How much power do we really have? A community of like-minded women, who blog about what we wear, our sartorial choices, the styles we love, the trends we don’t?
Yesterday, Maura Kelly (a writer and blogger for Marie Claire online) wrote one of the most insulting pieces of shit I have ever read. After reading the post (a blog seemingly about “Living Flirtatiously”), I was unsettled. I tried to figure out what I wanted to say about what Ms. Kelly had written, but couldn’t seem to put fingers to keyboard.
Today, the blogosphere is up in arms. Bloggers are writing vitriolic, intelligent, insulted and hurt responses to Ms. Kelly’s post, and rightly so. The comments section of the post are entirely against what Ms. Kelly has written, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see the largely intelligent, well thought out responses. Marie Claire, and Ms. Kelly, are under a shit storm. I have no idea how they are going to respond to it, and as both their (formerly active) online presences’s have disappeared I suspect they’re not entirely certain either.
Maura (can I call you Maura?) did write two half-hearted apologies (that I could find) buried deep within the hundreds of comments on her post. Unfortunately, those two apologies pale in comparison to such delightful phrases as:
“I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other.”
“I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”
“I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.”
I was inspired by the incredible response of the women whose blogs I regularly read, and realized I couldn’t just sit on my feelings about Maura’s post, and Marie Claire’s tolerance of her hatred and bigotry. A disappointed tweet linking to the post wasn’t enough. This is the letter I wrote to the editor of Marie Claire (Kate Schweitzer, firstname.lastname@example.org).
I’m sure that you have been inundated with responses to Maura Kelly’s blog post “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?).” After I read Ms. Kelly’s blog post, linked to me by a fellow outraged blogger, I had an indefinable sense of unease. I wasn’t happy about what I’d read, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so uneasy about what Ms. Kelly had written.
Finally it hit me. I was reminded of the first time I heard someone use the term “nigger.” The woman who said it to me threw it out into our conversation casually. There was no hatred apparent in her voice, just a belief that she was better than someone else because she was born white and black people, well, black people were born black. I held my tongue, as we were speaking in a professional capacity, and didn’t tell her that I had no interest in speaking with someone with so much ingrained hatred. That Ms. Kelly so obviously believes that she is superior to fat people simply because she is not one of them gives me the same feeling I had while chatting with that racist woman.
This is the first time that I have ever written to an editor about my displeasure in an article or blog post associated with their publication. Ms. Kelly’s blog post, despite her half-hearted apologies buried within the dozens of comments, is an affront to everything Marie Claire purports to stand for. Your motto is supposed to be “more than just a pretty face.” I challenge you, and everyone at Marie Claire, to live up to that.
I’ve been a faithful Marie Claire reader for 13 years, and am saddened to say that I will no longer be reading. At least, not until you and your staff learn from this experience, and elevate your publication to be something I am inspired by. While I never told the woman from my past what I was thinking in the moment, I no longer wish that I had berated her, and told her to get away from me. I now look back and wish I had of found some way to be able to inspire or impress upon her that hatred is learned, and new beliefs can be learned in hatred’s place. My hope is that my reaction, coupled with the reaction and responses of everyone who took offense to Ms. Kelly’s words, will be the turning point for Marie Claire.
Good luck in your journey,
After writing my response, and hitting send, I entered a discourse with two of my tweoples. One mentioned that she would write a letter if she had time, but that she really hopes someone would organize something more performative. I am completely in agreement with her. I’ve written my letter to the editor. I’ve declared that I will not read Marie Claire again – at least not until there is a drastic change. And I still don’t feel that it is enough.
What can we do? What should we do? We fashion bloggers, body image warriors, fatties, sticks, athletes and couch potatoes. We have the power to make a statement, to make a difference. Something that will really get attention. Inspire Marie Claire, and their like-minded stakeholders to change.
The answer? To fight the hate and bigotry with love. I challenge all my blogging buddies to take pictures of themselves kissing. Kiss your partner, kiss your pet, kiss your best friend. Kiss because you love yourself, even if you struggle with how you look. Who cares what size you are, what race you are, what gender you are. Love is beautiful, and everything else is just packaging.
And Marie Claire? YOU can kiss my dimpled ass.
EDITED to add: Maura has posted an updated apology on the blog post. Personally, I think she’s close, but definitely not there yet. I certainly don’t feel that her “apology” is coming from a place of authenticity, rather that she has been pressured to make it right. I re-read her post, and she is more impassioned, more emotional and much more honest and authentic when she is writing about how watching fat people kiss on television or walking across a room disgusts her than she is in her apology. An apology, by the way, in which she attempts to avoid blame about what she has written by blaming her fat-phobia on being formerly anorexic. I’m not buying it.