Feminist blogs have been abuzz for the past day or so over an appalling article by Maura Kelly, a writer for one of Marie Claire‘s blogs, who said that she wouldn’t want to watch the new TV show “Mike & Molly,” which is about a couple who meets at Overeaters Anonymous. The reason? Kelly wrote, “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.”
So yes, you see why there’s been serious outrage. Kelly continued to spout unrepentently sizeist comments throughout her piece, writing,
“I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk. And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down…But … I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.”
She ends by asking her readers, “Do you think I’m being an insensitive jerk?” The answer, for the most part, has been yes, although the editorial staff at the magazine’s blog has been blamed as roundly as Kelly. On Jezebel, Sadie Stein expressed her confusion not just over why Kelly wrote the piece, but why Kelly’s editors thought it was acceptable to post it:
“How could she think this was acceptable? 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.”
There has actually been some sympathy for the blogger herself; Jessica Wakeman, writing for the Frisky, points out that Kelly has been open about her own struggles with anorexia. Wakeman writes, “The things she wrote about fat people — her disgust, even hatred towards their bodies — are probably the same things she has turned inward towards herself.” Like Stein, Wakeman blames Kelly’s editors more than Kelly herself, and I have to say, it takes some appallingly bad (or even just exploitative) editorial judgment to run a piece like this – the editors were either completely blind to how offensive it was, or decided to publish it because they knew it would rack up page hits.
At least the uproar had some effect; Kelly updated the original post with an apology, writing, “I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary; it wasn’t productive, either.
The editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, Joanna Coles, also responded, although her reply was certainly less than satisfactory. She told Fashionista, “Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger. She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.” She added that the magazine has received over 28,000 emails about the article, and that Kelly was “excited and moved” by the responses. This reaction seems misplaced. Kelly wasn’t trying to start a meaningful dialogue about sizeism, she simply wrote a very bigoted piece that, for whatever reason, her editors thought it was acceptable to publish. That’s not provocative – it’s just wrong.
Photo from Flickr.