I was going to spend my afternoon bashing out the stats from the latest readership audit. But, you know what? Such things are insignificant when people are hurting. And it's plain for all to see that Mia Freedman is hurting. So let's talk about Mia bashing instead.
This is not a post about obesity or gainers or fat activism – if there's one thing anorexia has taught me, it's that everyone has their own struggles, so it's best not to judge. This is a post about the media – more particularly, the Australian media's – love of a whipping girl.
I pulled up NW this week for its maltreatment of Jessica Simpson, but this is so much worse – because the likelihood of Jessica Simpson reading NW is about on par with pigs flying. Mia, meanwhile, has to operate in the media space – because that is her job. The media feeds into her blog and her other work and it, in turn, feeds off her: her opinions, her fans, her ability to string a coherent sentence together and look photogenic. Usually it's a mutually beneficial gig. But this week it took a turn for the worse.
What has happened to Mia is sort of the equivalent of showing up to work and finding that your computer has been vandalised, your desk trashed and your co-workers are saying nasty things about you (and, to top things off, someone took your yoghurt from the fridge). So you go and hide out in the toilet cubicle and cry until everyone goes home. Not fun. Demoralising.
I have just watched both the Today Tonight and A Current Affair segments, titled "Heavyweight fury" and "Mia's Fat Fight" respectively (thank you, Today Tonight, for asking permission to use my clip of Mia; oh, that's right, you didn't). And I feel about as enraged as I did when I posted about Max Markson's abuse of his client relationship with Lara Bingle and the consequent Woman's Day story and ACA segment that arose as part of the bargain. We all know how that turned out.
You need a very thick skin to participate in the media game. Mia knows this. If ACP didn't teach her, then Channel Nine certainly did. In fact, she taught us all about this in her memoir Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood. Women adored that book because it was so honest and taught us all that even successful, beautiful women do it tough in their struggle to be all things to all people. It was a very generous thing, that book. And in all my dealings with Mia since we started doing this crazy blog thing in 2007 I have experienced nothing but generosity and compassion. The lady cares about women.
But this isn't a personal character reference, either. Anyone who's visited Mamamia.com.au would know that the community she's created has been, for the most part, a very positive thing for women. In fact, it has come to play a very important part in connecting women who might otherwise feel isolated at home with their new babies, or suffering depression or are just having a shit day and want to know that other people are, too. Her "best and worst bits of the week" segment is the backbone of the blog.
This, of course, comes with its own set of problems and responsibilities. I do not envy Mia the time it takes to filter through her many comments (mostly my posts are met with the sound of crickets!), particularly the more negative ones. It can't NOT affect you. Praise God that she has a supportive family and friends and also the common sense to walk away when it gets too much.
The media too often forgets that behind the public persona there is a real person with feelings. The way Mia was portrayed, particularly by Today Tonight, and taken completely out of context (i.e. most of the references were taken from Mia's comments section, not her own words - and, yes, she does have a responsibility where monitoring comments are concerned) reeks of unfairness. And aren't we a nation about the fair go? Not in the world of tabloid journalism, my dear.
Not only was she not given the opportunity to tell her side of the story (as she was on ACA – and, obvi. she is more PBL-friendly because of her past connections), but she has inadvertently become the poster girl for fat-bashing – the woman who brought "Body Love" to Cosmopolitan magazine in the '90s, and who put size-16 Sara-Marie Fidel on a cover, is a fatist! Oh, please.
As the chairperson of the National Body Image Advisory Board, I imagine Mia has done her research: she would be fully aware of the idea that obesity is about more than "fat women sitting on the couch eating chips" but there is no ignoring that it is also a national health epidemic. As a blogger with a special interest in body image, gainers are going to be on her radar. It's important we discuss things like this. And it's her job to start discussion about things like this. I fear she may be a little gun-shy the next time around.
Mia has written umpteen blog posts about the media's maltreatment of women based on their bodies. To portray her as anything but a positive conduit for such issues is a gross injustice and lazy journalism (the media has no problem digging up the dirt from your past, but contracts amnesia when it wants to make a point that might be contradicted by such positive evidence).
The tabloid media is always going to have a field day when a prominent figurehead attracts attention from special interest groups. But to make Mia the whipping girl for fat discrimination, and suggest she be removed from the Advisory Board, is extreme and unfair and doesn't further the public dialogue about women's health in a positive way. As Pauline Hanson, who is all too familiar with media manipulation, would say, I don't like it.
"I believe that when we get to heaven, we will learn the truth about our differences. We will learn that all of us were right about some things and wrong about others. But even the things we were right about won't matter. God wants us to get along, to stop fighting with everyone over petty things we disagree about, and to begin to find the things we can agree about so that we may get along with one another. Practise looking for ways to agree with others, and then watch what God does through the unity of faith." - Joyce Meyer, Starting Your Day Right, May 14
Pic credits: smh.com.au
Girl With a Satchel