Time to Tear Down Mia Freedman

I needed to write this piece in defense of Mia Freedman of Mamamia, because she has been an inspiration for my own writing. Whatever her detractors accuse her of in connection to the debacle yesterday with Roxane Gay, I refuse to accept that her intentions in her approach to their interview were anything but respectful and professional.

“You don’t have to knock anyone off their game to win yours. It doesn’t build you up to tear others down.” (Mandy Hale)

 

I feel for Mia Freedman since yesterday’s very public condemnation from writer and feminist, Roxane Gay, in which the author accused her of being ‘cruel and humiliating’, appertaining to comments the editor made about her weight. IMG_6039

 

For some time, Mia has always been a target of abuse that she doesn’t always deserve – some might even accuse her of setting herself up for it. When you put yourself in the public eye and work with and for women and women’s rights, you open yourself up to the firing line and some days there will be sunshine and other days, a deluge of rain.

 

To be a good writer, you have to take risks and Mia wouldn’t have reached the echelons of journalism she resides in now without thought-provoking and incendiary commentary. Most of the time, I enjoy, learn from and share her opinions. She has highlighted issues that many women face, both in society and on the homefront. From mental health, work/life/balance and parenting issues to relationship and body image issues, there are very few topics that Mia won’t touch, and I have identified with several of them at different stages of my life. Although I am not naive enough to believe that Mia’s life is similar to mine, I enjoy her quirky style, her honest approach, and her ‘close to the mark’ opinions on sensitive issues.

 

As I dip my own toes into the murky waters of journalism, I can see how hard it is to always get it right and know instinctively the location of “the line”. Sometimes I struggle to find the balance between the truth and the level of hyperbole I want to use to make a story funny or compelling enough to get noticed, even though I know that if I step over the line, to betrayal and disloyalty, a good news story can go bad very quickly.

 

The competitiveness of the media and rivalry among writers, some of whom are prepared to disclose everything, can cast a shadow over that line. And perhaps Mia, with her experience, should have known better. She doesn’t need to write click bait headlines, sell herself, or compromise her integrity at this point in her career, especially when her magazine attracts the interest of high-profile writers of Roxane’s caliber, who Mia has the utmost respect for, clearly.

 

Yesterday, I think Mia made a genuine mistake, but I don’t think her intention was to ‘shame women,’ and she has since acknowledged publically her error in judgment. I believe it is time to stop casting stones in her direction and the predictable loser’s behavior of tearing down those that succeed.

 

Sensationalism will always sell, which is why I realized a while ago that I had nothing more to contribute to Mamamia anymore unless I was prepared to sell my soul. Although I share my family’s story on my blog, it is a censored version, but I know how easy it is to make mistakes when those bright lights first begin to shine; and I have done so many times – fortunately without the ramifications of Mia’s.

 

We all make mistakes – they’re how we learn and grow and they are endemic to human nature. If there is any lesson to learn from here, it is that the only non-fiction story we are free to embellish is our own.

 

3 Reasons Why I Am Angry About Mia’s Rape Debate

Drunk Girls
Drunk Girls (Photo credit: This Is A Wake Up Call)

There’s been so much vitriol on Twitter this week relating to that article (here) by Mia Freedman on the subject of rape.

So I thought I may as well hop on the bandwagon too.

To be honest, I was disappointed at the universal condemnation Mia seemed to receive for her piece.

For these three reasons:

1. Because us women should be sticking together and closing ranks, not pulling each other apart in areas where we are working towards a common goal, such as equal rights or preventing rape.

Because it was only a short time ago that I came to the conclusion that I had always been a feminist (here) and now I’m confused again. You see, it took me a while to get there because I had always associated feminism with extremism and it scared me, even though I believed in equal rights.

Some of the negative comments and misinterpretation of Mia’s piece this week reminded me of exactly why I felt that way for so long. Much of the venom launched at her had much of those same bra-burning undertones that had kept me away, and they were directed at a subject that is not just about feminism.

