Ticked off Tuesday questions, she was her own damn person edition


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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68 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Whenever I feel hatred for our celebrity coverage, I click on some British website and suddenly feel a lot better about it.Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    Is this partially an artifact of Twitter’s 140-character limit? After all, in Twitter, everything has to be headline-length, and headlines are always going to A.) be as sensational as possible and B.) try to pre-emptively answer many people’s immediate “who?” question (again, in a sensational fashion).

    The body of the articles I saw seemed to include her professional accomplishments, and often simply briefly mentioned her relationship with Jagger somewhere in the middle or bottom third of the piece.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “You see that stone bridge over there, laddie? I built it myself, and now all the folks from around the countryside can get to the village green. But do they call me ‘Seamus the Bridge-Builder?’ Ach, no…”Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer says:

    As a semi-high minded person whose biggest foray into Popular Culture are Doctor Who and This American Life, I don’t have much to say about celebrity culture. The closest I get to pop culture beyond some universally agreed upon goods is that there are a handful of literary authors that are probably considered middle-brow that I enjoy. John Irving and Haruki Murakami and Donna Tartt come to mind. These are apparently the “guilty pleasures” of the high-minded.

    I have a theory that magazines like US Weekly and the like are our equivalent of modern fairy tales and/or coverage of the royalty. Europe has royalty, we have celebrity. When I am at the check out line for the supermarket, I see the tabs and to me the headlines are very sensationalized versions of fairy tales and/or semi-actualized Soap Operas. Everything is a whirlwind and melodramatic both the good and the bad.

    My guess is that my describing L’Wren Scott as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, the celeb press is trying to stoke the flames of drama. I did not hear about Ms. Scott until yesterday. I don’t know whether she was a significant designer before or after she started dating Mick Jagger. I imagine most people are in the same boat as myself. However, everyone knows who Mick Jagger is and the fact of their romantic relationship can be a diving board. Was she unhappy? Was Jagger sleeping around? Did something in the relationship drive her to commit suicide? These are the questions that the yellow press will ask.

    I don’t know the target demographic for celebrity press but I am clearly not it.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Stephen King writes good modern fairy tales.
      So does Douman Seiman (warning: troll alert).

      And you’ve watched Torchwood, so that’s at least one thing pop you’ve got going for you.
      I’d be willing to bet you’ve watched Arrested Development and the Simpsons too.

      (Does One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest count as pop or high culture?)Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Counter-culture that made it big during a brief window when counter-culture asserted itself to the zeitgeist and there was a general view that being adult meant liking adult things and themes that were not readily accessible always.

        And that wasn’t what I was talking about in terms of fairytales and you know it.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        If you mean propaganda, say propaganda.
        Or say “the opiate of the masses”

        “Themes that were not readily accessible always” …
        I could quote some Reviews of Fight Club…
        But instead, I’ll simply suggest checking out School Days.
        A mark of a good writer is to take something difficult
        and make it something you cannot put down — or forget.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I think Glyph nails it above. Obit headlines and ledes are the frozen concentrate of a person’s life, and are going to accentuate whatever is most accessible to the widest audience. Take that old Mellon women that just passed. All I can gather of her existence from headlines and sub-headlines is that she was 102, was very rich, died in rural northern Virginia, and was once friends with Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    I don’t see the problem. There were headlines about L’Wren Scott’s death for those who would be interested in it; there were headlines about Mick Jagger’s girlfriend’s death for those who would be interested in that. There was more detail available.Report

    • The problem is not about how much information you, the reader, had at your disposal. I am not overly concerned with whether or not you had sufficient material to pique your interest in the story.

