Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Should Morons Get a Voice (Even in a Shitty C-List Magazine?)

Much has been written about on the vast Internet over the last 48 hours about a Marie Claire blog post, “Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?),”* in which an admitted former anorexic expresses her disgust at watching obese people kiss each other, among other startlingly hateful, obtuse, and uninformed statements (sample: “I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over.”)

She ends the piece (which, to add insult to injury, isn’t even well-written—it’s just a stream of rambling Carrie Bradshaw-lite drivel) by asking, What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?

I realize I’m a day or two late, but I’d like to add my voice to the millions by saying: Yes, asshole, on both counts.

*I’m not linking to it, because it’s gotten enough traffic without my help.

But this is much bigger than one woman’s misguided judgment and self-hating prejudices.

Women’s magazines have been telling us to hate ourselves for years—they’ve just never been this blatant about it. Usually the message gets disseminated through more benign fare, like vapid guidelines to getting “Your Best Bikini Body Ever!” or lists of “Foods That Are Secretly Ruining Your Diet.” We also get the message through endless photo spreads featuring stick-thin models and flat-stomached celebrities (who, if we’re lucky, aren’t airbrushed beyond recognition and haven’t had any ribs digitally removed).

Ultimately I can forgive the writer, Maura Kelly. Not because she’s troubled—which she clearly is, having at one point starved herself down 70 pounds, which suggests to me that her fat hatred comes from a very troubling and personal place—but because she is not the reason this message of ignorance and hate got such a wide audience. Yes, she wrote it, and yes, it’s horrible, but for a piece to get published on the site of a national magazine, it must at the very least be vetted by an editor.

So, really, I blame Marie Claire.

I blame them for allowing the piece to be published and for giving Kelly a national platform.

I blame them for neglecting to respond to the situation—which, surely, they must have been made aware of—for a full 24 hours.

I blame them for sacrificing their brand’s dignity by ignoring the overwhelming outrage of its readers in exchange for site traffic.

I blame them for not taking the post down and replacing it with an apology, or at the very least prefacing it with one.

I blame them for—finally—responding by saying, obliquely, that Maura Kelly “is a very provocative blogger,” and that the author was “excited and moved by the responses.” (First of all, Marie Claire, that is not an apology. An apology would have included the word “sorry.” An apology would not have excused her disgusting prose by calling it “provocative.” In other poor word choices, I’m confused as to why Ms. Kelly was “excited” by the response to her piece. The comments pilloried her—is she excited about being called a “horrible human being” and “fucking bitch”? Thousands of people said they would cancel their subscriptions —is she excited about saving some trees?)

And, lastly, I blame them for being a shitty excuse for a magazine even before this idiot came along.

Obviously I’ll never buy a copy of MC or visit the site again. But while this article is the symptom, it’s not, in and of itself, the disease. That’s a much, much longer post, and a much, much larger issue. All I can do is make the choice not to read any publication, whether in print or online, that tells me—explicitly or implicitly—that I’m not good enough.

The truth is, they’re not good enough. They’re not worth our while. They’re what’s disgusting about society, not a couple of tummy rolls on a television actress.

So, what do you guys think? Magazines telling us to hate ourselves — are you cool with it? Or do you think I’m being an insensitive jerk?
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69 comments :

  1. Write on.

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  2. Excellent post. I am not cooling with the hating and I don't think you're a jerk. I can't remember the last time I looked at a Marie Claire but I'll definitely stay away from it in the airport newsstands now.

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  3. I completely agree here, I never pick up or waste my money on any of those magazines. I do not care who is sporting some extra jelly at the beach this year or who has the latest lypo. Nope, I do not care because well then I will sit there and wonder what these people have and I don't. Simple answer is money, a bunch of robbing ninjas called agents and the ability to give a mean blow job.. (just saying)
    Though there is that whole thing called freedom of speech but I think this goes a little beyond that. I believe MC clearly crossed a line and I hope this is a wake up call to those avid readers of this magazine or any magazine for that matter. That Beauty is in the persons soul, who they are and their actions. Not what they look like to the outside world. Trust me there are some very pretty plastic barbie dolls out there but their personalities stink of rotting flesh decaying for over a decade on a hot summer's day.

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  4. I think Marie Claire is turning into a piece of trash. Every few weeks they post a shitty article bashing on someone.

