Australia

Roxane Gay: Mamamia website 'humiliates' feminist author

Composite image of Roxane Gay and Mia Freedman Image copyright Empics
Image caption Roxane Gay (L) was interviewed for a podcast at Mia Freedman's publication

It was meant to be an interview to promote a book.

But Mia Freedman's podcast chat with feminist author Roxane Gay has been overshadowed by the words used to trail it online.

Ms Freedman wrote about wondering whether Ms Gay would "fit in to the office lift" and searching for a chair "sturdy enough to hold her weight".

Ms Gay called the words "cruel and humiliating". Ms Freedman apologised, saying she was "beyond mortified".

Ms Gay's book Hunger recounts her life as a "woman of size", as she puts it - she is 6ft 3in (1.91m) tall and, at her heaviest, weighed 41 stone (262kg).

Subtitled A Memoir of (My) Body, it tells how the author began overeating after suffering serious sexual violence as a child, and how her size makes the world more difficult to navigate - from deciding whether to book one or two aeroplane seats to dealing with the reactions of other people.

"Fat bodies tend to be public property", she writes, saying strangers are quick to offer her advice on losing weight.

"People are quick to offer statistics and information about the dangers of obesity, as if you are not only fat but incredibly stupid, unaware, and delusional about your body and a world that is vigorously inhospitable to that body."

While promoting the book in Australia, Ms Gay spoke to Ms Freedman for her women's website Mamamia.

"A lot of planning has to go in to a visit from best-selling author, college professor and writer Roxane Gray," the podcast description started.

"Will she fit into the office lift? How many steps will she have to take to get to the interview?"

It continued: "None of this is disclosed with a mean spirit, it's part of what Roxane writes about in her new book Hunger."

Image copyright @courtney_ro
Image caption A screengrab of the original podcast description was shared on Twitter

But in response, Ms Gay tweeted that she was "appalled", that the words were "cruel and humiliating", the situation was "disgusting and shameful".

"I can walk a f***ing mile," she wrote.

Later, she wrote about her reaction to media attention being wrested away from the launch of the book.

Image copyright @rgay

The podcast description was changed online and Ms Freedman published a long statement apologising and saying the experience had been an "extraordinarily searing lesson".

"This is not my story to tell and I should not have included it in the intro to the podcast or the podcast description. It was disrespectful and it upset her and for that I am deeply, deeply sorry. Unconditionally sorry.

"I am beyond mortified, horrified and ashamed that I could have, in any way contributed to Roxane Gay feeling anything other than fierce, brilliant and beautiful."

The fallout has been covered in several media outlets around the world, and the Sydney Morning Herald published a piece saying it might harm Mamamia's plans to expand its readership in the US.

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