Marie Claire piece questions whether “fatties” on TV are offensive

screen shot of article, with headline: Should

Yes, this was the actual headline, and this was an actual piece by a mainstream women’s magazine. Maura Kelley questions whether the show, Mike & Molly (which is about a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group) and others with overweight actors is too offensive for viewers:

My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese! And while I think our country’s obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it’s at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.

So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

There are just no words.

Luckily, many commenters did have words, despite the author’s contention she’s not “some size-ist jerk.” (Really, dude?) In fact, Sadie at Jezebel pointed out one awesome comment in particular worth noting, here’s a snippet:

Dear Maura Kelly, I sincerely apologize for my disgusting body and all the various rolls of fat on my person. When I married my fat husband back in June I didn’t realize it would offend anyone when we got to that “you may kiss the bride” moment, or we would have skipped it. If I’d realized how unacceptable it is for me to have love or happiness, I would have called the wedding off entirely, of course. I have told my husband that there will be no more kissing or cuddling or FATTY SEX until we both lose some weight. I hope he understands… I really am so sorry for being so fat and happy all this time! In your very honest and sensitively written article “should fatties get a room?” you write that fat people should walk more, yet you also write that fat people walking across a room is something you find disgusting. I take long walks around my neighbourhood most days, is this too much? I want to find the correct balance between getting thin and not upsetting anyone with my jiggling body parts.

As you can see, the author wrote an update on the post apologizing, but to be perfectly honest, I think this calls for more than just an “update.” You know the drill, peeps; email their Editor-in-Chief and demand that Marie Claire write a separate piece on the magazine’s renewed commitment to fight fat-shaming (or make a more public apology).

UPDATE: Marie Claire’s Editor-in-Chief has defended Kelly and her piece, saying “Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger,” adding, “She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.” Kelly is also reportedly “excited and moved” by the 28,000 email responses they’ve received. Is this a joke?

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/carlyanne/ carly romeo

    Just wanted to share the letter I wrote to the Editor-In-Chief; to me, the worst part of the whole ordeal is her half-assed apology which I think really outs Ms Kelley as ignorant, beauty-privileged, and in sincere disbelief that there are so many people standing up for “gross” “fatties”…

    Ms Coles,

    I just wanted to let you know that by deciding to run Maura Kelley’s ignorant, hateful article (whose title I don’t even want to type because it sounds SO BAD), you have lost at least one reader. Of course, I also plan on reminding ALL of my female friends who read your magazine (online and print) that you and your staff support such shameful, insulting view; so that might be a little bit more than one reader lost.

    However, I do hope you respect the readers you retain enough to demand more than a pithy “update” from Ms Kelley apologizing for the vast misstep of publishing her work. She “didn’t mean to make people feel ashamed”? Yeah, right. And, really? Blaming her fat-hating on being an ex-anorexic? Cry me a river. She just reinforced ALL the pressures that sent her in the direction of an eating disorder in the first place with her article. Please excuse me if I don’t feel terrible for her.

    Extremely disgusted with you and Ms Kelley both,
    Carly Romeo
    Brooklyn, NY

  • http://feministing.com/members/adamantine/ Adamantine

    That article was just apalling, I couldn’t believe it. I just wrote that e-mail to the Editor-in-Chief. First time I ever did such a thing. I feel a tiny little bit proud now. :-)

  • http://feministing.com/members/assiya/ Assiya

    The first sentence of this piece is about the headline from Marie Claire. But, if you are using a screen reader, this makes absolutely no sense because the “excerpt” from Marie Claire is an image with nothing to describe it.

    Where is the “we will better our inclusion of disability” that feministing promised?

    • http://feministing.com/members/miriam/ Miriam

      Just updated the alt text for the image, which is a screen shot of the online article with the headline: “Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV?).”

  • http://feministing.com/members/tmac/ Tracy

    Gah, this is awful! So awful I felt the need to come out of Feministing lurker status and finally make an account just so I could say “this is awful”. (I know, world changing insight here.)

    Your quote of the sarcastic comment about the fat people calling off their wedding and no longer having “fatty sex” made me think of this wedding video I saw on Broke Ass Bride awhile back with a larger, happy couple getting hitched. I feel like someone should make Maura Kelly watch the video over and over.

    (The one I’m talking about is the third one down called 5-Minute Wedding. )

    I now feel obliged to make out with my boyfriend in public more often, just to rile up hateful people like Kelly.

  • http://feministing.com/members/tryingtosmile/ Brekke

    It always annoys me when people insinuate that those who are “overweight” cannot be healthy.

    In the best shape of my life I could run circles around most of my friends and I was still what would be considered “overweight.” And I have a truly inspirational friend who has battled with hormonal disorders her whole life who will always be considered “obese” by current society standards but who just ran a half marathon and kicked ass! She also eats better than anyone else I know.

    I truly hate that articles like this make weight a matter of eating right and “get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week.” That is health, not weight! Shockingly, while sometimes health and weight are connected they are definitely not always connected. I wish that Marie Claire had decided to run an article on being healthy at any weight and I plan to tell them so as soon as I finish this comment.

