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Dear Maura Kelly and Marie Claire | Manolo for the Big Girl

Dear Maura Kelly and Marie Claire

I was all geared up to do a Suck It: Marie Claire and Maura Kelly for the execrable piece of trash Ms Kelly wrote and Marie Claire published that, had it been said about any other minority group, would have gotten her fired.

But I’m not.

Because rule one of being a decent human being is not to beat someone when they’re down.

Mostly I feel sorry for her. That is not the writing of a happy camper. If her body issues are so severe and long-lasting that she’s still making physical size into a moral issue to the point where she would be:

“…grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”

That’s just sad. I mean it’s outrageous and embarrassingly immature and ignorant, but mostly it’s just sad.

Think about it: Would you ever want to feel like that? What kind of life is that? How much self-loathing does one person need to have where watching fat people in the act of EXISTING is an offense? I don’t hate her: I pity her.

So Ms Kelly, here are some things you need to hear:

You are beautiful. You are beautiful at whatever weight you are now and you’d be beautiful 100 pounds from now. You might not feel it if you were fat, but I’m not all sure you feel especially beautiful now. Beauty has breadth, it has depth and the more you look for it, the more you will find. Wouldn’t your life be better if it had more beauty in it? The way to find it isn’t to narrow your definitions.

–If you rely on having a certain socially-accepted body to feel good about yourself, you are fighting a losing battle. It will hurt you. It’s probably hurting you now. It’s a shell game, sweetheart. There will always be someone younger and prettier than you are, with a “better” body. Always. God-willing you’re going to get old, you’re going to get wrinkles, you might even get fat. Gravity will take its toll and someday you and everyone around you will refer to your looks in the past tense. You will be someone who once was pretty. If that’s all you’ve got, I hate to break it to you but not liking to watch fat people will be the least of your worries.

Since you don’t have fat friends, I’ll give you a pass for not knowing that a lot of stereotypically Great Catches –you know, those David Beckham body doubles with great jobs and healthy emotional boundaries– are into big girls. Not just because “beauty is on the inside” but because they actually physically prefer overblown curves. So those rolls that make you sick are incredibly sexy to a shocking (even for me) percentage of traditionally hot guys. Being fat doesn’t mean you have to settle, it just means you’re fat. I’m a size 20. My gentleman caller is an athlete and fitness model who should be on a Calvin Klein billboard, which a) is bragging b) illustrates my next point:

The only thing you’ll get with a man who likes your physique to be just so is a guy who will leave you when you don’t look that way anymore. How can you have a successful romantic and sexual relationship if you’re constantly worried that once your package has expired (and it will expire) you’ll get tossed in the trash? I couldn’t handle that sort of insecurity and I don’t exactly suffer from a lack of self-esteem. It’s useless at best and dangerous at worst to assume you have to have a certain body to attract a man with a corresponding one.

Not all science is good science. You know how the little trope about how women’s brains are smaller than men’s was used for more than a century to support the idea that women are intellectually inferior to men? That’s bad science and it’s dangerous because it perpetuates dangerous biases. You’ll find equally incendiary-to-our-ears biases about other minorities in old textbooks. Blacks are such-and-such, Jews are such-and-such, Gays are such-and-such, all with the same result: it dehumanizes the group and by making them Less Than, thus giving society permission to treat them without basic human decency. There’s a lot of bad science out there that will “support” popular ideas. Don’t swallow them wholesale.

Fat people can be healthy, check out the Health at Every Size community. Or heck, check out my friend Kerrie and all the women like her who run marathons and triathlons as a big girl. Are you really going to call someone who can run 26 miles unhealthy? Crazy yes, but not unhealthy.

Don’t kick someone when they’re down.

Listen, Ms Kelly, the reason I’m not laying into you is because I’ve been where you are.

