Mia Freedman's Gay gaffe undermines Mamamia brand

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 14 June 2017
Lindsay Bennett

Mia Freedman has built her entire multimillion-dollar media empire on empowering women and being the voice of “what women are talking about today”.

Today, the very foundations of her empire and what her brand purports to stand for has been rocked by the incredibly "cruel and humiliating" treatment of best-selling author and feminist Roxane Gay.

In case you missed it, Freedman chronicled a long list of requests made by Gay’s publishers while arranging her visit to the Mamamia office in Sydney to conduct an interview for the No Filter podcast.

“There was also a lot of talk about chairs — making sure we had one sturdy enough that would both hold her weight and make sure she was comfortable for the duration of the interview,” Freedman said on the podcast.

“[We needed to consider] how many steps were there from the kerb to the end of the building? Were there any stairs? How many? How big was the lift and was there a goods lift? How many steps from the lift to the podcast studio?”

mamamia podcast

Gay took to Twitter to slam Freedman as “cruel and humiliating”, adding she was “appalled” by Mamamia. Mamamia has now adjusted the podcast but the damage had been done.

Mamamia has since issued an apology for the treatment of Gay, however the 600-word article is authored by the “Mamamia team”, which lacks conviction.

In the past, Mamamia has taken a firm stance against body shaming behaviour in the media, calling for the boycott of the Daily Mail for its coverage of bachelor host Osher Gunsberg, Sunrise’s Sam Armytage and many other Australian celebrities.

Freedman has even been 'fat shamed' herself several times in her long media career, most recently when the Daily Mail labelled her stomach as “confronting”.

confronting stomachMia Freedman has called out other publishers for body shaming

In an impassioned post about the Daily Mail’s “confronting” comment, Freedman wrote: “There is no one type of body that’s better than another one. I just want to see more bodies. More women. More diversity. If mainstream media refuses to give it to us and wonderful renegades like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer are forced to keep swimming against the tide of pop culture size zero, we need to help them change the visuals of this conversation ourselves.”

Spending several years in women’s magazines, including two years as editor of Cosmopolitan, Freedman’s whole premise for starting Mamamia was to give women a different platform with content that ranges from “celebrity to Syria”. She has also been very vocal in the fight for gender equality.

Freedman built her personal brand as well as her media company on the basis of supporting women - she even sits on the board of the National Body Advisory Group.

Not only does Freedman's background on this issue makes her judgement in fat shaming Gay all the more baffling, but revealing the logistics of Gay's visit actually goes against journalistic integrity.

Mamamia's culture has been called into question in the past after the speedy exit of editor-in-chief Kate de Brito, who lasted less than a year in the role. De Brito replaced Jamila Rizvi who also quietly exited the business.

Former Mamamia writer Rosie Waterland took to Twitter to express her disappointment in the treatment of Gay, saying she "failed" to educate her ex-employer.

While interning at Mamamia for three months in 2015, I experienced signs its culture did not match the female empowering agenda it pushes.

Mamamia readers and commercial partners will draw their own conclusions about whether this is a forgivable slip-up or a permanent stain on the women's network brand.

Update: Freedman has apologised to Gay.

Disclaimer: Lindsay Bennett interned at Mamamia for three months in 2015

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