December 6, 2010

How Jessica Coen Pulled A Maura Kelly

In 2007, when Jezebel first launched, and I started reading it, I never imagined it would be deleted from my “Bookmarks” folder.  They’ve had their share of controversies over the years, but I honestly can’t remember any of them being as bad as the one that took place in the last two weeks.

November 24th, an article titled “American Guy In Paris Freed From The Idea of Consent” was cross-posted on the front page of Jezebel.  Typically when Jezebel does cross-posts or re-posts, they include a lead-in or follow-up at the bottom of the post with information on the original website, author, and possibly why it was chosen to be included.

For example, when my “10 Commandments Of Pop Culture Feminism” piece was re-posted on Jezebel in May, the following information was included:

“By Rachel O’Connor

This post originally appeared on the site Feminist Fatale. Republished with permission.

The author of this post can be contacted at

Simple referencing – who wrote the piece and where it came from.  “American Guy In Paris…” had none of the above mentioned links or explanations.  Instead, Edward Pasteck’s essay on how French women feel empowered by being street harrassed and assaulted and how consent is overrated only included a link to an email address.

If you’ve read the post, you likely already know that it was in very bad need of a lead-in or wrap-up with some sort of explanation for why Jezebel felt this was worthy to give space to.  The title, all on it’s own, is completely disgusting.  Honestly, when I finished reading it, I wondered for a few minutes if the website had been hacked – ‘surely the editors will delete this and post some sort of explanation for what the hell is going on’ I thought.  Needless to say, I was wrong.

Commenters were obviously, and justifiably furious.  (As of my writing, the post has over 75,000 views and over 2,000 comments.)  Why the hell was an essay that disputed consent being posted?  Had the editors taken into account how triggering and upsetting this would be for assault or rape survivors to read?  Apparently they hadn’t.

Now, this is where the Marie Claire/Maura Kelly comparison comes in.  The new editor-in-chief of Jezebel, Jessica Coen, offered a non-apology-apology in the comments of the original post over the Thanksgiving weekend.  She told readers that it wasn’t posted for traffic-baiting purposes, because that has no bearing on their success or paycheck (untrue – see here.)  She told those concerned about the triggering aspects of the post, that Jezebel never claimed to be a “safe space”, and that Edward Pastek may have bullshit views, but he’s articulate, thoughtful, and earnest! Attention Jessica Coen: “His misogynistic beliefs are really well articulated” isn’t a valid reason to give that type of shit space on one of the most popular feminist-leaning sites on the web.

The following Monday, Ms. Coen posted her “official” response, explaining that “Edward Pasteck” is a pseudonym, and he’ll remain anonymous.  Like Maura Kelly, Jessica only apologized for people being upset, and explained that she was just trying to start a discussion.  Apologies if this is starting to sound a lot like the Maura Kelly piece I wrote, but there are some “debates” that aren’t really debates at all – like, “Should fat people be treated like human beings?”, or now, “Why is consent a big deal?”.  Newsflash: people who think they don’t need another persons consent to touch/grope/have sex with them are criminals.

As if all of that wasn’t offensive enough, the same day Jessica Coen posted her official apology, she also posted a “Counterpoint” to the original piece.  An anonymous French woman was given space to dispute Edward Pasteck’s piece, although there was no deconstruction of any of the horribly offensive drivel he had written.  Instead the counterpoint can be summed up thusly – French women don’t really like to be street harassed.  Way to go Jezebel – you missed the point of the outrage entirely.  Soon the French woman’s post filled up with comments saying so.  Obviously the issue wasn’t “Hey! Women don’t like to be street harassed!”  Rather, thousands of readers were outraged by the “consent is for puritans and prudes” aspect of the original essay.

Apparently Jezebel isn’t concerned with keeping their reputation.  One as a blog that is feminist, forward-thinking, and progressive.  A website that doesn’t tolerate comments wherein people try to make excuses for street harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  I’ve felt the website has been in decline ever since the new editor-in-chief came on board – posts about feminist issues are more few and far between, the pages now being filled with more snap judgments and silly celebrity articles.  And as long as Jessica Coen is in charge, and the above mentioned policies are cast by the wayside, I won’t be reading.

November 6, 2010

Maura Kelly: I Don’t Hate Fat People, They Just Disgust Me

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Rachel @ 2:49 pm

The above image is a collage of cover lines from various issues of Marie Claire.

