I don't believe Mia Freedman intentionally fat-shamed Roxane Gay.
I don't believe Mia Freedman intentionally fat-shamed Roxane Gay. Contributed

OPINION: I don't think Mia Freedman is guilty of fat-shaming

I'VE read about three opinion pieces so far today that each had some variation of the same message.

That message was one of recrimination for Mamamia founder Mia Freedman, who supposedly fat-shamed feminist author Roxane Gay after a recent podcast interview between the two women.

Now I'm not saying that Mia got it right.

She did breach confidentiality that is usually taken for granted - requests that are made by someone's agency or publisher prior to an interview taking place.

In the introduction to the podcast, Mia recounted her recollection of some of the exchanges, which apparently included whether there would be a sturdy enough chair to accommodate Roxane's "super morbidly obese" frame and would she "fit into the office lift".

Roxane, a gifted writer whose disordered eating began as a response to a childhood sexual assault, took offence to what Mia wrote - and she had every right to. It is not for any of us to dictate what does or doesn't offend another person, even one who is comfortable with talking about their struggles as Roxane is open about trying to fit into a world that often does not accommodate for her.

But last night I listened to the podcast in question.

And I found it to be an incredibly interesting, very candid discussion between two fascinating women talking about a subject that is still considered taboo.

The issue they discussed was how women's bodies have somehow become public property.

Roxanne and Mia discussed that with an emphasis on the way society feels it has a right to comment on "fat" bodies in particular - to impart medical advice, to poke fun, to judge - but isn't it true of all women's bodies?

Mia asked some interesting and challenging questions.

Roxane provided some fascinating and thought-provoking answers.

She shared what it was like to live in a world where you have to buy two seats on a plane to prevent another person from judging you.

Mia brought up some of the requests that were made on Roxane's behalf prior to the interview.

I'm not saying this to mitigate what was said in the intro to the podcast, because the intro went a lot further than Mia's questioning at the time, but I do believe the point Mia was trying to make was that society does not accommodate well for people of a larger size and those considerations often involve challenges that other people don't even think about.

Mia's words were poorly chosen.

Should she have breached the assumed confidentiality of requests made before the interview? No. She shouldn't have.

I think Mia knows that now herself and regrets her choice of words.

I'm not skinny myself. I know the frustration of trying to find clothes I like when everything flattering seems to end with a size 16.

But I am not offended by Mia's words because I don't believe her intent was to be cruel.

Like I said, no one can dictate someone else's feelings. But I guarantee, no one would feel worse that Roxane was hurt and offended than Mia herself.

The surge of outrage against Mia has been 1000 times more brutal than anything she said.

I've been worried about Mia since this story broke.

She suffers from anxiety. I do too. It's the worst feeling in the world, a feeling of dread and impending doom.

I've felt so sorry for her in the past 48 hours and I hope she's okay amidst this storm of outrage.

I feel for Roxane too - I hate that she feels hurt and humiliated and I'm not saying she shouldn't.

But Mamamia and Mia have both apologised.

Mia has changed the opening words of her podcast and the intro online.

She's doing all she can to undo the harm.

We are all human. We have all made mistakes. We've all felt embarrassment.

Can't we cut her a bit of slack? I don't think she's guilty of anything more than misjudgement.

I certainly don't think she intended to fat-shame someone she obviously deeply admires.

People who are criticising her love to say things like "women need to stick together. Women need to stand up for each other". That's true.

But that doesn't mean cutting a woman down because she made a mistake - and doing that to supposedly aid the cause of another woman is, in my opinion, hypocritical.

There's a difference between accidentally causing offence and intentionally causing harm.

Can't we admit that and back off? Can't we back off after two apologies?

Life is about lessons. Not a single person among us is perfect.

We could all try to be a bit kinder and less judgemental.



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