I’ve thought a lot about whether to post about the Marie Claire blogging controversy that blew up a few days ago, and finally decided that it was something I could not not address after all.
For those who haven’t read about it, a blogger named Maura Kelly wrote a post, published on the Marie Claire website, entitled “Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?)”. It purported to be a review of a TV show called Mike & Molly, about a couple who meets at Overeaters Anonymous. I say “purported” because the author admitted that she never watched a single episode. She did have plenty to say about it though, including thoughtful gems like “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.” I’m not going to link here to the original post, because I would hate to think that it might get even one additional hit, but if you want to read more about the situation then check out the coverage over at Jezebel or the excellent response over at the Huffington Post.
Here is the thing. I don’t believe that a discussion of weight issues really has a place on this blog, because the whole point of the message I am trying to get across is that style has nothing to do with weight, size, shape, age or any other physical attribute for that matter. I am not naive in thinking that these things are not real, difficult issues that people deal with on a daily basis; I just don’t want this to be a place where they get re-hashed or, worse, somehow amplified. Maybe I am naive in thinking that it is possible to talk about fashion and clothes in a completely positive way, without making anyone feel excluded or unwelcome. Regardless, I found that I simply had something to say about Ms. Kelly’s blog post. First of all, because it gives bloggers everywhere a bad name, including those of us who work hard at this without any financial compensation but with no less dedication and care than “real” journalists. Second, because it’s absolutely disgusting and needs to be addressed as such. Third, and most importantly, because it managed to find a (inter)national platform through a fashion magazine.
I’m going to start my rant by saying that this is not about whether or not Ms. Kelly was properly P.C. about how she approached her subject. Her entire viewpoint is inherently bigoted, flawed and hateful. There is no excuse for anything she had to say, and it is encouraging that so many people in the media have recognized that and condemned it. The reason I am angry enough to write about this whole thing is the fact that Ms. Kelly is not some lone kook, spewing her awful propaganda somewhere out in the internet wilds to the sound of crickets. She is writing for, and is now being defended by, a large and respected multinational publication – one that markets itself as a progressive magazine sensitive to “women’s issues”. The fact that an editor of Marie Claire approved this post, and still appears to stand by it, is appalling. And unacceptable. And it is a troubling glimpse into the “psyche” of the magazine, no matter how loudly it might trumpet its progressiveness.
It is bad enough that magazines rely on unrealistic images to peddle the wares they are being paid to sell to women. The harm resulting from that is insidious and sometimes irreversible, but it can at least be called a lesser evil – an evil of omission. They simply don’t show anything but bodies that fit certain criteria; the message is implicit, sure, but they can hide behind so many justifications about the fashion industry, societal expectations and the like. That does not excuse (and I hope no one is fooled into thinking that it does) but it allows them to deflect scrutiny (and pay lip service to the concept of acceptance while still publishing hypocritical pieces about weight loss, plastic surgery and the like). And yet, it is a far cry from that to outright and explicitly stating that anyone who doesn’t fit some narrow, arbitrary and ultimately meaningless parameters is “gross”. It is unbelievable and disheartening to realize that, in 2010, there are still people in the magazine industry who don’t realize that this is a repugnant concept, and one that is anathema to the philosophy that should inspire their very existence. Isn’t the point of a women’s magazine to create a sense of solidarity, acceptance and support? I mean, somehow even men’s magazine (hardly a bastion of sensitivity) seem to have figured out that insulting, demeaning and alienating your audience is not the way to stay relevant or, indeed, keep your audience engaged.
I’m going to conclude my rant (before it runs away on me) by saying this: if you read this and are outraged by the irresponsible, cavalier and wholly inappropriate way in which Marie Claire has chosen to act in this matter, then I hope that you will do something about it. Don’t excuse it next time you’re at a gas station or supermarket and are looking for something to read. Send a message with your dollars. Tell Marie Claire to suck it!!