      The problem is that it reduces the worth of this woman’s life to the relationship she had with a famous man. Many of the tweets I saw (which had plenty of character space) did not even deign to give her name, noting merely that she was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend. Doing so is an insult to her accomplishments as a woman and a human being.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “The problem is that it reduces the worth of this woman’s life to the relationship she had with a famous man.”

        yeah, but without it pretty much no one would have heard about it unless they read nyc papers.

        mick jagger may be a great, i dunno, gardener or maybe he gives a lot to charity, but when he dies he’ll be known as the lead singer of the rolling stones. and that’ll be the sum of his life for all that most of us care.

        most of us, when we die, won’t be known as anything at all.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Twitter can’t reduce the worth of someone’s life! How can you think it could? We are more than the sum of our Twitter references.

        If there’s anyone in this story who tried to reduce the worth of Scott’s life, it was Scott. But even suicide can only speak to the subjective value of a person; that is, to their self-image.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I am not overly concerned with whether or not you had sufficient material to pique your interest in the story.

        Isn’t this the only concern of headline writers? I think it’s reasonable to ask who the headline is written for. Is it for the subject, for the readers or some combination where it is for the readers but should obey certain standards of respect for the subject?Report

      • @vikram-bath Just because it’s expediently serving a purpose does not mean it’s not appalling.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I’m not sure it’s sexist. When Lyle Lovett does, the headlines are going to be about Julia Roberts’s ex-husband.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    It’s funny, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this one.

    On the one hand, I’m on the same page as Russell regarding choosing to distill a human being down to what celebrity they did or didn’t date. It’s icky, and it makes me want to bathe.

    On the other hand, I do believe there is a difference between being famous and being part of modern celebrity culture. There are a lot of very successful actors, musicians, athletes, etc. who just do their thing and then go home and live their lives. But there’s a subset men and women in those professions who fall all over fame-meter who attach their livelihood to being “a celebrity” as part of their business model, and they collect people (spouses, lovers, friends, entourage members, etc.) who are there for the exact same reasons.

    There are a lot of US Olympic Gold Medal Champions out there that had their face on Wheaties for a couple of months, for example, and they surely all have kids and step kids at this point. And unless they’re your neighbors, chances are you know nothing about what they’re doing now. The sordid, dirty “secrets” of Bruce Jenner and his brood of reality-tv entrenched in-laws are constantly on display at your grocery store checkout solely because they actively seek to have it put there. The same was always true of Demi Moore, Brangolina, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Michael Jackson and pretty much everyone who ever dated, bounced or married any of them. As any good LA native knows, the reason the paparazzi knows where these people are going on a private night out is usually because their publicists let the photographers know in advance.

    And the thing of it is, Mick Jagger *is* one of those people and has been since the late 70s. If you go through his long list of paramours, it’s just one semi-professional union after another, each supplying both Jagger and whoever the opportunity to be in the press and promote X, all while wearing the moniker of “superstar.”

    So yeah, I find it deeply disturbing that this poor woman is dead and the one thing that is being tweeted about her is who she was dating when she chose to take her own life. But I’m also cynically aware that it was probably her own personally hired publicists, staff, and entourage that made sure to get the buzz out with an emphasis on the more-famous celebrity she was known for being seen with.Report

    • Let me put it this way — from what I read, apparently she and Mick had been together for years. Certainly for the entire time during which I became familiar with her work.

      I had no idea. At no point when Nicole Kidman mentioned that she was wearing a L’Wren Scott dress did she mention that Scott was Jagger’s girlfriend. One could be very familiar with her dresses and have no clue she was going with the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.

      But she dies? The FIRST thing that’s said about her in a major social medium, to the exclusion of her very name, was that she was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        doc, one must consider two circles – one labeled “very familiar with her dresses” and the other labeled “has heard of mick jagger”.

        one is far larger than the other.

        if i walk home today and get home safely, that isn’t news. if i get killed by a car jumping the curb, that’s a sad, minor, local tragedy as far as the population here is concerned.

        if i get run over by a car driven by justin beiber, the lede isn’t going to be “local father killed by teen in car”.

        fashion is a very small, expensive, elitist world, by its nature. it’s inside baseball.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Yeah, like I say, I have a really hard time with this.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        There was a joke the 1960s Yankees used to make. If their plane went down on the way to a road game, the headline would be “Mickey Mantle Killed in Crash. Also, 24 Others Dead.”Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Many of us, and many more people who aren’t involved in the world of fashion and design, couldn’t identify any designers at all. There are people who at best only vaguely aware that “Dolce & Gabanna” are the last names of actual people as opposed to, say, the name of an Italian pastry pairing, or who have never thought through what the overlapping “V” and “L” on all those handbags stand for.

