American Feminist writer Roxane Gay has slammed women’s website Mamamia for an ‘appalling’ article that purported to share what went on ‘behind the scenes’ of an interview she had with founder Mia Freedman.
According to Dailymail Australia, On Monday, the women’s website tweeted details of an interview between the pair, saying that a ‘lot of planning’ had gone into Roxane’s visit to the website’s offices, where she was due to talk about her most recent book, Hunger, in which she opens up about how she turned to food after being gang-raped at the age of 12.
‘Will she fit into the office lift? How many steps will she have to take to get to the interview? Is there a comfortable chair that will accommodate her six-foot-three, ‘super-morbidly-obese’ frame?’ the site tweeted.
On Monday, the women’s website tweeted details of an interview between the pair, saying that a ‘lot of planning’ had gone into Roxane’s visit to the website’s offices
Roxane, who weighed 261 kilos at her heaviest, hit back on Twitter, labelling the article ‘cruel and humiliating’.
‘I am appalled by Mamamia. It was a sh*t show. I can walk a f***ing mile,’ the college professor who is author of several books including the best-seller Bad Feminist, said. ‘Can she fit into the lift?” Shame on you @Mamamia,’ she continued in another tweet.
‘Whatever, Just what the f*** ever,’ she wrote in another tweet.
The article – that was accompanied by a podcast and published on Mamamia but has since been removed – was written by the website’s founder Mia Freedman and was titled: ‘Why, for the first time, I have no photo from my interview with Roxane Gay’.
Freedman went on to explain that ‘when you’re interviewing an international guest or someone very famous, there are always logistics to be organised’.
‘But Roxane Gay’s requirements were different,’ she went on. ‘I’d estimate there were more than a dozen exchanges back and forth between my producer and her people and the details of them both broke my heart and opened my eyes.’
Freedman went on to provide details of what she claimed went on ‘behind the scenes’ while organising her interview with Roxane, who in her book details how she ‘ate and ate and ate to build my body into a fortress’ after being gang-raped at age 12.
‘Hunger is a memoir about Roxane Gay’s body. And I would never normally breach the confidence of what goes on behind the scenes while organising an interview but in this case, it’s a fundamental part of her story and what her book is about,’ Freedman wrote.
In the accompanying podcast, Freedman went further.
‘You see, Roxane Gay… well I’m searching for the right word to use here… I don’t want to say fat so… even though she uses the word fat about herself… I’m going to use the official medical term ‘super morbidly obese’,’ she said.
‘There’s obese, then there’s morbidly obese and then there is super morbidly obese,’ she continued. ‘I don’t think the scale goes beyond that. Quite literally.
‘But it’s not just that Roxane’s overweight. She’s 6ft 3 or about two metres tall.’
‘Her size is incredibly imposing. And this is a logistical nightmare for her. There’s no other way to put it,’ Freedman continued in her podcast.
‘The requirements that we had to go back and forth with her publishers who brought her out to Australia, to promote Hunger and Bad Feminist and all her books, were extremely detailed.’
In the article accompanying the podcast, Freedman, who is the former chair of the National Body Image Advisory Group, elaborated further on those ‘requirements’.
‘How many steps were there from the curb to the door of the building? Were there any stairs? How many? How big was the lift and was there a goods lift? How many steps from the lift to the podcast studio? There was also a lot of talk about chairs – making sure we had one sturdy enough to both hold her weight and make sure she was comfortable,’ she wrote.
‘Originally, this interview was going to be filmed in front of the office – we sometimes do this with No Filter guests who are loved and admired by the Mamamia team.
On the accompanying podcast, Freedman said that it was something the site had done with TV chef Nigella Lawson and American feminist writer Lindy West.
‘But Roxane said no. We couldn’t film her under any circumstances and she wouldn’t even have photos taken with anyone for private use,’ Freedman continued.
‘That’s why there is no photo of Roxane and I that accompanies this podcast – the first time this has ever happened. She explains why in our interview and we talk about the difficulties involved in navigating the world at her size.’
Critics were quick to hit back at the article on social media.
Writer and comedian Rosie Waterland wrote: ‘I rarely tweet, and never about my old workplace Mamamia, but I just burst into tears when I saw this.’
‘Fat is a description. Super morbidly obese is a judgement and jeez did @MiaFreedman enjoy sitting in her (average-sized) judgemental chair,’ wrote one commenter.
‘Can’t believe @rgay can travel all over the world but apparently would struggle in the @Mamamia studios. Right-o @MiaFreeman is appalling,’ wrote another.
‘I wonder if ‘feminist’ @MiaFreedman will comment about this awful and disgusting treatment by her comany of another woman. Disgraceful!’ another critic wrote on Twitter.
In the podcast that accompanied the write-up, Freedman spoke about being anxious about interviewing the author.
‘I’m super nervous,’ Freedman told Roxane. ‘Um… I think part of it comes from someone I admire so much and wanting you to know that without being… unhelpfully gushy.
‘But part of it comes from just being so incredibly moved by what you wrote and educated by it. Like… learning so much from it. And um… not wanting to offend or upset you but then I think, well, it’s not like anything in this book is new to you,’ she continued.
At which point Roxane said: ‘Correct. There’s nothing you can say that I haven’t already heard.’
During the podcast, Roxane said her decision to gain weight was because she ‘thought if I’m big, I can protect myself’ following her horrific gang-rape ordeal.
‘I was so little when it happened and I was so weak and they overpowered me so quickly and I just thought if I’m big I can fend them off or if I’m big, I won’t attract their attention at all,’ she told Freedman.
Roxane went on to explain her comfort eating was a ‘barrier’ between herself and the world.
‘Mostly it was a barrier, just an extra layer or three of protection but also this idea that fat women can’t get raped. At 12 that’s what I thought,’ she continued.
‘I know very different now and that it’s not about looks at all or size, it’s about violence but you know at 12 years old, you’re uninformed about sex and violence and very sheltered, the immature mind makes immature decisions.