    This BlogHer post is a good example:

    http://www.blogher.com/marie-claire-trolls-fitness-bloggers-and-causes-controversy?from=promo

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  5. I with you Una. That MC would be so insensitive and effing stupid as to publish that crap is beyond disgusting. What right does a former anorexic have to judge the bodies of others? She obviously still has a lot of image related demons trolling around her dark and sad little brain. Shame on the editors for validating her twisted point of view!

    http://rantersbox.blogspot.com

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  6. I read that! and was astounded! She obviously thinks anyone who has an ounce of fat has it because of lack of self control. We should all have the mindset of an anorexic, apparently. She can stick it and leave my body and food decisions alone.

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  7. That article was physically painful to read on so so so many levels. I don't see how people think this is ok, when I believe it to be just as damaging as any racist, sexist, or homophobic propaganda. But you totally nailed every problem I had with it.

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  8. Bravo!
    Thank you for writing this.

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  9. I guess there are pros and cons to having freedom of speech: on the one hand, it allows unintelligent, judgmental people to spew insensitive and unfounded remarks in public forums.


    On the other hand, we get to call them out as complete morons.

    You are not insensitive - just speaking your mind - and hopefully, your thoughts are the ones that make the difference!

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  10. Carrie M3:41 PM

    Hadn't heard about it, must've been living in a hole for the last week. Immediately went online and cancelled my MC subscription.

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  11. I agree that the article never should have made it past the editor's desk. After all the positive hype surrounding the use of plus size models in magazines, who could have possibly thought that publishing this insulting drivel was a good idea?? I, however, do not limit my anger to magazines. It's the entertainment industry in general. Actresses are getting skinnier by the day. And then have the audacity to claim that they are "naturally thin." As if we're not smart enough to watch the movie from ten years ago when they were in fact a "naturally thin" size 6, as compared to the size 0 they are now. Quite frankly, I find that disgusting. It's as if entertainment is only for skinny people. Why shouldn't people be able to turn on the TV and watch a sitcom featuring real size people? People they can relate to. Many people have discussed this topic, in every type of media available to them, and have managed to do so in a neutral, intelligent manner. The fact that MC chose to publish an article on the subject written by an obviously bigoted author who was not only rude and insulting, but down right inflammatory, just reinforces why I've never bothered to read any of these magazines anyway.

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  12. Wow! Can you imagine someone writing the same thing about African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Christians or Jews? It's weird that a magazine would never consider publishing something that inflammatory about a race or religion, but they seem to think it's OK to say awful things about people who are overweight. Terrible!

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  13. No, on both counts! I think your are correct, and I don't let anyone tell me or influence me to think negatively about myself. I'm glad to see some women on television who are at a reasonable, or even relate-able weight; who aren't telling a story about the weight, and who are portrayed in a positive light.
    Thanks for speaking out!

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  14. I subscribed to help a kid with a magazine drive, but the magazine is so bad I now just throw them in the recycle bin.

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  15. I am amazed I did not know about your blog until right now! You are a fantastic writer. You eloquently put into words my reaction to this article.

    I cannot imagine there being a similar article about any other 'type' of person and there not being more national outrage.

    Finally, you're a bigger person than me because I DO blame the author. If you can write that well, you aren't allowed to claim ignorance.

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  16. I don't agree with what the writer said, and she could have written the article better and not been so cruel, but I think it's sad that opinion writers aren't allowed to publish their unsavory opinions on the internet. That's what the internet's for.

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  17. I've never read fashion & lifestlye magazines for a reason. They're unrealistic and they make me feel bad about myself. When I read the news about Maura Kelly, I just couldn't believe such hatred was published in a well-known publication. I hope she feels like crap.
    You know what's a great magazine? GOOD Magazine and other stuff like that!

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  18. Thank you for responding in the way you did. It is completely ugly what she wrote and that MC allowed it.
    It seems she never once thought about how they are humans, people too. It makes me so disgusted.

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  19. Thanks for the thoughtful responses, ladies (I think you're all ladies...)

    @Rachel: You're right, this goes way beyond magazines.. and even the entertainment industry. It's in every aspect of our culture. It's horrifying if you think about it.

    @Tsaritsa: Just to clarify, I'm all for freedom of speech. I don't think she should be prevented from expression her opinion, but I think the fact that she was given a national platform was at best irresponsible and at worst a reflection of the magazine's own prejudices. I just think there's a difference between an "unsavory" opinion and one that promotes discrimination.

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  20. First of all, I have to agree that the author and her editor should both be fired for being terrible at their jobs. Terrible writing, and the editor appears to have glanced at it, if that. Additionally, her immature and amateurish style changed a valid opinion on a controversial issue into a firestorm of insults and insensitivity.