    So an obit columnist confronting the news of Ms. Scott’s death must deal with the fact that she had notoriety in a relatively small sphere of the public, but intense notoriety with the sphere in which she maintained her orbit during life. And maybe 40 characters to convey the importance of the event — not even Twitter is that parsimonious a medium. So to make the news of her death something that a larger audience could reach, here is this very, very convenient fact of her long-term relationship, because everyone knows who Mick Jagger is, even if they don’t follow popular music. The better headlines I saw read something like “Designer, Jagger’s girlfriend, dies.”

    That’s not to say that the fact of her relationship with Mr. Jagger was the paramount fact of her existence; as Russell says, she was a person in full, and a summary of her life is the cumulation of her own achievements. But I can forgive the headline writers for using the relationship as a means of bidding for attention because that is, after all, what headlines are supposed to do.

    Condolences to her family and to Mr. Jagger and to the others who loved her.Report

  10. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I’ve got an anecdote that may lead to a nice equivalent to the Doc’s usual Tuesday inquiry. A sweet one.

    Saturday, my wife and I were driving to meet up with friends in a different area of the state; we had at least a two hour drive ahead of us. There’s a decently long stretch of highway between Here and There where we get no radio thanks to the mountains, and so we listen to music on the compact disc player.* So the one CD finishes, and my wife flips through the sleeve of CDs that I have in the car and swaps one out.

    And after a minute there isn’t much noise and I turn up the volume, and find that she has put in Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold. She grows impatient with when I listen to Eric Clapton because there isn’t enough singing — so never in a million years would I have thought that my wife would play a Dire Straits CD voluntarily and without not only prompting but actual bargaining. So I confirmed. “Honey, you know what band this is, right?”

    “No, not really,” she says, “But you like them or you wouldn’t have put the CD in the sleeve in the first place, so that’s good enough for me.”

    Me: “Well, I’m very pleased; I like Dire Straits very much. They’ve got… well, there’s lots of long guitar solos, which I think is cool but I know you don’t, really. If you want to try something else that you might like better…”

    She: “No, that’s okay. You like that sort of thing so… enjoy!” And then she sat back and waited patiently through all of Telegraph Road without saying a word, and seemed to simply enjoy that I was enjoying it.

    Can any of you tell of something a spouse or other loved one has done, inadvertently, that has pleased you similarly?

    * If you don’t know what that is, I’ve no time to explain it to you. Go ask your parents.Report

  11. Avatar Pinky says:

    And I don’t buy the idea that this is sexism.Report

    • You don’t? Huh. I sure as hell do.

      A woman, accomplished in her field (albeit one that may have been of no interest to you), is dead, and the only thing blasted out about her by numerous major media outlets in a prominent social medium is the man she was dating? Not sexist to you? They didn’t call her by name, just “Mick Jagger’s girlfriend”? Not sexist?


      I will merely note that the website to which I link in my update, written by two women and with a predominantly female readership, had roughly the same reaction to her death that I did. Gotta say, this is probably the very first time I have felt quite so palpably the gender skew of the readership here.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Wouldn’t it be just as big a problem if they did it to an accomplished but not as famous man dating an extremely famous woman?

        The sexism is in the fact that this is done to women more. Sexism isn’t inherent in the treatment; disrespect is inherent. The sexism is in the distribution of the disrespect, as it so often is.