I’ve made an ass out of myself in print before. I said I didn’t want to look like a tranny in a pretty major publication. It was a cheap throwaway joke and because I’m so vocal about my support for GLBT issues –I’ve even driven the big convertible in a pride parade– it didn’t even occur to me that I’d offend anyone.

Wrong. I got hate mail by the bucket.

It took a bizarre personal experience of having my OWN gender questioned –and I’m just this side of Jessica Rabbit on the femininity spectrum so imagine MY surprise– for me to realize how wrong I was. I can’t know what it’s like to be born in the wrong gender. I can’t know the pain of coming out, either as gay or transgendered and having my entire world turn against me –or feel like it– just because I want to live my life honestly, and because I can’t know I have no business talking about it or making high-handed moral declarations about it.

You can’t know what it’s like to live as a fat girl in a world where fat girls are treated as less than fully human. You just can’t. All we can do is empathize and do our best to remember that everyone wants the same thing: to be loved and happy, just as they are.

What you did was dangerous and hurtful.

It was stupid too, but I don’t really care about the stupid part. I do stupid stuff all the time. Generally I’m smart enough not to publish my stupidity, but hey everybody makes mistakes.

You know first hand what it’s like dealing with an eating disorder. Do you have any idea how many of my readers –not to even think about the Fat World in general– are recovering from eating disorders and have gotten fat because their metabolic system has been permanently damaged? Do you have any idea how easy it is to slip back into disordered eating and the psychological shame spiral? I have a feeling you do. I also have a feeling that you know what a trigger is. Your little post was a great big trigger for a lot of people, I guarantee it.

Finally let me make this clear: It truly doesn’t matter to me what you think of the way I look. You don’t hold any power or authority by right of your thinness. My life is great. I’ve got a great job, oodles of fans, love, happiness, flawless tits and a freakin’  Birkin I didn’t have to pay for. I’m doing Just Fine.

What does matter to me is that you learn something.

This ugly situation can be a great jumping-off point for an open and honest exploration of your fairly apparent body issues. With any luck this will lead you to be a little more thoughtful about the reasons behind your body image issues and help you develop a more loving relationship with your own body. Other people don’t need to be bad to make you feel good. Other people don’t need to be ugly for you to be beautiful. It’s not a zero-sum game. Never has been. Your bio says you’re in your 30s and have never been in love. That’s unfortunate too, but not surprising. If you don’t love yourself, regardless of measurements, how are you going to love anybody else? Think about it sweetheart, and try to get better.

Gin and tonics,

Miss Plumcake

53 Responses to “Dear Maura Kelly and Marie Claire”

  1. Gina October 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    I love you for this, and I’m going to remember to love myself more. Thank you.

  2. vonnie October 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    awesome entry! kill them with kindness indeed over here! I couldn’t believe that was allowed to go to publication, but wow for her…..and um….does your gentleman caller have a brother or any workout buddies who are single?? ;)

  3. Toby Wollin October 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    Smoooooch. What a post. In addition, I sort of wonder (and another reason to want to give her some major hugs because she obviously needs them) what it was like in her house growing up. I’m not going to get into anything about her having an eating disorder – lots of people have eating disorders who were not necessarily living with a graduate of the Mommy Dearest Parenting Academy. But her seeming revulsion at even gazing at people who are fat certainly makes you wonder.

  4. Debs October 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    I read the piece and the apology she added after the fact which seemed a bit disingenuous. I guess I didn’t see the point of the piece. The TV show she mentioned has gotten bad reviews (at least in the SF Chronicle) for reducing the main characters to stereotypes who joke about over eating. I’m a prude (so I’m uncomfy with all sex scenes), but why would you write to tell the world you don’t want to watch fat people make out?

  5. g-dog October 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    Well, I’ll say it — I don’t feel sorry for her. Don’t like the show, don’t watch it – there is no more societal insight or implications from this show than any other. So I say — FU MK & MC and Bullshit!

  6. dcsurfergirl October 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    You’re definitely doing better than I am. I read that piece and felt disgusting. I usually shrug off that stuff but sometimes it wears me down. Thanks for maintaining a class act.

