Australia: We’re not all white, middle class and thin

It hasn't been a good time for our image of ourself as a tolerant, cosmopolitan society that is comfortable in the 21st-century world.

First up, Mia Freedman, the publisher of the Mamamia website, made a hash of a podcast interview with Roxane Gay.

Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, a book about her life as a black, queer, fat woman.

In her introduction to the podcast, Freedman described Gay as "super-morbidly obese" and wondered whether she would fit into the office lift.

Social media had a field day, and Freedman – whose website describes itself as the "largest independent women's website in Australia" – was lashed for her lack of understanding of contemporary feminism.

Then ABC Melbourne radio presenter Red Symons asked ABC podcaster Beverley Wang whether she was "yellow" and wondered, "What's the deal with Asians?"

Symons got into a long and awkward exchange with Wang about her podcast, It's Not a Race, fumbling around with assumptions about her name and appearance. Wang was born in Canada of Taiwanese descent.

Freedman and Symons aren't conservatives: they both pass for voices of the liberal middle. And this isn't about beating up on them as individuals. Many of us stumble treading this path.

But these stumbles paint a picture of a public class struggling with the complexities of identity in the 21st century.

We seem unable to find the language to discuss race, class, gender and culture, and keep projecting a picture of Australia as white, middle class, and only aware of difference as difference from itself – a picture that is out of step with many ordinary Australians' experience.

It really makes you feel like you must be living on an island somewhere a long way away from the rest of the human race.

Matt Holden, Fairfax Media