        Incidentally, what about unaccomplished, not independently famous people dating very famous people? Does it suddenly become okay to report the significance of their deaths as related entirely to whom they dated? The alternative would be to treat them like any other death, which I suppose might be preferable for some/not for others. It seems to me there is news interest when the loved ones of very famous people die and it’s fruitless to expect news organizations not to report it. Is the important thing at least just including the name in the headline? I have to say, that just doesn’t get me that worked up at all.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        anyone wanna take a stab at writing this lede for a mass audience and not invoke you know who?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The sexism is in the fact that this is done to women more. Sexism isn’t inherent in the treatment; disrespect is inherent. The sexism is in the distribution of the disrespect, as it so often is.

        This is what so often gets overlooked. People will point to something and say “That’s sexist/racist!” and others will point to it and say “But that sort of thing isn’t at all exclusive to women/minorities!” when in fact the more accurate initial charge would be “This sort of thing is wrong, and it happens more frequently to these types of people than these other types of people”… which is a less riveting narrative, but an important one and a less dismissable one (though not one easy to prove).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        anyone wanna take a stab at writing this lede for a mass audience and not invoke you know who?

        You know who ELSE promised everyone a car…Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        In any color you want, as long as it’s black.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        OK, this isn’t a perfect example, because Patrick McDermott wasn’t a celebrity, but a person faking his own death and disappearing at sea is an interesting news story, one that could easily have garnered headlines. But those headlines all contained the phrase “Olivia Newton-John’s boyfriend”.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

        I’d say comparing Stedman who is famous for dating oprah to a woman who is famous for being a fashion designer and for being Jaggar’s girlfriend is sort of the sexism we’re talking about here. I don’t mean to call you sexist, dhex, but the comment is or is very close to sexist.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Oh, I got another one: space shuttle pilot Mark Kelly, “Gabby Giffords’ husband”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @shazbot3 comparing Stedman who is famous for dating oprah to a woman who is famous for being a fashion designer and for being Jaggar’s girlfriend is sort of the sexism we’re talking about here.

        Wait, what? Did you look at Graham’s wikipedia page at all? They don’t look like books I’d want to read, but he did write a bunch of books. And he’s a HuffPo columnist, and founded an org in 1985 (before he and Oprah hooked up) that has awarded over a million bucks in scholarships.

        Point being, he can reasonably be said to have accomplished a few things on his own. I think it’s a fair comparison. Why don’t you think so?Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        NBC News legal analyst Jay Monahan: “Katie Couric’s husband”Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        “I’d say comparing Stedman who is famous for dating oprah to a woman who is famous for being a fashion designer and for being Jaggar’s girlfriend is sort of the sexism we’re talking about here. I don’t mean to call you sexist, dhex, but the comment is or is very close to sexist.”

        maybe i am. who knows? i think this whole thing is totes crazotes, and calling her famous is, outside of fashion circles, essentially delusional. or we’re distilling famous down to a point where it means “someone, somewhere, has heard of them”. it’s possible i’m simply being an asshole here, which is fine. i probably shouldn’t even bother writing further, as i’m going to convince absolutely no one of anything other than i’m, at best, inadvertently being bigoted and blind due to my gender and other conscious and unconscious structural power relationships, but i’ve never been known for being bright.

        famous fashion designer is a category that, for the general public, probably includes maybe a dozen names. and that might be generous.

        was she in this group? no.

        i used graham as an obvious example because he does have his own business and writes books, etc. but i can’t name one of them and neither can you, because the only reason he exists in the public consciousness above the sea of other authors of that particular self-help/business genre is his relationship with winfrey. his obituaries will undoubtably include “consort/partner of…” or whatever the phrasing may be.

        mass media is inherently dehumanizing. it’s a necessary component of fame. it’s what people want, what they seek, when they try to join this particular tsunami of distraction.

