Mia Freedman is an ex-editor of Australian Cosmopolitan magazine, and now a blogger and supposed advocate for body image. Recently she came under fire for a post about gainerism and using language that painted all fat people in a really awful way. She did not moderate the hateful comments on the post, and in fact edited the original post to remove a lot of the insulting tone initially used. The incident was taken to hack-current affairs programs Today Tonight and A Current Affair, and my husband Nick was also interviewed on MTR regarding the whole thing. Ms Freedman was not painted in a favourable light and I think that instead of listening to the criticism and learning not to be so bloody offensive she is dwelling quite comfortably in her, how do you say, butthurt.
She is continuing to advocate for body image in the most ass-backwards way by posting photos of celebrities and inviting comment on what these women look like. Kathleen rightly said earlier on twitter:
.@miafreedman still doesn’t get that women criticising other women on her Frock Watch feature is not body image positive, it’s hateful.
This is one of the things I find so offensive about her position in Australia as a body image expert. Having kept relatively quiet throughout the last incident (I chose not to engage much because I don’t have to fight every battle, it’d be bloody tiring if I was obligated to do that!) I decided to comment this time, because I am particularly sensitive about fashion and body snark. I used to participate in it myself. I’m not perfect. When I read chapter ten in Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby‘s book, Screw Inner Beauty called “Stop Judging Other Women” I resolved to cut that shit out. Because, (and I’m quoting from the book here):
“At some point in your adult life, you’ve probably walked into a party and felt a frisson of relief upon discovering at least one woman there who was fatter, uglier, and/or dressed more inappropriately than you. We sure have. But if you want to have any hope of making peace with your own body, you need to knock that shit off.
We’re not even telling you to stop just because it’s nasty, petty, and beneath you to judge other women so harshly; it is, but because you’re not a saint, and neither are we. We’re telling you to stop because it’s actually in your own self-interest to stop being such a bitch. ‘Cause you know what happens when you quit saying that crap about other women? You magically stop saying it about yourself so much, too.
Judging other women negatively creates a constant stream of nasty thoughts in your head. It is inevitable that you will end up applying those same standards to yourself. We think we’re building ourselves up when we do this but, really, we’re just tearing other people down to our level. And we hate to go all Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on you, but tearing other people down isn’t really productive. It leaves you in the same place you started, which is full of loathing for your own body.”
Do you want to know something? My life has changed. Cutting out most of the snark on other women has been revolutionary for my self esteem and my body image. I feel mentally healthier, something that is really NOT talked about by these national figureheads for body image. Tell me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the point? Paying lip-service via stunts like not retouching Sarah Murdoch makes me upset and it completely misses the point.
Ms. Freedman, I implore you to pick up this book. Body image isn’t just about not retouching photographs of models who already enjoy the beauty privilege that most of us beat ourselves up about. It’s a lot of hard work, it involves unlearning most of the things society has taught us about femininity. You can’t sit on a panel like this then post things like Frock Watch and expect to be taken seriously about body positivity. It makes women feel bad. It’s not just about taking celebrities down a few pegs, because they’ve somehow got an extra few pegs and can afford it. That is messed up. Frock Watch, and indeed any snarky activity like it, negatively impacts on every person who views and participates in it.