    That says, I think that some of her points (if I am interpreting correctly through the muddled haze of her "journalism") have merit. The issue here is not demonizing healthy, normal-sized women. It is rather the glorification of a national health epidemic. Obesity is a leading cause of heart disease, high cholesterol, and type II diabetes. I don't think a TV show should be turning something that dangerous into a sitcom gag. Would we be laughing at a show about chain smokers with cancer? While obviously conditions such as hypothyroidism make maintaining a healthy weight a lifelong battle for some, this does not explain the incredible increase in obesity over the past few decades. For many people, being unhealthy in this way is a symptom of their own poor decisions. That is not an insult - it is a fact, and one we shouldn't be laughing at on TV.

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  21. another big girl blogger brought this article to my attention on monday. i am a big girl, i'm actually considered 'obese' when you look at those evil height/weight charts, which don't take anything into account but height, weight, and age. i am physically healthy, except for having asthma - which i developed in high school, when i was thinner. too thin, according to my doctors.

    i, too, support freedom of speech. HOWEVER there are editors and shit like that at magazines and on their websites. marie clare should never have published something like this on their site. it is disgusting and hateful, and i can't understand why no one noticed that - even the original author.

    personally, i fucking HATE the fact that now we're all giving this bitch her fifteen minutes of fame. tolerance is the way, people. hate and ignorance suck. namaste :D

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  22. I wouldn't want my daughter reading women's magazines, they seem more evil than fox news.

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  23. Well said, Sassy. Well said.

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  24. Kate said what I was thinking, albeit a lot more eloquently.

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  25. Okay. Now I'm pissed.

    I had gastric bypass four years ago because my weight was seriously affecting my health. I lost about 80 lbs and I'm currently a size 10. I may get down to a size 8, but never a size 0. I hate, hate, HATE that I get comments and email forwards urging me to go on this or that diet to "look even better". I think I'm pretty hot now dammit! Besides, my blood pressure is normal as are my glucose levels, and I no longer have issues with my knees. Isn't that, after all, why I had surgery in the first place? As far as I'm concerned, mission accomplished.

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  26. I just looked at it and have noticed two things:

    A.) There is now a thread of replies to her post which are interesting and thoughtful.

    B.) She apologized. Like as in "I'm sorry" apologized.

    That's just this fat girl's observation on the situation... :P

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  27. Being a guy, I would have never heard about this Marie Claire article because I don't read mindless, trashy magazines.

    Those who have read it are correct in condemning the writer and the magazine. Sadly, doing so also gives the hateful article more attention than it deserves, and I'm sure that Marie Claire is lapping it up.

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  28. Fuck 'em. I'm a skinny bitch, but no I'm not cool with it in the least. Marie Claire got this one all wrong.

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  29. Good for you! As a large sized person, I am always THRILLED when I see a true plus size (not those size 12s) presented in a positive light. I've been watching "Mike and Molly" since the premiere, and, while I wish they'd lay off on the fat jokes, I am so happy that there is a well written show on tv presenting larger people in a good light. BTW, looks like Ms. kelly did apologize... check out this article: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=11987435

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  30. Amen. I am horrified by the bullying and hateful rhetoric around the issue of weight that pervade our society. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  31. I blame Nina Garcia.

    I didn't read the original blog and don't plan on it, but I love what you have to say.

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  32. It's just controversy. That's what MC is obviously going for. There is no such thing as bad publicity! Afterall, they sometimes promote the "natural" look. Check out this link.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/18/celebrities-unretouched-p_n_541045.html

    I was actually gonna blog about this subject myself after reading the same article. Definitely hits some nerves!

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  33. andthatsnotall11:30 PM

    Thank you for saying what a lot of people are feeling: "demeaned".

    I find it disheartening that only men in movies and on tv are allowed to have extra weight on them and not be disparaged. How many sitcoms can you name that has an overweight male on a show in a lead role? I can think of 3 without even trying. But a heavy woman would be relegated to the status of a maid or office schlump or annoying part-time neighbor.

    Getting back to MC and the author, it's pretty apparent that the author has major hate for bodies (including her own) that aren't sans body fat. Allowing only 5% of the obese population a free ride from persecution due to certain illnesses infuriates me. The misperception that overweight is a result of being lazy is a stereotype that needs to be cast away.

    Fat people are the new punching bags of the 2010's. When Johnny Carson had the Tonight Show the punching bags were 'stupid Polish people'. When will people learn that it's not okay to single out any group for any reason for ridicule and insults? We - and I mean everyone - are worthy of respect and tolerance. I hope MC, the editor who approved this article and the author get lots of flak for their actions. The biggest satisfaction of all would have that magazine fold. They are doing nothing to empower their readers by making them always feel less than perfect.