        for those who know him and love his work (presuming they exist, which is probably true?) he will be incredibly dehumanized, stripped of all value beyond that of his relationship to someone of incredible fame. and very quickly his name will be as dust, while hers will likely be ascendent for at least another generation or so following her death.

        i believe that the protests to the contrary are genuinely heartfelt but a fashion circle fan/media relationship distortion effect and confirmation bias. she was, by no possible measure, as famous as jagger. she was, by no possible measure, as famous as ralph lauren (to pick an actual famous fashion designer). and so on.

        she was noteworthy to the audience beyond fashion only because of this relationship.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Dhex – You hit on an interesting point: that Mick Jagger is unfathomably famous. He epitomized the bad-boy side of the British Invasion, which was the biggest thing to happen in music during the key years of the baby boomers’ growth. He was bigger than Elvis, comparable to any one of the Beatles. And the thing he was best known for was his sexuality. He was the bad-boy generation’s leading bad boy, never handsome but always confident on-stage and scoring off-stage. Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall became household names due to his fame. I’m not saying that they or Scott pursued him for that purpose, but it’s a foreseeable secondary effect. You’d have to ignore 50 years of pop culture to not see it coming.Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    One degree of separation from celebrity always seems to get noticed.

    And Mrs. so-and-so remains a reflection of her husband, not a person in her own right, for most of recorded history; few the women who bear their own place in our tales.

    Both these things are true.

    And yes, it is very distasteful. And rude. But old habits are hard to break.Report

  13. Avatar Damon says:

    I really don’t see the big deal here Russell. The number of people who know who Scott is and what she did is dwarfed by those who know who Mick Jagger is/did.

    “L’Wren Scott just died.”
    “She was a fashion designer.”
    “L’Wren Scott. She dated Mick Jagger”.
    “Oh her! Now I know who you’re talking about.”Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      Except that telling me she’s Mick Jaggar’s girlfriend doesn’t help me know who we’re talking about. It gives an illusion of it, because I’m familiar with the name Jaggar, but for most people “Now I know who you’re talking about” is going to be more of a reference to knowing you’re talking about Jaggar than to knowing who Scott is. Telling me she was a respected fashion designer actually tells me a lot more about Scott; I know more about her when I learn that than I do when I learn she was someone’s girlfriend.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        If you’re not into fashion, the only instances of you seening L’wren is on Mick’s arm during some award function or some public event with photogs, or on E or such. You won’t know her name, but now you’ll be able to connect “that blonde on Mick’s arm”.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        That’s a pretty weak connection to anything meaningful about her. And plenty of us never paid enough attention to Mick Jaggar to know he had a blonde on his arm, or if we saw that he did, to know if there was just one or if there were a series of different ones.

        Either way, it still sounds like an implication that the meaningful thing about her was her connection to Jaggar.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        @J@m3z Aitch
        I ain’t arguing that it’s fair, correct, or anything else, but that it is.

        If you’re not in the world where someone exists, the only way to make it relevant to those on the outside it to connect it to something those on the outside might be aware of. In this case, it’s Mick.

        Frankly, to me, it’s not a meaningfull thing about her since I don’t give a damn about Mick. But I also don’t give a damn about fashion either. The writer was simply trying to connect his article to as many factors as possible to give it the broadest appeal.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I get that. It doesn’t mean that it’s not demeaning and/or sexist, though. Lots of convenient things are demeaning and/or sexist.

        Or just plain lazy.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        The fact that no one can say what’s sexist about it means it’s not sexist.Report

  14. Oh, what a relief to discover I’m not all alone in my opinion.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I’m trying to think of a single time when I’ve seen someone described as a “boyfriend,” period, in headlines announcing a man’s death. I can’t, but maybe my memory’s not what it used to be.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Is that because in all the comparable examples you can think of, the man was not described as such, or because you can’t think of any comparable examples?

