TV & Movies

Roxane Gay Slams Podcast for Being "Cruel and Humiliating"

Words matter and this was not OK

Author Roxane Gay in Coleman hall on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois on January 31, 2014. (Jay Grabiec)

(Photo: Jay Grabiec)

“Will she fit into the office lift? How many steps will she have to take to get to the interview? Is there a comfortable chair that will accommodate her six-foot-three, ‘super-morbidly-obese’ frame?”

This was just part of a podcast description and article linked to an interview with famed feminist Roxane Gay for Mamamia, an Australian women’s website. The best-selling author was quick to respond to the hurtful post and refute numerous parts of description of the logistics associated with her interview with Mia Freedman.

Courtney Robinson, a journalist based in British Columbia, was one of the first to screenshot the offensive description and share it—a tweet that was soon retweeted by numerous users, including Gay herself. “I saw the description and was shocked at the level of ignorance,” Robinson told FLARE. “My reaction hasn’t changed.”

Mamamia published a statement following the Twitter backlash in which they said that leading up to her visit, Gay’s book publishers contacted them to coordinate the logistics of her visit. And while they recognized that those requests—such as asking that a sturdy chair be made available—were shared in confidence, they opted to make that information public because they felt it reflected aspects that Gay spoke about in her new book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (out today).

“We felt that this was an important issue that was integral to understanding Roxane’s point of view in the world and helping people learn about and empathize with a perspective they may never have considered—just as she writes in her book,” Mamamia said in a statement. “In no way did Mamamia ever intend to make Roxane Gay feel disrespected and we apologize unequivocally that that was the unintended consequence, including to her publishing team who organized the visit and made the requests in good faith. We are mortified to think she would ever believe this to be the case or that we have upset someone we so deeply admire and respect.”

However, numerous respondents on Twitter were not impressed by Mamamia’s response.

All references to the requests made by Gay’s publisher have since been removed from the podcast description, the written post and the episode itself—although, as one Twitter user pointed out, nothing ever really disappears on the internet.

One of the (many) things Gay has taught us over the years is the power of words, and Mamamia’s words were powerful in all the wrong ways.

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