I love that Livingston took a stand on public television, and I love her analysis of this email. And I want to interrogate it one step further. Yes, this email is absolutely a personal attack on a person's body. However, the author of the email is deploying the same kind of rhetoric that is supported by the nationally known, federally-funded War on Obesity. This War on Obesity takes the stand that fat/obesity is a public issue and a personal responsibility. Just last week while in Los Angeles I saw dozens of ads that toted sentiments like "eat less, weigh less," displaying images of super sized fast food meals next to meals with a medium drink and medium fries. These ads simplistically cast fatness as a matter of personal choice, and they were no doubt at least partially subsidized by federal/state public health money.
While Livingston's friends, family and viewers were sending in words of support, I wondered if they were angry at the act of bullying (as a display of interpersonal aggression) or at the fatphobia (system-wide oppression) itself. If some of the responses to the video are any indication, they were angry at the display of aggression more than the sentiment that Livingston is setting a bad example. "JasperApollonia" wrote, "Obesity is an epidemic in this country... I don't agree with the wording of this man's letter and I think it was poorly done, but I agree with his overall point. It is not ok to be fat unless you have a legitimate medical condition that prevents you from losing weight."
Personal sentiments of fatphobia that are publicly expressed are often met with quick censure, but the seemingly innocuous rhetoric of anti-obesity that pervades our public health conversation - what I read as the actual "shouts of many" - parades around as common sense. We are still mired in a frenzied politic that casts fat people as taxes on the economy who should just "cover up" and "eat less"
I see a man who sends a vitriolic email to an anchorwoman as part of the same continuum that hosts the current fatphobic US discussion of fat people. I see this personal act of bullying as a manifestation of a nationwide belief that fat people deserve to be the target of a war.