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  34. I often sigh and wonder why so little of feminism took hold. It isn't even men here making women feel insecure about their bodies, but a female writer in a women's magazine, which almost certainly has a woman for an editor. On another note: you make a seamless transition from airy humor to biting commentary.

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  35. i read the first part of this blog, and then I read it again because I almost couldn't believe it.

    Eff Marie Claire for giving that stupid bitch a platform. I'm not personally heavy, but I can only imagine what it would feel like in today's society. The story is messed up, but I take comfort knowing that karma takes no prisoners..

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  36. I'm with the first commenter, and wish I'd thought of that first.

    Write on. (I love it!)

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  37. Preach on, Sassy.

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  38. For what it's worth, she did update the article with an apology. Not a great apology, in my opinion, but an apology nonetheless. She also admitted that her "extreme reaction" was probably due to her own body issues & past anorexia.

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  39. I can't see why anyone wouldn't agree with you, on all counts. I particularly loved hearing you call THEM what's disgusting about society.

    You mentioned a preoccupation with giving the bitch and that skank rag more attention than they deserve... but I think the backlash is far worth it. If journalists, bloggers, commenters and anyone in between feel inclined to speak up about the matter, then what message are most people ultimately going to get left with?

    Lastly, I haven't read you this fired up in... I'm not sure you have ever written such a passionate post in this blog. I loved every second of it. You have so many flavors of awesome!

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  40. I'm all for freedom of speech. They can publish it, but we have the right to call them assholes and to NOT buy their magazine.

    I am not skinny, but I'm sure as hell a lot healthier than an anorexic. Oh, and I had cookies tonight. So kiss my cookie-eating ass, Marie Claire!

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  41. Anonymous3:00 AM

    I think you are a darn good writer. I suppose I take it for granted most of the time by filtering out from my news feed those who don't embrace the power of a well constructed paragraph, sentence, or thought. So, kudos to you for your skills! You've made me laugh and directed me to some great internet, um, content (for lack of a more descriptive word).

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  42. I hadn't heard of this until I read your post just now, and oh it made me angry - Not you. Never you! I love your posts! - this is obviously damaging and incredibly insensitive, and it's going to hurt so many people.
    I'm appalled that an apology, a proper one, hasn't been issued.
    I'm seething.

    I'm definitely NOT cool with it - I'm an Australian size 8 and I have body issues as it is - I hate to imagine what it'd be like for someone with worse body image.
    You're not being insensitive.

    I'm going to have a cup of tea and do some angry ranting.

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  43. Jordan8:09 AM

    It astounds me that the word "fashion" (i.e. This article was from a "fashion magazine") has become synonymous with words like skinny, unattainable size 0, overpriced, and bitchfacedwhore (okay, that last one might just be my addition).
    But, in all seriousness, I find it ridiculous that fashion has turned into picking apart one another, a la high school. Fashion should be about creativity, design, and beauty. And nowhere in the definition of any of these words does WEIGHT apply. Thanks for putting this out there, Una.

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  44. Very nice piece, good work!!!

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  45. Nice one Sassy! I haven't heard about this (being in Australia) but I totally agree with you! Every 6 months or so, I have the ridiculous urge to buy a stupid magazine such as the above mentioned, and I read it just long enough to remind myself why I don't buy that crap.

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  46. I had not heard about this...but now that I have!...that magazine should apologize to the world for that insensitive journalism. I would never buy it anyways.....

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  47. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Go Una!

    My own boycott of MC is rather meaningless as I've never purchased a fashion magazine in my life. I remember as a kid at the grocery store back in the 1960's and 70's, looking at the magazine rack and wanting to buy Seventeen or its ilk and my first-wave feminist mother (who was truly the most generous and unstingy person on earth) saying those magazines were mindless junk and a waste of money. I'm afraid I've kept that lodged in my head ever since.

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  48. You bring up a great point, Sass: where was the editor? I would have appreciated a MC blog about the origin of diabetes and how to prevent it, instead of fat remarks.

    On a somewhat tangential note, I'd love to see an entry from you about how the editing of blog articles works. Now that you're doing your final HuffPo Project Runway recap this week, I'd like to know from you how HuffPo edited your words. Was there anything they wouldn't let you write?

    Keep on keepin on, Sass!

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  49. I've been a lot happier since I canceled all my girly magazines and switched to National Geographic. Way more interesting, and makes ME more interesting as well.

