Maura Kelly causes an uproar over “Fatties” post but where’s the First Amendment in all this?

Published on The Daily Femme – Thursday, Oct. 29, 2010

Contributed by Annamarya

Earlier this week, Maura Kelly, a sex and relationship blogger for Marie Claire, wrote the controversial piece, Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV?), in which she expresses disgust over plus-size people showing affection (and just existing, it seems) in response to the CBS sitcom, Mike & Molly. Here’s an excerpt:

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.

As you could imagine, it’s received heavy backlash from commenters, blogs like this one and shows like The View and The Talk. And rightfully so–what Kelly originally posted was insensitive, hateful, appalling, sizeist, and misinformed. But, as The Frisky’s Jessica Waken pointed out (and as Kelly had in her follow-up “apologize”), Kelly has a history of anorexia, so her own negative body image and “life-long obsession with being thin” may have a great deal to do with her “extreme reaction.” This, of course, is not to give her any slack for what she’s written but it does allow for a bit of insight into her mind and, if we’re to help her understand why her stance is so hurtful, we need to be sympathetic and, through engaging in meaningful dialogue, which Kelly has failed to do, show her how her words are as damaging as the words that possibly contributed to her anorexia. We can’t change her viewpoint on plus-size people by attacking her. Instead, if we’re to teach acceptance and the importance of a positive body image, we need to discuss and educate.

I do, however, disagree with one point detractors like Wakeman and  Sadie Stein over at Jezebel have brought up: that the editors at MarieClaire.com shouldn’t have published the piece.  Whatever their reasons (most theorize it’s because they knew the controversy would bring page clicks), they had the right to post it and Kelly had the right to say it. No matter how much I disagree with the post (and trust me, it pissed me the hell off not only as a fat person but as a woman), I respect her right to say it, as well as Marie Claire’s editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles, right to stand behind it. However, I will say this: the editors at MarieClaire.com should have posted a disclaimer on the piece about its offensiveness and opened up a forum to engage in positive dialogue on body image and discuss how Kelly’s post is problematic. We’re awarded the freedom of speech and press via the First Amendment and if we expect Marie Claire to censor Kelly’s offensive words then we need to look long and hard at the things we’ve written that could be construed as offensive to others. The minute a publication censors someone’s opinion, especially on a blog, is the minute I no longer trust the profession I am in.

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