So, that whole Maura Kelly thing.
For those who haven’t seen it, basically the editors of Marie Claire asked one of their bloggers to write an article addressing the question of whether viewers feel uncomfortable watching overweight people making out on tv.
The blogger, Maura Kelly, proceeded to write an epically insensitive article implying that the mere existence of obese people is offensive, moreso because apparently they choose to be that way and could all be in perfect shape if they just exerted a little effort. Truly an unfortunate piece of writing.
Everyone’s blogging about how shocked and horrified they were when they read that post. And here I must confess that I wasn’t shocked. I grew up in a family that placed an unhealthy importance on physical and behavioral “perfection,” and any perceived flaw was treated as something deeply shameful. Seriously, everything: acne, crooked teeth, the shape of everyone’s noses, freckles, moles, the color of our eyes, the color and length and texture of our hair, the length of our legs, the slightest ounce of superfluous weight, any trace of the aging process, it was all stuff to be obsessed over and criticized, and that’s not even counting all the internal “imperfections” that supposedly lowered our value as human beings. When my children were born I was treated to earnest recitals of all their flaws, and as they grew older it was explained to me, repeatedly, why it would be unfair of me to ever expect them to amount to much of anything. About the time they started to understand sentences, I began seriously limiting their exposure to these toxic messages. I never wanted them to think that way about themselves or anyone else. I didn’t want it to be part of the air they breathed.
What I’m saying is, I wasn’t shocked by Maura Kelly’s article because I get that she was raised breathing that kind of air. And as insensitive and icky as her post was, I honestly don’t think that she was trying to hurt anyone. She was like, “Fat people, amiright?” assuming that everyone would agree with her because that’s the kind of world she moves in. And when the outrage began pouring in, she very quickly realized that she had, in fact, deeply offended a whole lot of folks, and she appended an apology to her article.
The apology just seemed to make people angrier. And meaner. As I write this there are currently 2140 comments on her blog, the vast majority screaming for her blood and her resignation. They’re calling her a bully, a mean-spirited subhuman, and a hundred other vicious things. The sheer unrestrained vitriol in almost every comment has disturbed me a lot more than the original article did. There is some very deep anger on this subject, obviously, and instead of a discussion she got a ravening mob armed with torches and pitchforks and cancelled subscriptions.
People are saying that it’s the most horrifically insulting and degrading thing they’ve ever read. Seriously? Because…are we reading the same Internet, people? There’s stuff out there that makes this sad little article look like Mother Teresa wrote it. I’m not trying to be flippant with people’s legitimate pain, but where did all this rage come from? People are saying that Maura Kelly needs to seek psychological help, and maybe that’s true, but I think it’s also true of at least half of the people who wrote those terrible comments. There’s no mercy in their words, no humanity, no sympathy for her ignorance. Just hate and hate and more hate.
This thing has been eating at my brain for a few days now. I don’t know how to think about it. Should I feel the same righteous outrage toward this misguided woman? I don’t. I think she was living in a certain kind of environment, and this experience was as much a shock to her as it was to her readers. Am I defending bigotry? I hope not. I don’t like bigotry. I just think…that a little more compassion might be in order here on both sides of this issue.
It’s Love Thursday. Today, let’s try to do a better job of showing people what love is supposed to look like.