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  50. soupcity11:29 AM

    Great job Una, her shallowness is appalling but her issues run deep. Shame on Marie Claire.

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  51. Kudos to you for writing this and putting your name on the line for what's right. Two thumbs way, way up!

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  52. RAH! RAH! It has taken me a long time to just LIKE myself...Well put, well written! I'm not cool with magazines pointing out yet "another" flaw. And you are far from being insensitive.

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  53. I love you Una LaMarche.

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  54. MC is a joke. Never once piqued my interest.

    If the writer has a real problem with depictions of obesity or fat people, her bone should be with ConAgra and all other "food" companies that manufacture and turn food into hollow vessels of fat, calories and nothingness to turn a profit and then the television/magazine industry for its gross negligence in disguising the reality of this country's nutrition epidemic with fad diets, unattainable body images and nonsensicle standards of beauty.

    If one more website shows me how to burn off belly fat in just one step, I may spontaneously combust.

    Being a human is hard enough without people (who don't really know themselves) telling you what you should be doing or looking like.

    I stood on line at a food pantry for the first time in my life today.
    Eating healthy, fresh food is a luxury most people take for granted. It's no wonder she thinks obesity is so easily fixed.

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  55. Chrisy is Chicago6:05 PM

    Thanks Una. You are my voice on this and I thank you for responding to this idiocy in a smart way. You rock as always.

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  56. Amen! Amen! Tell it sister!!

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  57. Anonymous8:11 PM

    I think the part of the original article that upsets me the most is her saying how obesity is basically something that people have a "ton of control" over, in light of her own history of an eating disorder. She of all people should be empathetic to the struggles many people have with food, self-image, emotional baggage, etc., and recognize that obesity isn't just about bad eating habits any more than anorexia is.

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  58. RyzandShyn9:02 PM

    Your response is excellent. I agree.
    The response by Joanna Coles is simply ridiculous. I've been acrimonious since I read about this yesterday.
    I know I'm tough on myself and tend to beat myself up about..well, everything, but I also know I'm not the only woman out here doing so. It's just so difficult to feel great about yourself to start with. To have national magazines doing the beating up for us is a sad commentary on them.
    I used to subscribe to Ms. Magazine back in the day when it was delivered wrapped in plain brown paper because there was so much hatred for the magazine in it's early days. I was just out of high school, going to college, and finding my way. It made me think, question, converse, argue, and decide. It was supposed to be empowering, and it was.
    The damage done by Marie Claire to vunerable young women who might not research this article any further, just internalize it, worries the crap out of me.
    Maybe it's a hysterical reaction on my part, but I have carried extra weight around and struggled with it in all the ways we know women do, and I know that Maura Kelly's words hurt. Where's the empowerment there?

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  59. This is part of the Friday Five at Kate's Library!

    Happy Halloween, Una!

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  60. Give 'em hell, Sassy!

    I love that you wrote with such feeling and outrage. Every woman has issues about something, I would like to have larger breasts, but we don't need to give our support to anyone or anything that helps destroy our self-esteem.

    Thanks for the post.

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  61. Thanks for putting into words exactly how that stupid woman's post made me feel. I had trouble with it.

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  62. Well, at the very least, her idiocy led me to your site... and THAT I'm cool with :)

    You're awesome.

    Carry on...

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  63. @Kate, I think you're missing the point, as well as misinformed. First, there has not been an "incredible increase" in obesity over the past few decades. In fact, the rates of obesity are not growing exponentially, as we're often told. Secondly, obesity is not simply a matter of eating less/healthier and exercising more. The idea of calories in/calories out is not as cut and dry as most people think. Furthermore, there is significant evidence supporting the idea that individual bodies have setpoint weight ranges that may be outside the BMI guidelines and that weight is highly genetically influenced.

    Finally, erasing fat people from tv doesn't magically make all fat people disappear in real life. There are many many people who think like Maura Kelly, and perhaps portraying sympathetic, happy, and normal fat people on tv is an important step towards helping people like her understand that fat people aren't going to disappear and she needs to find a better way of dealing with her weight issues than being disgusted by complete strangers.

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  64. I have the firm belief that all women's magazines actually hate women.

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  65. This whole episode with MC was disgusting...Erica Kennedy did an excellent post suggesting they were "Wagging the Dog." Essentially that they created the entire controversy to get more hits and links to their site. Here's a link to Erica's post on this (it's also on HuffPo):

    http://thefeministafiles.blogspot.com/2010/10/fem-hmm-is-marie-claire-wagging-dog.html

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