Who the hell assigned a piece about an overweight TV couple to the same writer who admits she has struggled with an eating disorder and has a warped view of weight and body image?

Maura Kelly admits in her blog post for Marie Claire, “Should Fatties Get A Room? (Even On TV?)” that she never bothered to watch the show she was assigned to write about.  Now, I haven’t seen an episode of Mike and Molly either, but I don’t need to watch the CBS sitcom to know her post is disgusting, hateful, and ignorant.

Ms. Kelly attempts to defend her position by saying, “I have a few friends who could be called plump.”  See guys, she’s not hateful and fatphobic – her best friend is fat!  Kelly writes, “…obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.”  She’s obviously just worried about the health of all those fat people.  Which apparently makes her an expert on the matter.  It’s funny, I don’t remember seeing a credit at the bottom of the post that Maura Kelly is a physician who treats every overweight person in the country, including the stars of Mike and Molly.  This faux I’M-JUST-CONCERNED-FOR-YOUR-HEALTH bullshit has got to stop.

The post wasn’t up long before everyone took notice, and the backlash began.  Maura Kelly’s article now has over 3500 responses, and Marie Claire’s Facebook Page is now almost exclusively composed of comments criticizing the magazine for the original piece and their reaction that followed (more on that below.)

Maura Kelly edited her post to include an apology, but unfortunately it’s of the “I’m sorry you were all offended” variety.  She writes, “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.” Way to nullify the rest of your so-called-apology.

What I find interesting is that in her apology Maura Kelly offered up the personal admission that she has struggled with an eating disorder, which has likely warped her viewpoints on weight and body image.  I don’t disagree, and good for her for being a little self-aware but I’m confused about two things.  First, why someone with this kind of history would want to and end up writing for a magazine that promotes the distorted thinking, behavior, and imagery that leads to this type of illness.  Secondly why she’s using that as an apology in a post that uses such hateful language that it furthers a worth-is-weight-based thinking to their female readership.

The magazine’s official response has only made things worse.  The editors are now offering posts to bloggers who disagree, under the guise of “CounterPoints” which just continues the “We’re so ignorant it’s offensive” roll they seem to be on.  Trying to “debate” or have opposing “points” about whether overweight people should be treated like human beings is beyond nonsensical.  As if they had some valid “point” to begin with.

Marie Claire has reportedly received over 28,000 responses to the piece, which makes Ms. Kelly “excited.”  I’m not sure why someone would be “excited” about that many responses.  I’m confident a majority called Kelly out on her ignorance, stupidity, and I’ve seen more than a few requests to have her fired.  Readers have cancelled subscriptions, and are notifying the magazine they will never receive a dime from them ever again.  In an economy where magazines are crumbling left and right, I’m not sure that’s something to be too thrilled about.

I’m glad to see a majority of the responses to the piece and the follow-ups have been about how awful and terrible this piece is.  However, not everyone was disgusted by Maura Kelly’s writing:

Reading through Movieline’s (the website of the now defunct magazine) blog response to the original post and the shitstorm that followed, it’s obvious they missed the point entirely. Editor S.T. Vanairsdale writes about how Maura Kelly was just trying to start a conversation about how obesity is such a taboo subject.  I’m not sure how such gems as “I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room” adds anything worthwhile to the discussion, but I fail to see it.  Someone forgot to read the actual article before bitching about the “Whining Fat Mafia”.

Like with most things in the media, there’s no room for discussion, for talking about genetics, body types, diseases, or illnesses that can cause weight gain beyond the individuals control.  People like Maura Kelly and the media have this deluded view that if they just keep bombarding us with images of skinny models, diet tips, and terrifyingly unrealistic photoshopped pictures, that everyone will just slim down to a sample-size appropriate weight.

So congratulations Marie Claire, for making me think that Glamour’s Body-Size Acceptance Policy is revolutionary.  The magazine industry is crumbling, and I feel bad for any of the smart, non-hateful writers and workers who have jobs at the magazine, but I wouldn’t be sad to see the magazine that decided to stand behind this blogger come to a close.

Many commenters have called for a boycott of Marie Claire until Maura Kelly is fired.  That’s not enough for me.  The editor-in-chief has decided to stand behind Ms. Kelly and the piece she wrote.  I just don’t see a magazine that prides itself in being so ignorant and hateful being worthy of my dollars ever again.