The editor-in-chief of Marie Claire has responded to the controversy over a blog post on their site entitled, "Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" by saying... almost nothing at all. Meanwhile, author Maura Kelly has apologized.
The original blog post had included passages like, "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," and a preemptive defense that some of her best friends "could be called plump."
Kelly has updated her original post with an apology, saying, "Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary; it wasn't productive, either." She also said,
I would like to reiterate that I think it's great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows—and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese. (Morbid obesity is defined as 100% more than their ideal weight.) And for whatever it's worth, I feel just as uncomfortable when I see an anorexic person as I do when I see someone who is morbidly obese, because I assume people suffering from eating disorders on either end of the spectrum are doing damage to their bodies, and that they are unhappy. But perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge based on superficial observations.
As she did in the comments of the post, Kelly reiterates her own struggles with anorexia as being linked to "extreme reaction."
Coles told Fashionista yesterday, "Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger. She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about." She also said Kelly was "excited and moved by their responses." Like her blogger, Coles hasn't seen the show Mike & Molly, which spurred the post, but "I'm concerned about a show that makes fun of large people." (Not everyone agrees with that characterization.)
Coles also says that the magazine has received a whopping 28,000 emails on the topic. Judging from that stat and the lukewarm phrasing about being "provocative," all controversy is being considered good controversy on this front.
What separates Kelly's "extreme reaction" from say, a fat-hating Internet commenter is the platform she was given in a major national magazine's web site. And while it's not clear how much oversight is given, or is logistically feasible, in such a forum, it's Marie Claire's editors, not Kelly, that ultimately is responsible for deciding what content represents their brand. That brand has included positioning the magazine as a smarter, more socially aware alternative to other ladymags — when Coles took over in 2006, she blasted the hypocrisy of previous cover model Ashlee Simpson getting a nosejob after saying you should love your body as it is, and promised to restore the magazine's place as "the smart girls' book."
Is it "smart" to alienate a major segment of your readership for the sake of provocation and pageviews? Well, she never said it was the fat girls' book.