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Mamamia has issued a (sort of) apology in the wake of receiving an overwhelming amount of backlash to their characterisation of an interview they conducted with American feminist and author Roxane Gay.

In a baffling attempt to promote an appearance by Gay on the Mamamia podcast No Filter, Mamamia founder Mia Freedman took it upon herself to share and, seemingly, breathlessly overstate private conversations between Mamamia’s producer and Gay’s staff about consideration’s for Gay’s weight – something Freedman herself described on the podcast as a “breach of confidence“:

“‘Hunger‘ is a memoir about Roxane Gay’s body and I would never normally breach the confidence of what goes on behind the scenes while organising an interview but in this case, it’s a fundamental part of her story and what her book is about.”

The since updated podcast episode description should give you something of an idea of what we’re talking about:

Gay, understandably, was not impressed:

It would appear she was not impressed when the interview took place either:

After deleting the article, updating the podcast description and changing the introduction to the interview, they issued an apology this afternoon. 

Over the course of the 600-word apology, they outline their respect and admiration for Gay and express how they are “mortified” that they were misconstrued:

“We are huge Roxane Gay fans and supporters at Mamamia. It was an honour to welcome the best-selling author and professor into our offices last month to record a podcast interview.

[…]

“Prior to the interview, many requests were made to the producer of the episode via email and in phone calls by Roxane’s book publishers about the logistics of her visit.

“We understand these questions were asked in good faith by her publishing team to make Roxane feel as comfortable as possible and we willingly answered all questions and complied with all requests. It is always our top priority that all our guests feel welcomed, relaxed and at ease.

[…]

“In no way did Mamamia ever intend to make Roxane Gay feel disrespected and we apologise unequivocally that that was the unintended consequence, including to her publishing team who organised 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.”

At no point, however, do they ever articulate exactly what it is they did wrong. Other than vague references to “[missing] the mark in contributing to this discussion” and expressing that they are “disappointed our execution hasn’t contributed in the way we intended“, they don’t acknowledge Freedman’s decision to make public the private discussions between her staff and Gay’s, nor their decision to overstate said requests:

Instead, it appears they are apologising for the interview itself:

“In the context of these logistics, prompted by her publishing team, the interviewer respectfully raised them with Roxane as an example of what she writes in her book.”

In their defence, they do “apologise unequivocally“, although it’s hard to be sure they know quite what they are apologising for.

You can read the full statement below:

We are huge Roxane Gay fans and supporters at Mamamia. It was an honour to welcome the best-selling author and professor into our offices last month to record a podcast interview.

Her books and works are greatly admired, and as you’d imagine there was great excitement that she was coming into the office.

As an iconic feminist and one of the most well respected and powerful voices in feminism, Roxane Gay has long been a role model for women and someone Mamamia has and will continue to champion and admire.

You can listen to the full interview here for context.

The interview was to promote Roxane’s new memoir, Hunger (you should buy it here), which is a very personal and detailed account of her relationship with her body, her sexuality, her weight and her experience as a victim and survivor of rape. In this book she writes extensively about the impact her physicality has on her life and the difficulties she encounters physically and emotionally in navigating a world (and attitudes) that often do not accommodate someone of her size. All of which are detailed in her book.

As a publisher that’s championed body diversity and representation in the media we’re deeply apologetic that in this instance we’ve missed the mark in contributing to this discussion. We believe the conversations sparked by Roxane’s book are vitally important for women to have, and are disappointed our execution hasn’t contributed in the way we intended.

Prior to the interview, many requests were made to the producer of the episode via email and in phone calls by Roxane’s book publishers about the logistics of her visit.

We understand these questions were asked in good faith by her publishing team to make Roxane feel as comfortable as possible and we willingly answered all questions and complied with all requests. It is always our top priority that all our guests feel welcomed, relaxed and at ease.

In the context of these logistics, prompted by her publishing team, the interviewer respectfully raised them with Roxane as an example of what she writes in her book.

Roxane addressed them as follows:

“It’s very stressful because you just never know if there is a space that is going to accommodate me. Are there going to be sturdy chairs? Are the chairs going to have arms? How wide are the arms? How low is the chair? It’s just a constant series of questions that you are asking yourself every single day before you go into any space, and it’s exhausting because people don’t think, they just assume that everyone fits in the world like they do.”

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 empathise with a perspective they may never have considered – just as she writes in her book.

In no way did Mamamia ever intend to make Roxane Gay feel disrespected and we apologise unequivocally that that was the unintended consequence, including to her publishing team who organised 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.

As soon as we became aware of her feelings about it, we took down the written post, edited the podcast intro and changed the podcast description to remove all references to the questions asked by her publishers and about details she said she found upsetting.

Just like her previous works Hunger, Roxane Gay’s latest book, couldn’t come more highly recommended.

We do agree on one point, you should absolutely buy Roxane’s book.

Photo: Getty Images / Graham Denholm.