  7. Josie October 28, 2010 at 4:15 am #

    I can’t believe she used the “Before you think I’m sizeist, I have a few friends…”. Aside from insensitivity, does she get paid to write this rather dull, unimaginative averagely written chunter? Christ.

  8. Gee October 28, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    BRAVA – You rocked this response. Everything you wrote is so smart and well expressed but I have to admit my favorite line is “I’ve got ….flawless tits and a freakin’ Birkin” – perfect!

  9. Klee October 28, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    This was a beautiful, eloquent piece of writing. Brava!

  10. Madame Suggia October 28, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    You’re clearly a much nicer and classier person than I am. But you’re also right, this sad excuse for an article says way more about the writer’s issues than anything else. Let’s hope this whole debacle is the wake-up call she so dearly needs for her own sanity & self-preservation.

  11. Jane October 28, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Plummy, you are without a doubt the awesomest piece of awesome ever created.

  12. ChaChaheels October 28, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    Okay, I admit part of me feels Kelly deserves the anger she’s getting, and Marie Claire needs to lose a great deal of revenue for publishing or being affiliated with that article. To be fair, she’s taking a great deal of flack and her writing really reveals how much she hates herself more than anything else. It hurts to be judged and criticized and its hard to remember that those who apply the criticism to others are usually far more vicious in criticizing themselves.

    Your post was most generous and kind. Also, it’s perfectly correct to brag that the great catches can also desire big women because it is true! (Yay!). It isn’t the angry backlash that will open up Maura Kelly so she won’t be so obsessed about her body issues–it’s the very thoughtful and kind responses like yours that will help her finally get well.

  13. Brooke October 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Bellissima!!! You are so many flavors of awesome I just wanna lick you all over. Not literally, though.

  14. retna October 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    Ms Plummy, I read the hateful and hate-filled, ignorant and just plain shitty piece of whatever that Maura Kelly wrote, and it made me angry because my young man and I are both hefty, and it could have been us she was describing with so much disgust. But our rolls of fat don’t bother either of us, and we just keep on kissing, and loving each regardless.

    You reminded me that I’m a Christian. Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.Romans 12.20.

    Thank you.

  15. Amber October 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    Thank you SO SO much for this. You said all the things I wish I could articulate!

  16. Babs October 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    LOVE YOU, PLUMCAKE.

  17. deja pseu October 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    !!!!!!!!!! (Consider that an emoticon for a standing ovation.) Awesome, awesome post.

  18. Orora October 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Reason #832 I want to be Plummy when I grow up.

  19. kayla October 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    this is perfect

  20. Anon October 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    In addition to having a great job, flawless tits, and a Birkin for which you did not pay, you, Mademoiselle, are a CLASS ACT. Thank you for speaking the truth.

  21. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    @Gina: Thank you. It kills me how people can be so stingy with love, as if we’re in danger of running out. It’s a renewable resource so splurge some on yourself!

    @Vonnie: I’m kind of shocked it went past the publishers, but then again, Marie Claire is suffering as a publication, and look at all the traffic her screed has driven to the site. And as for my fella, he’s an only child but I’ll keep my ear to the ground for his friends.

    @Toby
    : Yeah, exactly. In the longer version of this post–yes there was a longer version– I asked a few questions about how she grew up. I may be projecting but I have a feeling she’s got a lot more in common with growing up fat than she’d like to admit.

  22. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    @G-Dog: I have no opinion on the show one way or another since my television viewing is sporadic at best. That being said, the idea of the Jolly Fat Person as television archetype bores me to tears.

    @DCSurfergirl: I’ll admit I was shaken for a minute. No one likes to have that sort of hateful ignorant tripe pointed at them. But it reminded me of a line Whoopi Goldberg (I think) said “I don’t mind it when people say the word n****r, never having been one myself.” If someone wants to call me disgusting, that’s fine. I’m not disgusting, and someone saying I am doesn’t make it true.

