Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discusses the courageous response from a TV anchor to her bully - click here.
Why would someone write an email like this?
This is a classic example of workplace bullying. This man was shaming, disrespectful, and embarrassing to this woman. His comments emphasized the imbalance of power—he could reprimand her from a distance without direct response. I doubt if he ever dreamed that she would respond live on the air.
This is the pattern that we see in online bullying. Bullies feel like there are no consequences. I can slam you and lie about you without any consequence for me. In a fair fight, the victim gets a chance to respond, but this man chose to humiliate her anonymously over nothing except his own prejudice.
What about her response?
It was a masterful, eloquent statement that directly discredited his attack. She pointed out what all women know—we come in all shapes and sizes and they are not only acceptable but beautiful. She did the right thing by speaking up since silence perpetuates injustice. Injustice then builds helplessness, and this anchor was by no means helpless. She used the very tools of her own professional success—her verbal agility, on air presence and organizational skills—to make this man look ridiculous. A great lesson for children in America.
Why was she targeted?
We live in an epidemic of eating disorders. Around 40% of college aged women engage in some sort of eating disorder behavior. Being thin is sadly linked with being powerful or attractive, and this myth has gathered momentum over the decades. Appearance is still too defining of our worth as women. But change starts with us. Women need to refuse to buy into silly prescriptions of who we are and how we should look.
Is this kind of bullying increasing or are we just more aware of this kind of harassment?
I think both statements are true—bullying is increasing AND we are more aware. With the infiltration of technology and social media into our lives, we all go online to express our opinions and to share with the community. However, such access to others can turn ugly, as we see in this case. A shot at another person, especially a woman with notoriety and power, is easier to do than ever.
Remember that bullying flourishes in an environment of anonymity. This man hoped that she would internalize what he said and feel badly about herself. He tried to offload his own prejudices onto her and she refused to take it. Good for her and good for all of us!
A generation ago, we lived in a society that was more accountable. There was a community that reinforced that accountability. Now with the Internet, you can be savage without your community really knowing how poorly you behaved.
What can women do to support her?
Please support women who choose to stand up and speak out about this kind of prejudice. Refuse to be a victim of others who tell you how you should look. Remember that there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a woman who knows who she is and refuses to be silent about her gifts.