Mia Freedman is the founder of Mamamia and recently interviewed prominent American author Roxane Gay, who has written a memoir about her weight battles.
Mia Freedman is the founder of Mamamia and recently interviewed prominent American author Roxane Gay, who has written a memoir about her weight battles. John Fotiadis

Mia Freedman criticised for ‘humiliating’ interview

MIA Freedman, founder of women's news website Mamamia, has been criticised by a best selling American author for "humiliating" her about her weight.

Freedman interviewed the New York Times best-selling author Roxane Gay to promote her new book Hunger, a memoir discussing her lifelong battle with her body.

Gay was gang raped at age 12 and says she turned to food for comfort. At her heaviest, she weighed 261kgs and is medically classified as super morbidly obese.

Best-selling American author Roxane Gay.
Best-selling American author Roxane Gay. Jay Grabiec

When Gay's publishers were arranging her visit to the Mamamia office in Sydney to conduct an interview with Freedman for her No Filter podcast, Freedman says they had a long list of requirements.

"I estimate that there were a dozen exchanges back and forth between my producer and her people and the details of them both broke my heart and opened my eyes," Freedman said on the podcast.

"Now, I would normally never breach the confidence of what goes on behind the scenes of organising an interview, but in this case, I've thought a lot about it and the fundamental part of her story and what her book is about. She writes about it in the book, I'm sure she won't mind me telling you any of this," Freedman said.

Author Roxane Gay.
Author Roxane Gay. Jay Grabiec

"Her size is incredibly imposing [Gay is six foot three]. This is a logistical nightmare for her, there's no other way to put it. The requirements that we had to go back and forth with her publishers ... were extremely detailed."

Freedman listed some of the questions Gay's publisher asked Mamamia's podcast producer in a series of calls and emails.

"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 here a goods lift? How many steps from the lift to the podcast studio?

"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."

Mia Freedman from Mamamia photographed at her Surry Hills Office.
Mia Freedman from Mamamia photographed at her Surry Hills Office. John Fotiadis

Freedman goes on to say that Gay and her publishers requested that no photos or video footage be recorded of her.

"Originally, this interview was going to be filmed in front of the office - we sometimes do this with No Filter guests who are loved and admired by the Mamamia team," she said.

"But Roxane said no, no way. We couldn't film her under any circumstances and she wouldn't even have photos taken with anyone for private use. She was very polite...but it was non-negotiable.

That's why there is no photo of Roxane and I that accompanies this podcast or even that I keep on in my phone. and this is the first time that's ever happened. We always take photos of everyone that comes into Mamamia. It's kind of what happens. We use them on Facebook to illustrate the podcast and the post [online]."

Just hours after the interview and accompanying online story went live on Monday, Gay tweeted to her 211,000 Twitter followers that she found Mamamia's discussion of these issues to be "cruel and humiliating".

"I am appalled by Mamamia. It was a s*** show. I can walk a f***ing mile," Gay tweeted.

"'Can she fit into the lift?' Shame on you Mamamia," she added. "It is cruel and humiliating."

Mamamia has since removed the story from its website and edited the podcast description to remove details of her publisher's requests.

Oh Mamamia. When good intentions just do so much damage... this is appalling pic.twitter.com/Kni2nKpvkp

- courtney robinson (@courtney_ro) June 13, 2017

I rarely tweet, and never about my old workplace Mamamia, but I just burst into tears when I saw this. https://t.co/sqlzoQ6st5

- Rosie Waterland (@RosieWaterland) June 13, 2017

Later in the podcast, Gay talks about how her size can make it difficult for her to negotiate public spaces.

"It's very stressful because you just never know is there a space that is going to accommodate me," Gay said.

"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 that they do."

Gay, a college professor, is the author of Bad Feminist and has travelled to Australia several times before. She has appeared on Q&A and given talks at the popular All About Women and Sydney Writers' Festival events.

Mia Freedman was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and briefly worked at Channel Nine before she founded the Mamamia Women's Network with her husband.

News.com.au has contacted Mia Freedman for comment.