    @Josie: Some of my best friends are dull, unimaginative average chunter writers!

  23. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    @Gee: Well as we say in Texas, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.”

    @Klee:
    Aww shucks! The first version had a lot more F bombs and a lot fewer sympathetic hairpats.

    @Madame Suggia
    : Well let’s not start talking crazy and using the word “nice”…I just really feel for this girl. Would you trade places with a woman who was capable of writing something like that? That’s a dark place.

  24. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    @Jane: I’m not sure about all that, but I won’t try to make you change your mind. I haven’t seen you around much, come back to the fold!

    @ChaChaHeels:
    Oh I totally think she deserves all the anger. Unfortunately, I think this little kerfuffle with raise their bottom line. Traffic is traffic.

    @Brooke:
    Uh, thanks! I’m pretty sure I just taste like Scotch and Communion Wafers.

  25. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    @Retna: You know, that passage has always been difficult for me because it seems so passive aggressively mean-spirited, but you know, that’s kind of the Pauline shtick. I don’t want to lump coals on her head or for her to be punished. I just want her to see some sense and stop being a jerk.

    @Amber
    : Thank YOU. I’m usually pretty hesitant to be overly earnest and write long Come to Jesus posts, but I felt it needed saying and Lord knows I have the impulse control of a crack monkey.

    @Babs:
    Right back at you Babs! Where have you been?!

  26. Muppetchik October 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    I had the remarkable urge to literally scream “Yo GO girl” while reading this. Visceral. Animalistic. In the middle of my work place. I’m just going to declare my love right now. Plumcake I love you.
    Do your sexy self and your sexy husband want to have cocktails with me and mine?

  27. Muppetchik October 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    edit – gentleman caller, not husband per se.

  28. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    @Muppetchik: You know I can’t say no to cocktails, but I don’t have a husband, sexy or otherwise! When I do, we’ll have drinks!

  29. Emily October 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Seems like at least one editor at Marie Claire is actually backing her because she’s “provocative” and “this is a subject she feels very strongly about.” Which sounds an awful like “we haven’t been a relevant magazine for years, so we’re just going to grab on to whatever firestorm gives us a tiny shred of attention.”

    Having a writer (although I use the term loosely, given Ms. Kelly’s inability to properly punctuate her sentences) with an intimate understanding of eating disorders talk about body image in an honest and potentially provocative way is not a bad thing, but that writer had better have enough maturity and self-awareness to understand the responsibility involved in putting your intimate thoughts in print. That blog post felt like reading the diary of a tortured and selfish teenager, and it’s incredibly irresponsible of Marie Claire to consider that professional and acceptable writing.

  30. Leslie @ crunchybetty October 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Every time I read a response to this thing, I think, “Wow. Best response ever.” Until this one – this is not the best response. This is BY FAR the most compassionate, conscious, evolved response I’ve seen. Which makes it, like, the infinity best response.

    Thank you. I’ve been thinking about writing my own, but I think you just said everything I could have wanted to say.

  31. Plumcake October 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    @Leslie: Thanks! You should write your response and link back to it here. I’d love to read it!

    @Emily:
    Well any click is a good click. It makes the same amount of money. I agree entirely with what you said.

  32. littlem October 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    “and a Birkin for which you did not pay”

    LOL. Have to admit I got stuck here too.

    An elegant, graceful post. The blogosphere needed it today, I think.

  33. Julie @ The Mom Slant October 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Thanks for making the great point about triathletes and marathoners who are big girls. I’m a triathlete and comparatively small, but I’ve had my ass passed many, many times by Athenas in the water, on the bike course, and during the run. I don’t ever count out competitors based on size!

  34. julieUnscripted October 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    Wow. Well, VERY well written.
    I am eating some of my own humble pie. I wish my post would have been as full of as much grace as yours.

    I wrote Maura, and she responded via a personal e-mail and I realized that I think it’s easy for us to write about someone not realize that we are talking about an actual person, whether a fat actress, or a journalist who wrote a brutally honest blog.

    I need to take my own advice. Think twice, write once.

  35. larkspur October 28, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    Thank you.
    what a lovely, perfect response. You are so right that one’s own hang-ups, disorders, whatever you want to call it are much, much more limiting than the world is. and the world is a beautiful place.

  36. dcsurfergirl October 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    Yeah, your response sounds fab when read again!

    Maura Kelly’s post just hit me at a low moment. Hope everyone else is doing all right.

  37. Barthway October 29, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    Great post, Ms. PC.

  38. Lisa from SoCal October 29, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    Emily’s comment sums it up for me: sounds an awful like “we haven’t been a relevant magazine for years, so we’re just going to grab on to whatever firestorm gives us a tiny shred of attention.” Bingo.

    It struck me as cheezball attempt to use hate language to get a platform a la that Mimi Whatshername. It worked. Well done. No sympathy from me; they got what they wanted. It’s nice of Plumcake to try to be decent about it, but the whole shebang read like a stunt to me, like the whole Juan Williams scripted dustup. People in the publishing business aren’t that stupid.

  39. Annoula October 29, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    It’s rare that I read something eloquent and insightful that when I do, I get a bit lachrymal. Well, after reading this, I have tears in my eyes. Nicely done.

  40. makare October 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Hehe I had heard about that article but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Most of the relevant griping has been said but yet again, I love the whole fat people are a-ok AS LONG AS they are trying NOT to be fat people anymore. It’s so ridiculous it makes me laugh. It’s kind of a bitter laugh but a laugh nonetheless.

  41. june October 29, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Just – thank you for having compassion, for being wonderful and for telling her what she said was hurtful and shaming without putting her down. I couldn’t do it myself, I waited a day and I still couldn’t do it because her article made me cry and hate myself and I can’t read it without feeling like I was some sort of sub-human who should be hidden away in a cupboard and never spoken of again.

    And I don’t think I could ever think well of her, because sometimes people say things that are hard to take back and in this instance, I really cannot forget that someone called me disgusting and undeserving of love, no matter what issues they have, but thank you. For this article, for being so understanding and so beautiful.

  42. The Eclectic Tripewriter October 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Pity was pretty much my reaction, too:

    http://eclectictripewriter.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/and-they-called-it-fatty-love/

  43. Camo October 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    This is by far the best-written, most entertaining, most thought-provoking and most humane response I’ve seen to what Ms. Kelly wrote (I don’t read Marie Claire and only caught wind of this via Gawker TV).

    I hope she sees this and reads it over twice and gains some insight into what she did, what it means to someone other than herself and her allegedly (come on now, I’ll believe that by the 15th of never) shame-faced higher-ups at Marie Claire, and how she can move towards her professed goal of finding love and all that good stuff by working to quell her reflexive thought patterns. I felt sympathy by the end of things, too – except for the slap-dash, messy (heroine for heroin! Preciousness itself) quality of the thing, of course. Kudos and kadooz and all the rest.

  44. Peaches November 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Plummy, You are a better person than me. I will never read Marie Claire again.

  45. Deana November 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    I cannot express in words how I feel after reading your eloquent, beautiful response. You are most definitely one of the most gracious women I know. (And I was raised a good Dallas girl, so that’s saying a lot!) I only have two thumbs to put up, but if I had a thousand, that wouldn’t be enough.

    I haven’t read the original article and now I think I won’t. I will just go hug my husband and thank my lucky stars that we are all entitled to our opinions.

  46. Anna Lilja Torfadóttir November 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Wow, what a brilliant and mature responce!! Kudos for you!!

  47. nettaP November 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    just wanted to let you know that this post was featured in this week’s plus size round up! http://xoxonettap.com/2010/11/plus-size-fashion-tips-and-round-up-nov-2-2010/