Writing this piece was a particularly interesting and challenging thing for me to do, as I had very recently been intellectually invested in the works of both the women involved – Mia Freedman and Roxane Gay – for two different publications, for reasons other than this story. This story provided an unexpected bridge between two journalistic realms that I had assumed would rarely, if ever, meet.
I write for The Beast magazine, which is a monthly local magazine that is distributed for free to sixty thousand of the wealthiest homes in Australia. I had interviewed Mia Freedman for our June cover, and was pleasantly surprised by her intelligence and generally ‘woke’ answers. I was prepared for a lot of white feminism and faux pas, but they didn’t come. The interview we published reflected that experience, but I felt uneasy about not interrogating Mamamia’s ethos further.
I also work at LOTL, which is Australia’s longest running lesbian magazine. While Roxane Gay was in Sydney for the Writer’s Festival, I was in talks with her publisher to do an interview with her for LOTL, and as such I read all of her published works and thought a lot about her writing. I am also currently enrolled in a PhD in English Literature at the University of Sydney, looking at queer fiction in the digital age – thusly Gay’s work and its digital reception is of academic interest to me also. The Gay interview ended up falling through, unfortunately.
And then the Mamamia x Roxane Gay podcast debacle unfolded, and the narratives of two very different writers, let alone two women with very different conceptions of feminism and writing, were for a time folded into one.
I felt compelled to write about it – because the conflict that occurred and is occurring between these two women and their ‘schools’ of feminism is deeply culturally relevant, and also because I felt that readers would benefit from the perspective of someone who had actually read Gay’s work in great detail, and was able to pinpoint themes in her work that were salient to the ‘breaking news’ story – making it more than just front page fodder, but also meditation on experiencing trauma, and who can write about it authentically.