This past week, noted designer and stylist L’Wren Scott was found dead of apparent suicide. Her accomplishments, of which there were many, form an impressive resume: Early in her career, Scott worked with the illustrious fashion houses Thierry Mugler and Chanel. Later, she founded her own company, LS Fashion Ltd., and became a celebrated designer whose garments were worn by countless luminaries, from Madonna to Michelle Obama. She designed costumes for several major motion pictures, including Eyes Wide Shut and Diabolique, and had under her belt several collaborations with major brands, including Barneys New York and Banana Republic.
Apparently these accomplishments were lost on many members of the popular media. To read Monday’s headlines, it would seem that Scott’s most important achievement was her romantic link to a man: Aging rock-star, Mick Jagger. Indeed, this detail was overwhelmingly deemed to be the most headline-worthy: CNN toed the line with the title “L’Wren Scott, Noted Fashion Designer, Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend, Found Dead”. Worse was BlackBook‘s headline, which disregarded the designer’s career altogether, with its announcement,”Breaking: Mick Jagger Girlfriend L’Wren Scott Found Dead”. At the lowest rung sit the publications that, in addition to denying Scott her career, denied her her name: TMZ reported, “Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend Hangs Herself,” while The New York Times tweeted, “Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend Found Dead”.
To many, these headlines are simply indicative of a culture obsessed with celebrity — Mick Jagger is a star, and the public is thirsty for his reaction. To myself and many other feminists, however, the syntax of these articles reveal popular culture’s cementing of a sad and enduring opinion — that a woman’s value and power can be discerned by her relationship to men.
We have seen this before.
The treatment of Scott’s death saddens me for the same reason I am saddened by ostensibly well-intentioned anti-rape and anti-domestic-abuse campaigns that tout slogans like, “What If It Was Your Daughter?”
All too often, activists, politicians, and members of the media use this and other similar phrases to elicit sympathy from an otherwise uninterested public — but the glaring problem, the issue that should be obvious, is this: We should empathize with victimized women — and we should mourn the death of L’Wren Scott — not because the tragic events that have befallen them could have just as easily happened to our sisters, our wives, or our mothers; and not because they lead lives adjacent to powerful men — but rather, simply, because they are people, deserving of dignity, respect, and the right to a full existence — regardless of familial or romantic attachments.
Top Photo Source: NY Times
Bottom Photo Source: lwrenscott.com