I would have been in tears. I have not turned on the TV and had missed this! Thanks for sharing. I often wonder how the bully’s I grew up with feel now……

  10. Wow, what a plonker. He has no idea what issues Jennifer is dealing with and as a person who saw her surgeon today who congratulated me on keeping an eye on my weight for almost two years after surgery for cancer, this guy needs a boot up the ass. There were three other ladies there who’d gained anything up to thirty pounds after their surgery and they were so disheartened and felt they were letting themselves down because they simply could not exercise due to chemo, repeated surgeries and drugs which had totally changed their metabolism. All due to how society views people who do not conform to the ‘norm’.

    On the other hand my youngest daughter eats everything and anything and never gains an ounce and has been criticised more than once for being ‘too skinny’. She’s super healthy and never sick. The one thing she doesn’t do is drink alcohol because it doesn’t agree with her. As women, we cannot bloody win. And isn’t it interesting the criticism came from a man? He’s a bully. And Jennifer’s a woman of courage and as someone else said ‘class.’

    I hadn’t heard of this, Ginger, thanks for bringing to our attention. 🙂

    • Christine, how I adore you! You are right, we can’t win for losing. We have to change the way we value people and weight, high or low, clothing, hairstyle … has NOTHING to do with it.

      Extra hugs for you since I know what you’re going through.

  11. I’d heard about the incident but I hadn’t seen the video. Brought tears to my eyes. That horrible man has no idea what struggles Jennifer experiences every day. Or what kind of goodness she possesses. It’s just a shame that people choose to judge others instead of trying to understand them or simply accept them for the wonderful person they are.

    And Ellen is one of my favorite people. She is always kind and generous and never has anything hateful to say! Kudos to Ellen. I want to see Jennifer on the Ellen show. That would be so inspiring!

    Thanks for getting out the soapbox, Ginger. We need to hear your booming voice once in a while to put us all back into our proper places and keep the right perspective!

    Ginger for President!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Oh, heaven forbid Ginger is every president. I wouldn’t wish that job on anybody.

      I agree that the guy has gall to write her, and admit that he never even watches her show but ‘caught a bit of it’ and then felt compelled to write her, a stranger, and tell her she was overweight and therefore slacking on her job as a role model. Who ever said she wanted to be a role model. She was doing her job, a job which has nothing to do with her weight. GRR!!

  12. Good for Jennifer. Some people don’t know how to be nice. Thanks for posting about this, Ginger.

  13. Bravo to Jennifer for labeling the passive-aggressive attack on her by what it was: bullying. She took advantage of her “rare and golden” opportunity to show the children of the Coulee Region they don’t have to stand by while someone maligns them and passes off his hurtful words as a community service.

    I’ve always liked you, Ginger. Today, I love you.

  14. this story was on the local evening loca news…good for her. to think someone is unaware of their reality is an ego trip.

  15. I actually hadn’t heard of this before. It actually took a lot of courage for her to address this and that’s incredibly admirable. I can image how incredibly hurtful and embarrassing that letter would have been. What struck me is when she said “you’re not my friend, you’re not a member of my family.” Only people who know us and love us have the right to try to help us change. Those people have earned the right to speak the truth to us in love because those people know the behind the scenes stories of our lives and know about any mitigating factors. The man who sent that message is a self-righteous bully, and I don’t know what he thought he’d accomplish by sending that letter. It was just plain mean.

    • I agree with you, Marcy. And your right, only our loved one, family and friends, have the right to help us change, assuming we want to change. And as you say, ‘speak the truth IN LOVE’. Anything else is not necessary.

  16. I hadn’t heard about this story so thank you so much for sharing it. I love how Jennifer turned something that could knock any of us on our ass and turned it into a motivational message to all. She’s inspiring and empowering….

    You are right Ginger. Motivation by negative comments is no motivation at all. It has the opposite effect. I think often people like that try to disguise or let themselves off the hook, like I am sure this guy did, by thinking/saying they are “well meaning” and just offering some “honesty etc…” but it’s no excuse for being blunt, rude, a bully and disrespectful….ever! Makes me sick.

  17. Jennifer handled this in an awesome way. She turned something awful and used it to make a difference in others’ lives, hopefully helping them deal with mean-spirited digs or bullying or whatever.

    Thanks for your positive encouragement, Ginger. It’s the best motivator!

  18. Coleen Patrick

    I just saw this on TV today and one of the first things I thought was, I wonder what Ginger thinks about this? 🙂
    I have a strong reaction to judgment, whether it is aimed at me or anyone else–I feel so angry. I admire Jennifer’s poise and courage, I think she handled her response beautifully.
    Thanks Ginger!

    • I too have a strong reaction to judgment. Sometimes it’s mature. Other times it’s shut the ‘heck’ up your ignorant fool because you know nothing and are nothing. Since I strive for maturity as often as possible, I will stand with you and admire Jennifer’s poise and courage! Thanks for your comment.

  19. Wow, this had me nearly in tears. So did Ellen’s words you paraphrased. I write humour and feel similar.

    My husband is obese and I see how he struggles. Judging people by their weight seems to be one of the last allowable prejudices out there in North America. Thank you for shedding light on this issue.

    • Your comment means a lot to me, Leanne, especially in that you see your husband struggle with this issue. I’m sure you wouldn’t be too pleased if someone said he wasn’t a role model. Pshaww!! As if what you weight means a damn thing.

  20. I’m with Leanne – watching Jennifer Livingston in that video totally made me cry. It was so brave and you could tell she felt emotional about the entire issue. I could never have exhibited that kind of poise in this situation. I value kindness above most other things and I am delighted that Kenneth Krause’s insensitive and bullying behavior has been made an example of. Go you for clueing me in to this. I HAVE been hiding under a rock – I’ve got things all decorated under there. 🙂

    • I was moved as well, especially when she said to the guy, ‘you think I needed you to tell me I am overweight’. LIke Jennifer mentioned, the worst part of this is that if he feels he can say that to her in an email, you know there are constant comments at home so their kids are learning that it’s ok to have those sorts of judgements on people … and tell them. And you know this sort of behavior is everywhere. And no wonder we have a huge bullying problem, when people feel they are entitled to share their judgmental opinion but they can also do so by hiding behind their computer screens. Makes me sick.

  21. Wow. I wonder what it is about some people that makes them think anyone cares about their opinions? If you don’t like fat people, or people with larger than normal noses, or people with the ‘wrong’ skin color…avoid them. Stop looking at them. And for God’s sake, keep your mouth shut!

    Hopefully Mr. Krause learned a valuable lesson in all of this. Probably not, but if he finds himself shunned by people he once thought were his friends, people who don’t judge others by their appearance (and wonder if the great and mighty Krause is judging them, too), oh well. Next time he might think before he decides to let his inner bully loose.

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