        Searching Google news for “boyfriend died” gives a hit on the death of Mindy McCready’s boyfriend David Wilson, and that seems to be how it was generally reported, but as far as I know he wasn’t even a minor celebrity, so that’s not really comparable.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Yeah, I found a couple examples after searching. Even the McCready one mentions his name in the headline, though.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        There’s another level here, too. Defining a many by his proximity to a famous woman often includes some level of ‘boy toy.’ Most of Madonna’s squeezes, for instance. There is very much an element of feminizing these men into the role of sex toys, usually reserved for women.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @zic — I think it is worth teasing out how much this is a result of general power imbalances between men and women and how much it is specifically the sexist inclination to define the woman by the man. I believe both are present, but it might be nice to see how much of each is playing a role in this case.

        In any event, it does not surprise me that “girlfriend/wife of” appears much more than “boyfriend/husband of,” since our society broadly assigns more status to men, and thus we should see more men with lesser status wives than the opposite.

        Think of how many high status women turn out to have somewhat higher status husbands. (Hillary Clinton comes to mind immediately.)

        On the other hand, I suspect there is almost certainly a further dynamic, where we are inclined to see the woman is an aspect of the man, but not the contrary, and thus will more easily make the error made in the headlines above for a woman, since it feels entirely natural to the sexist people writing headlines, but it would feel “weird” and unnatural to write a similar headline for a man. In the latter case, I suspect these same writers would be inclined to find another way.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @veronica-dire I think most of it is a force of cultural habit; for countless generations, women were reflections of their fathers and then their husbands. We have the 51-volume set of Harvard Classics on the bookshelves in the library; one of the compendiums of great thinkers/writers in history, and there is not a single woman’s voice in the entire collection.

        That’s a lot of historical weight and tradition reinforcing this notion that it’s okay to see and speak and report on women as reflections, not as fully-formed people in their own right. There are, I suspect, good reasons Queen Elizabeth I and Coco Chanel never married; they, too, would have turned into shadows.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Zic – There are a few in the English poetry volumes.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @pinky who might those women be? What poems?

        The Classics, in particular, cry out for such questioning. The series is authorless—there is only an editor, conducting his chorus of texts. Yet the way those texts are selected and arranged speaks volumes—literally. To take an obvious example, the total exclusion of female authors would be impossible today; at the time, it would hardly have been noticed. But the series’ more profound limitations can be found in its treatment of science, philosophy, and literature—the most interesting and substantial of Eliot’s six “courses.” In these areas, the Harvard Classics serve as an index to just how much the world really has changed since 1910.

        souce: http://harvardmagazine.com/2001/11/eliots-elect-the-harvard.html

        This is exactly the weight of history that makes it okay for women to be only a reflection of men. Daniel Defoe has an essay in the collection, On the Education of Women, explaining how educating women would make then even better companions for men.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Volume 41:
        Anna Laetitia Barbauld
        Isabel Pagan
        Anne Barnard
        Carolina Nairne
        Susanna Blamire
        Anne Hunter
        Helen Selina Blackwood
        Elizabeth Barrett Browning

        Volume 42:
        Emily Bronte
        Christina RossettiReport

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        I already see one I missed (there are probably more) – Jean Elliot, Scottish poet, whose Lament for Flodden describes the mourning of women after the Battle of Flodden Field.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @pinky Thank you for pointing that out; I’ve got the volume (the set), I’ll peruse that more closely.

        My husband’s grandmother taught the books in the ’50s. (She was also a school board member and had a local-politics talk show on the radio.) First I heard there were no women was from her — perhaps she meant essays — poetry would be considered the ‘acceptable’ form for the ladies. And I didn’t make the above quote up; you can follow the link.

        But it still goes to my greater point of invisibility — except for a handful of poems, women were, for the greater part, not given voice; and even now, in this age where we finally begin to have our agency recognized, the weight of those mute eons shape the social norms of speech.

