The popular blogger and social commentator, Mia Freedman, found herself at the centre of yet another media controversy yesterday, after obesity advocates took offense to comments posted on her website. In a move reminiscent of the recent sacking of Catherine Deveny by The Age newspaper, Freedman’s critics are now calling on the Government to remove her as Chair of the National Body Image Advisory Group.
The Herald Sun, A Current Affair and Today Tonight, have all run stories criticising Freedman for her commentary on what she calls ‘gainer blogs’ that are ‘glorifying obesity’. The controversial blogger also became a hot topic of conversation on talkback radio yesterday, when Steve Vizard interviewed ‘fat activist’ (his words not mine) and founder of the website The Axis Of Fat, Nick Perkins.
This is not the first time the high profile blogger has been the subject of media controversy. In September 2009, Freedman was criticised by social commentator Suzanne Mostyn, for posting a link to a YouTube video on Twitter with the words: “Made me laugh. Rusty the narcoleptic dog”. Writing in The Australian newspaper, Ms Mostyn, whose 9 year old son has narcolepsy, urged Freedman to think before she tweets.
So what is going on here? Is Freedman being unfairly targeted?
What Freedman is experiencing is the downside of every success story. The more popular you become, the more you open yourself up to public scrutiny and criticism. Had the same comments been posted on some obscure website, no-one would bat an eyelid. But when a high profile figure such as Mia Freedman speaks, everybody, and that includes the cruel and the ignorant, listens and that’s what her critics are afraid of.
In her response to yesterday’s controversy, Freedman admitted she’s been scratching her head trying to figure out what she did wrong. She points to the fact that she didn’t personally write anything derogatory about the individuals who suffer from obesity. I beg to differ.
Freedman’s post was written to invite negative comments about obesity and by neglecting to moderate the discussion that followed, Freedman has demonstrated her ignorance in regards to this issue. How can someone who Chairs the National Body Image Advisory Group, not be aware of the discrimination faced by the obese in our society? Perhaps she isn’t the best person to be advising the Government on body image.
Freedman maintains she owns her mistakes. But what she really needs to ‘own’ is the level of influence she now has in our community. Her high public profile and increasing popularity was no accident. Freedman has worked hard to establish her position in the community and whilst I do admit at times I envy her position, what I do not envy is the level of responsibility she must carry on those small shoulders.