Were opinion and free speech mistaken for hatred and bigotry when Maura Kelly, a Marie Claire blogger wrote her opinion on how fat people are portrayed in the media? I’m not too sure, I have yet to decide whether I think she was right or wrong, it seems to be mixed up in the undeclared ethics of blogging.
So what exactly happened?
Maura Kelly, a Sex and Relationship blogger, typically writes how-to articles and helpful guides with boastful titles like “10 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Dating Disasters” and “How to Decide If He’s Right For You.” While generally I don’t have time to read articles like these, unless I’m sprawled out the beach soaking up the sun (not without a generous layer of SPF 50 mind you), I deemed it necessary to do some research for this post. My findings concluded that Kelly is a good, thought out, and fairly entertaining writer.
Kelly’s posts are lighthearted and fun, and often they tell-it-like-it-is. This particular post was a little too real and lacked the simple lightheartedness her readers are accustomed to. The basis for her article was her genuine disgust about a new television show on CBS, Mike and Molly. The half hour sitcom features two overweight people who meet each other at Overeaters Anonymous and begin to date.
I have seen other articles on the sitcom and I think we as a society still don’t know how to handle such a touchy subject. I don’t think Kelly wrong is stating her opinion, I’m all about free speech, but her word choice, her execution, and her forum made her appear hateful and show serious cynicism.
The word usage in the title, “Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV?),” sets the tone for the entire article. As the article develops Kelly never outright says she hates fat people, but again, her word usage suggests it. She even posts her own warning halfway through the article announcing,
“Now, don’t go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.”
Uhh… I think needing to explain yourself is a warning sign that you are doing something wrong. The article found here, warranted well over 3,000 comments (not to mention 28,000 emails to Marie Claire) while her other posts rarely break 200.
I’m not going to compare this to the BP oil spill or Tiger Woods’ sex addict crisis of 2010, but you better believe Marie Claire started to sweat as the post garnered well above 500 comments. If readers were really this upset, even going as far as unsubscribing to Marie Claire because of the article, then they were in need of some crisis relations.
What was done?
Kelly posted an update on her article including a detailed apology. It seemed heartfelt. Kelly discusses her own weight issues. But is it only heartfelt because she upset so many people, or is she truly sorry that she posted the article? The one thing that makes me think that she understands her error was that she recognizes that the article was not “productive.” Unless of course the objective of the article was to upset a whole community of people.
While discussing this article in my media relations class my professor brought up a really good point, fashion and beauty magazines and the industry as a whole have come under a lot of scrutiny. Images of what defines beauty in fashion publications, seems to be one cookie cutter mold, 5ft 7’ and a size 2. I sure as hell don’t fit in that mold and if I looked at my close group of friends, girls in my class, and around campus, not many of my peers do either.
Are people smart enough to realize this? Can you open up a magazine and know the images you see are products of personal trainers, plastic surgery, genetics, and professional stylists? I’m not even sure I can. What about younger generations, ones raised solely on media? I don’t have any formal research or fancy statistics but I do have access to YouTube and stellar search engine-using skills. Last year, I watched UK reporter Dawn Porter’s documentary “Super Slim Me” a response to Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me,” which I’ve seem more times than I’d like to admit. Porter interviews young girls who have body image ideas that have clearly been shaped by the media. After watching that, I was linked to another UK documentary following young girls who were extremely body conscious. I was shocked.
Society’s promotion of these unrealistic images of beauty rather than the promotion of acceptance is a small nugget of our overall problem with acceptance. A blog that takes a fresh approach to this topic and one that I occasionally read is Operation Beautiful.
Written by food and fitness blogger Caitlin Boyle, who also is disgusted by mainstream media’s idea of beauty and fashion magazines do more harm than help. The operation is to ignite some positive self-esteem (with Post-It notes) in our apparent misguided society. These anonymous, random acts of kindness seem to work, Boyle got a book deal and readers can send in their own positive notes. I can’t lie I would be pretty excited, heck downright ecstatic if I opened a book or walked into a bathroom and saw a note pronouncing I was beautiful just the way I am!
Did Kelly and Marie Claire do the right thing?
I think they did the best they could, but could a comment from Marie Claire’s editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles make or break the situation? Coles is quoted in a Fashionista article claiming that she hadn’t seen the show, but was “concerned about a show that makes fun of large people.” Oops, if one watched the show one would realize that the show is relatable, whether to the weight issue, or the dating issue. I’ve only watched it a couple of times, but it’s pretty funny. I think that Coles should have educated herself before commenting.
Coles also brings up Kelly’s battle with anorexia, as does Kelly in her apology. While Kelly never hides her body issues, her biography touches briefly on them, to bring them up here, comes off as insensitive.
While I could probably go on endlessly about the media and negative body images, I’d like to see some new ways to approach and encourage acceptance of all sizes, races, and genders. So I leave you with something that we can all relate to, a quote from one of my favorite authors in one of my favorite books, Dr. Seuss,
“A person’s a person, no matter how small…”
…or big, or what color, or what religion, or where they buy their jeggings- okay you get the picture.
Charlsie Sturm, Senior
Public Relations Major