        We live in a remarkable time — women are gaining their voices. Though not everywhere. There is no harm, and perhaps some benefit, in pointing out this old habits. Because they do harm; a subtle current of white noise taking up the part of the spectrum where we sing.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        I don’t agree with your original point either. Were women writing essays but being ignored? Doubtful. There just weren’t many women who were educated and had free time. That doesn’t mean that they were ignored; they just weren’t creating in the permanent arts. That’s an important difference. At no point were women invisible.Report

  15. Avatar Johanna says:

    I feel like I should be outraged but in this case I am not. I enjoy fashion, but can never remember designer names. The first article I saw was a link to Vogue from a fashionista friend so the reference to Scott’s relationship to Mick Jagger was not the focus. I have to agree that rather than as an insult to her accomplishments, Jagger was really a vehicle to bringing her name to the masses.

    To James’s students and colleagues who don’t know me, I am merely his wife. To my children’s friends, I am just (child 1, 2, or 3’s mother), or someone’s friend or acquaintance etc. It doesn’t delegitimize my accomplishments. To my colleagues, friends, employees, my accomplishments are known. To many of them, James is merely my spouse accomplishments unknown.

    Context matters. Mass media of course will gravitate towards the more famous. Although I admit that it does happen that the accomplishments of women are often overshadowed by a more famous male partner, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their accomplishments are devalued by it. People in the fashion industry knew who she was and appreciated her work. The many who did not, may have looked at a tweet or article to investigate her based on the Jagger reference and in turn learned of her accomplishments outside of this famous relationship where they may have never heard of her or had an interest in her. If for instance something happened to Natalie Portman’s husband, how do you think it would play in the media? For the record, he is a pretty big name in the world of ballet but my guess is very few people would be able to name him much less recognize his name or accomplishments.

    I think this is less of a case of sexism and more of a case of uber famous person X’s partner commits suicide is a story.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      I kind of agree with this. I agree with Russell’s overall point very much, but there are certain figures where the degree of celebrity is just going to overwhelm the story no matter what. And if there are five of those people in the world, I think Mick Jagger is one of them. That said, I agree there’s no reason not to at least put the name and at least some reference to her profession in tweets, headlines, etc. It wouldn’t even get in the way of the news hook that is Jagger. “L’Wren Scott, 47, designer & partner of Mick Jagger, dead in suspected suicide.” WAY under 140.Report

  16. Avatar zic says:

    There’s an NYT piece today by Scott’s friend, Cathy Horyn, which suggest that Scott was about to announce closing her business and discusses some of the business problems she was facing.

    I learned since her death that she was planning to close her business, with an announcement on Wednesday. Still, as painful as the decision must have been for her, I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from it about her state of mind.

    The piece offers some details about Scott’s life, including the house she maintained in Hollywood, and eventually sold; it seems to suggest that she didn’t really use Jagger to draw attention to her designs, he certainly doesn’t seem to have helped her with the financial troubles she was facing in any way. All told, the weight of it leads me to wonder if she felt like she was disappearing as her own person. Partly her age (49 is about the age when even attractive women find they no longer draw the male gaze so much; they disappear), her decisions to give up her own home, the loss of her business, and the oversized myth of her life partner.

    And always, with women this age, there are some concerns of how, mentally, they’re dealing with the change — menopause. I don’t know if this is true of Scott, but is a difficult time, we don’t talk about this much; but I believe this will become a bigger story over the next decade. Until about five years ago, hormone replacement therapy helped women get through. It’s no longer there; women go through this difficult and challenging time without help, now. And without mentors. I hit menopause just as they decided HRT was dangerous; all the older women I turned to (except for two, who had an easy time) either had HRT or hysterectomies. (This hit me so hard that I had permanent migraine for over a year, and could barely speak.)

    I suspect the headlines that so offend might possibly have been the real life she felt she inhabited — becoming invisible, a reflection, and no longer a vital human in her own right with her own agency.Report