On Monday, Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly published a post titled, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?)”. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the piece was incendiary (though we’ve excerpted a few sections just to get your heart rate going), but what has been most surprising about the controversy is Marie Claire’s response.
Kelly’s piece, which is ostensibly pegged to the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly”, begins:
The other day, my editor asked me, “Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?”
…My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese! And while I think our country’s obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it’s at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.
So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
We’ll leave it at that for now, but if you’re curious, Kelly goes on to defend herself against claims of size-ism by citing friends of hers who could be called “plump” and the one time she had a conversation with the overweight maintenance guy at her gym about his attempts at weightloss.
The Hairpin was the first blog to call Kelly out in a piece succinctly titled, “Woman Crams Remarkable Amount of Idiocy Into Single Blog Post.” Jezebel wondered “What Marie Claire Was Thinking?”, adding:
It’s that, as much as anything else, that’s worrisome: that at a mainstream magazine with a wide reach and an ostensibly progressive outlook could think, in 2010, this was okay to write and implicitly endorse. Marie Claire will probably think before running something like this again — but let’s hope it’s for the right reasons.
For our part, we think the post is poorly written, cruel, ignorant, and full of sweeping generalizations with an astonishing lack of facts. And we’re not alone. The piece, as of our last count, has 963 comments, the majority of which make what Jezebel calls “some very concise and well-argued points about assumptions about health; size-ism and the shock of seeing such a post on the site of what’s considered a forward-thinking ladymag.” Kelly began defending herself in the comments, but eventually just added an apology to the end of her post.
I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I’ve said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much…
To that point (and on a more personal level), a few commenters and one of my friends mentioned that my extreme reaction might have grown out of my own body issues, my history as an anorexic, and my life-long obsession with being thin. As I mentioned in the ongoing dialogue we’ve been carrying on in the comments section, I think that’s an accurate insight.
People have accused me of being a bully in my post; I never intended to be that–it’s actually the very last thing I want to be, as a writer or a person. But I know that I came off that way, and I really cannot apologize enough to the people whom I upset.
“Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger. She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.
Coles said the mag has received over 28,000 email responses to the piece, and that Kelly was “excited and moved by their responses.”
While Coles made clear that she hasn’t actually seen Mike & Molly, she added “I’m concerned about a show that makes fun of large people.”
While Kelly’s apology was certainly genuine, it’s somewhat astonishing that Coles would be so blithe about the post itself. Marie Claire is generally considered a forward-thinking and open-minded magazine and, more importantly, one that recently debuted a column called “Big Girl In A Skinny World.” We’d love to know what author Ashley Falcon thinks about this piece.
Marie Claire has since tweeted that they’re looking to publish counterpoints to Kelly’s article, which is great, but it also suggests that they’re milking the controversy for everything they can. As bloggers, most of us have written pieces that we know are purposely incendiary, but hopefully not hurtful or outright ignorant. But the more we read Kelly’s article and the more we think about Marie Claire’s response, we can’t help but wonder if Kelly penned the piece thinking she was just offering a harmless, contrarian opinion in the hopes of garnering pageviews. And that’s what’s most troubling of all.
Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV?) [Marie Claire]
Exclusive: Marie Claire EIC Joanna Coles Responds to Controversial Fatist Blog Post [Fashionista]
What Was Marie Claire Thinking With This “Fatties” Piece? [Jezebel]
Woman Crams Remarkable Amount of Idiocy Into Single Blog Post [The Hairpin]