Rape is bigger than feminism.

They were right about some things, though – rape doesn’t just happen to young women, it happens to women of all ages and boys and men too.

But in her defence, Mia made it quite clear that her article was addressed to people related to young girls, who have not yet been exposed to some of the more frightening realities of growing up in our society.

2. Because I felt threatened on Mia’s behalf as a writer, because I had seen writing as a form of freedom of expression and one that we should celebrate – because we live in a society where we are free to voice our opinions; unlike in many countries where women are still not at liberty to do so.

We live in a society where our opinion counts and can be the catalyst for change.

So while my opinions may differ to those of other writers, it nevertheless takes more balls for me to put my viewpoint out there, (especially about a sensitive subject), than to heckle anonymously on social media.

So although Mia’s critics may have felt the need to challenge her opinion and may have got their knickers in a twist about her stats and her quotes, is it really too much to ask for some professionalism in their responses? Was it necessary to shoot her down in such a disrespectful way?

We are adults, after all.

Recently I wrote a post for my magazine, Cowface, on the subject of marijuana (here). It is a subject close to my heart with an ADHD son who is drawn to self-medication. I researched the topic and wrote what I considered to be a fair opinion piece, not about the dangers or medical benefits of marijuana but why kids now seem to think that marijuana is safer than tobacco.

I received an aggressive comment back from a reader who thought I was against the use of marijuana, under any conditions. It was my first aggressive comment and it shook my confidence. I asked myself if maybe he was right and questioned if I was in a position to express my opinion and make it so public?

Social media has wielded a lot of power to people who abuse it.

I may not be a qualified journalist, but that does not mean that I can’t share my opinions. I don’t force people to read them, and if they do and make a comment, I enjoy that feedback and I will often look at the argument and think, yeah, they’ve got a good point. We are learning all the time – it’s part of our development.

But surely, sharing my opinions shouldn’t give my readers the power to attack me like some bully in the playground.

3. And finally, because the misinterpretation of Mia’s piece and the reaction it created camouflaged what is a good, well-intentioned message that needs to be heard. In my opinion, there was no ‘victim-blaming’ and Mia was not saying that anyone other than the rapist is guilty of rape.

Call me a fence sitter if you will, but while I agree that short skirts, alcohol and sexual provocation do not cause rape, I also agree that alcohol can make people vulnerable.

And we need to focus on the changes that will prevent rape.

Like Mia, I too have a daughter and have experienced that fear as I’ve watched her leave the house, knowing that I won’t sleep until I hear her key turn in the door.

I am also guilty of being that mother who pleaded with her daughter not to drink too much at parties; not because I believe that her being drunk would give some guy a license to rape her, but because it might lead to situations where she or her partner ended up making the wrong choices and getting hurt.

I warn my son that alcohol can lead to poor judgment calls too.

Alcohol doesn’t turn someone into a victim or a rapist, but it can blur the lines when it comes to the issue of consent.

Many of us will have experienced a one-night stand that we’ve regretted the next morning, not because we were raped but because without the influence of alcohol, we may not have made the same choices. One of our responsibilities as parents is to pass on our acquired wisdom in the hope that our kids won’t make the same mistakes as us.

They will, of course, because kids tend to ignore what their parents say, but we still have a responsibility to try and warn them about things that can hurt them.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where no-one makes mistakes. There are many issues that are frustratingly slow to change, because it is attitudes that need to evolve in terms of education and at the grass roots level.

Are rapists born to be rapists or, (in some cases), is their lack of the right nurture responsible?

Victim blaming’ and ‘slut shaming’ are heinously wrong attitudes but our main goal must be to prevent rape from happening. If warning young women and men that alcohol can inhibit their judgment, and that knowledge changes a small percentage of the rape statistics, then I don’t care if that is seen as anti-feminist.

No-one should suffer at the hands of idealism.