A news anchor in Augusta, Ga., has responded to an irate viewer who called her pregnant stomach “disgusting” in a blog post that has gone viral.
Laura Warren, an anchor with WRWD, says she’s usually “thick-skinned,” but this particular voicemail was too much to ignore.
WATCH BELOW: News Hour Plus: Kristi Gordon deals with a hater
“The thick-skinned journalist in me who knows better than to give comments like this a second thought says, delete the voicemail and move on,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, I’m pregnant, hormonal, currently not allowed to drink wine, and feeling extra in touch with my feminist side.”
The message was left by a woman who, Warren points out, would have had to find the station’s phone number and sit through a long phone tree to get her extension, implying that she was pretty intent on leaving her rude comment.
In a voice clip on Warren’s blog, the woman can be heard saying: “Please go to Target and buy some decent maternity clothes so you don’t walk around looking like you got a watermelon strapped under your too tight outfits. Target’s got a great line of maternity clothes in case you’ve never heard of such a thing.”
The message ends with the statement: “You’re getting to where you’re being disgusting on the TV.”
Warren says she went through a range of thoughts and emotions, including despair that she would be subjected to this type of criticism for the rest of her pregnancy and outrage that a woman, possibly a mother herself, left the hateful message.
For women in the public eye, this kind of viewer response is nothing new. Global BC’s senior meteorologist Kristi Gordon experienced the same backlash in 2011 and 2015 during her pregnancies.
READ MORE: Kristi Gordon: “It’s just a belly!”
“The first time it happened, I didn’t get any comments until the very end of my pregnancy, and I kept it to myself,” she says to Global News. “At the beginning of my second pregnancy, when we announced it on-air, I said, ‘be nice to me this time around.’ I waited but nothing came through. But as soon as my belly started to get too big for some people, the e-mails started coming in.”
Gordon, too, was called “disgusting” and told that she looked like the Hindenburg. Eventually, she decided to talk about her experience on Global BC’s News Hour PLUS (a web exclusive segment where anchors would discuss whatever they felt was poignant at the time but not necessarily newsworthy — it has since been cancelled). Once that segment was posted to the site, it went viral.
“I got a flood of supportive e-mails from around the world that started coming from the U.S., and then China, Africa, Australia, India and South America,” Gordon recalls. Her story was even included in a Cosmopolitan article titled “22 Women Who Expertly Shut Down Their Body Shamers.”
“Some people said to me, ‘why don’t you just leave work early,'” she says. “But I think that’s abusing the system. I was still capable of working and there was no reason not to. I was healthy and fit.”
In her blog post, Warren ran through the previous week’s outfits trying to figure out which was the one that set off her nasty caller. The exercise got her thinking: “I’ve gotten dozens of compliments from viewers saying nice things about my pregnancy, why was this the one that stuck?”
She concluded that despite the old adage about sticks and stones, words are very powerful and can hurt even more. While Gordon believes it’s the fact that those words are being piled on top of an already fragile sense of self.
“When you’re pregnant your hips grow and everything gets bigger. And I was self-conscious about that,” she says. “But there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t going to starve myself — I still had a job to do and I was a working mom.”
For her part, Warren concluded that she would take her caller’s negative energy and reverse it.
“I’m going to say as many nice things as I can to as many people as I can, and I’m going to do it in a dress that fits these beautiful new curves with my ‘watermelon’ stomach showing. “