  • http://feministing.com/members/dark_morgaine_le_fey/ dark_morgaine_le_fey

    I don’t know why everyone goes out of their way to say, “Obese people raise our insurance rates and I don’t want to pay for someone who gorges themselves to have bypass surgery,” misinformed and horrific though this sentiment is, when they really mean, “To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.” I’m at a loss for an expletive strong enough. Their very existence grosses you out?! Excuse me?! News flash, people don’t exist to be aesthetically pleasing to you! I get fired up whenever I hear hate speech, frankly, maybe we should ban people like Maura Kelley from printing anything to avoid disturbing my delicate sensitivities!

    Echo carly romeo’s sentiments about Maura Kelley’s ex-anorexic status. How does a disease about your own shame for your own body make it okay for you to degrade others for their looks?

  • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

    This is why I love the internet! Back in the day, if an essay like this appeared in print it might take months to get its author fired. Thanks to the handy embedded link, I shall write Marie Claire’s editor right now! Yippeee!

  • http://feministing.com/members/shineoutloud/ Shine

    I had to wait a day before I could write about this, because I was so angry. Not only should Ms. Kelly be seriously thinking about her rationale behind writing something so thoughtless, insensitive, and senselessly hateful, Marie Claire should be blamed for publishing it.

    I suspect that they asked her to write her opinion solely to garner such a reaction, which is completely deplorable. Ms. Kelly is still responsible for her own hurtful words.

    I wrote my opinion about this here. It’s long, but I think it’s worth it.

  • http://feministing.com/members/suzan/ Suzan Cooke

    Marie Claire… This is why fashion magazines are every bit as misogynistic and piggish as Playboy etc.
    I consider fashion to equal exploitation in the first place and in the second place I don’t need someone who better serve the world by working at Starbucks telling me how to dress and why I need expensive clothes and painful shoes.

    More importantly I am insulted by the media showing us plastic people who inhabit a fantasy world where even poor people can afford expensive clothes and 1500 square foot apts.

    I am offended by her being offended by real people.

  • http://feministing.com/members/calikak/ Beth

    This reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Mo gets plastic surgery. There’s a scene where he remembers the time that he tried out to be on a soap opera, and he overhears the casting directors saying he’s too ugly. One of them says, “I wanted TV ugly, not Ugly ugly.” I suppose the author of this article wants TV fat, not Fat fat. Mean people suck.

  • http://feministing.com/members/say0anything9/ Amanda

    Obviously Maura Kelley is not the role model we all aspire to be. But Melissa McCarthy, the “Molly” in “Mike & Molly,” is clearly a happy, healthy, self-confident woman. I watched her on all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and never once did I feel “uncomfortable” or “grossed out” by her in any scene, kissing-related or otherwise. I’ve never seen this new show, but I’m a little surprised she would choose a show that’s peppered with fat jokes. I never thought of her as a “fat actress,” she was simply an actress. I’m not sure if I like the idea of the show being centered on the characters’ weights, but I can safely say I’d rather watch a show with an actress like Melissa McCarthy than read another judgmental, sickening article by someone like Maura Kelley.

  • http://feministing.com/members/carlyanne/ carly romeo

    PS. Here is Editor-In-Cheif Joanna Cole’s statement to cnn.com about the article:

    “Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger,” Coles said. “She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.”


    • http://feministing.com/members/evelyn/ Evelyn

      lol. Someone should inform Joanna Cole that having disdain for fat people is a symptom of anorexia, not evidence that fat people are worthy of disdain. If Kelly still “feels very strongly” about fat people, then the obvious remedy is for her to talk to a therapist, not publicize her hate-speech.

  • radishette

    My letter to Joanna Coles:

    1. Please consult your dictionary or thesaurus. “Provocative” and “offensive” are not synonyms.

    2. Please also consult your calendar. The year should say 2010.

    3. And maybe pull up some recent news stories. Google “Tyler Clementi” if you need help discerning how hateful attitudes make people feel.

    The insensitive garbage you let Maura Kelly publish isn’t that different from the messages our teenagers are absorbing about whose lives are acceptable and whose aren’t. It may be more socially acceptable to bash weight than sexuality, but it’s no better. In both cases, there are real people behind those labels, and on the receiving end, it’s just as damaging. I quasi-appreciate Ms. Kelly’s update and words of apology, but even more I am disgusted with your flippant approval of her piece.

  • http://feministing.com/members/forthequeen/ mike

    I think it’s a commonly held belief that being fat and being irresponsible are the same thing. That is why she is comparing see 2 fat people walking along to drug addicts behaving recklessly. So in her mind she’s trying to look out for the common good.

  • http://feministing.com/members/nonsequiteuse/ Nonsequiteuse

    I wondered when I read the excerpt if the drug Maura Kelly mentions, “heroine,” is like the Virginia Slims version of heroin?

    • http://feministing.com/members/bookaholic/ Annie D

      Frankly I’m more amused by the idea of Kelly being disgusted by the idea of people addicted to stories of powerful women.