Snared a rock star? They're asking for it

Insensitive reporting of the death of L'Wren Scott conforms to a pattern of media coverage of women who ‘get above themselves’

Share

It is a well-known fact in some circles that rock stars suffer from "toxic girlfriend" syndrome. After dating their rock gods for just a few years, these women inexplicably decide they've had enough; they expect to meet the family, move in or get married, and have successful careers of their own. They want it all, in other words, and some of them might even be described as "bossy".

The prototype is the Japanese artist and activist Yoko Ono. John Lennon's widow has been unfairly reviled as the woman who broke up the Beatles, and her name has become shorthand in the popular press for any woman who refuses to be a doormat. Some people never forgave Linda Eastman, either, for replacing the saintly Jane Asher in Paul McCartney's affections. The Daily Mail was still trashing her in 2010, long after she died of breast cancer, as a "groping groupie" who was "on the lookout for something more permanent" when she met McCartney.

The American designer L'Wren Scott never dated a Beatle, but she was the partner of a Rolling Stone until her awful death six days ago. Scott was hardly an unknown in the fashion world, having dressed Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman, but she was described as Mick Jagger's girlfriend in initial reports of her suicide. That upset a great many people, as did the torrent of cruel and perverse speculation which followed. It included a report in an American tabloid, firmly denied by Jagger, that he had dumped her shortly before her death.

Then came a claim, in the same paper, that the rest of the Rolling Stones loathed Scott and had refused to allow her to accompany the singer on the band's latest tour. "Mick Jagger's doomed lover … was loathed by his bandmates as the group's Yoko Ono," declared the New York Post. The claim came from an unnamed source who also described Scott as "controlling".

It was rejected by the band, whose members were reported to have accused the paper of running a "vendetta" against the dead woman. But it was picked up in the UK by the Daily Mail, which gleefully claimed that the rest of the Stones "compared L'Wren to the woman who broke up the Beatles". That's two holes-in-one for misogyny: using a slur against a live woman to damage the reputation of another who has died in tragic circumstances. It is also a breach of the code drawn up by the editors' code of practice committee, which requires that stories involving personal grief should be handled "sensitively" – an injunction that has been flagrantly ignored in the past few days.

As was Jagger's request for his privacy to be respected as he flew to the US and started preparing the funeral of his partner of the past 13 years. Some of the reporting has been so cruel that one showbiz website accused sections of the popular press of trying to "kill" Scott a second time.

The code advises caution about publishing "excessive" detail of how someone committed suicide, a clause designed to avoid the risk of copycat deaths. The Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir, whose editor Paul Dacre chairs the code of practice committee, not only mentioned the method Scott used in her very first paragraph; she even included a fashion detail, which I won't repeat, as though she was writing a breathless account of the designer's appearance at a red-carpet event.

Moir has form in this connection, having once attracted a record 22,000 complaints in a single weekend for a distasteful column attacking the gay singer Stephen Gately; Moir claimed that his death after a night out in Mallorca "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships". In her latest column she scoffed at Scott's "life of astounding privilege" and attacked the broadcasters Clare Balding and Alice Arnold, who were among the thousands who complained about the sexist coverage of her suicide. Balding and Arnold are a well-known lesbian couple, a point Moir may have had in mind when she mocked "the scalded feelings of a few peeved she-fems".

The causes of suicide are complex and no one knows what was in Scott's mind when she decided to end her life. What is clear – and distasteful – is the way in which the circumstances of her death are being used in a series of narratives which undermine women. Envy of the wives and girlfriends of pop stars is nothing new; it has been around for decades, as Ono, Jerry Hall, Heather Mills and others have discovered. But no stereotype is quite as irresistible to the popular press as the career woman who snares a rock star, but is secretly empty inside.

twitter.com/@polblonde; politcalblonde.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Planning Solicitor - Bristol

£50000 - £70000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - FIRST CL...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd champion the young and hold a cabinet meeting on top of Ben Nevis

Bear Grylls
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot