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Mia Freedman offers limp apology after fat-shaming feminist icon, Roxane Gay

Mia Freedman is in the process of getting absolutely scorched by the entire Internet.

The proverbial poop hit the fan yesterday when Mia released her interview with feminist author Roxane Gay. This was the intro:

Naturally, there were a lot of ‘WTFs’ thrown around for comments like ‘will she fit into the office lift?’ which are at best outrageously tone-deaf, and at worst, fat-shaming.

Gay herself, never one to stay quiet, ripped in on Twitter:

In response, Freedman served up this 600-word apology that says a lot, but also pretty much says nothing:

We are huge Roxane Gay fans and supporters at Mamamia. It was an honour to welcome the best-selling author and professor into our offices last month to record a podcast interview.

Her books and works are greatly admired, and as you’d imagine there was great excitement that she was coming into the office.

As an iconic feminist and one of the most well respected and powerful voices in feminism, Roxane Gay has long been a role model for women and someone Mamamia has and will continue to champion and admire.

You can listen to the full interview here for context.

The interview was to promote Roxane’s new memoir, Hunger (you should buy it here), which is a very personal and detailed account of her relationship with her body, her sexuality, her weight and her experience as a victim and survivor of rape. In this book she writes extensively about the impact her physicality has on her life and the difficulties she encounters physically and emotionally in navigating a world (and attitudes) that often do not accommodate someone of her size. All of which are detailed in her book.

As a publisher that’s championed body diversity and representation in the media we’re deeply apologetic that in this instance we’ve missed the mark in contributing to this discussion. We believe the conversations sparked by Roxane’s book are vitally important for women to have, and are disappointed our execution hasn’t contributed in the way we intended.

Prior to the interview, many requests were made to the producer of the episode via email and in phone calls by Roxane’s book publishers about the logistics of her visit.

We understand these questions were asked in good faith by her publishing team to make Roxane feel as comfortable as possible and we willingly answered all questions and complied with all requests. It is always our top priority that all our guests feel welcomed, relaxed and at ease.

In the context of these logistics, prompted by her publishing team, the interviewer respectfully raised them with Roxane as an example of what she writes in her book.

Roxane addressed them as follows:

“It’s very stressful because you just never know if there is a space that is going to accommodate me. Are there going to be sturdy chairs? Are the chairs going to have arms? How wide are the arms? How low is the chair? It’s just a constant series of questions that you are asking yourself every single day before you go into any space, and it’s exhausting because people don’t think, they just assume that everyone fits in the world like they do.”

We felt that this was an important issue that was integral to understanding Roxane’s point of view in the world and helping people learn about and empathise with a perspective they may never have considered – just as she writes in her book.

In no way did Mamamia ever intend to make Roxane Gay feel disrespected and we apologise unequivocally that that was the unintended consequence, including to her publishing team who organised the visit and made the requests in good faith. We are mortified to think she would ever believe this to be the case or that we have upset someone we so deeply admire and respect.

As soon as we became aware of her feelings about it, we took down the written post, edited the podcast intro and changed the podcast description to remove all references to the questions asked by her publishers and about details she said she found upsetting.

Just like her previous works Hunger, Roxane Gay’s latest book, couldn’t come more highly recommended.

Her refusal to confront the actual reason for the problem and instead concede she “missed the mark” and was “disappointed (in their) execution” has understandably pissed a lot of people off.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal today, Gay said:

“You know, it’s a difficult book to have out into the world, and it’s definitely a difficult book to talk about, because people don’t know how to talk about different kinds of bodies, and they stumble.

It’s okay to stumble – and then sometimes they just completely make a mistake, like what happened in Australia – but no, I do not have any regrets about what I put into the book.”

Sort it out, Mia.

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