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.
L'Wren Scott: Career in pictures
L'Wren Scott: Career in pictures
1/20 L'Wren Scott
L'Wren Scott attends The Serpentine Gallery Summer Party at The Serpentine Gallery in London, 2013
2/20 L'Wren Scott and Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer and L'Wren Scott arrive at a dinner honoring the spirit of Special Olympics at the White House, 2000
3/20 L'Wren Scott and Mick Jagger
L'wren Scott and singer Mick Jagger arrive at the World Premiere of 'Alfie' at the Empire Leicester Square in London, 2004
4/20 L'Wren Scott and Karl Lagerfeld
L'wren Scott and Karl Lagerfeld chat backstage at the Chanel fashion show as part of Paris Fashion Week (Haute Couture) Spring/Summer 2005 in Paris
5/20 L'wren Scott, Victoria Beckham and Amira Casar
L'wren Scott, Victoria Beckham and Amira Casar attend the Chanel fashion show during Paris Fashion Week (Haute Couture) Spring/Summer 2006 in Paris
6/20 L'Wren Scott
Designer L'wren Scott attends the Sidaction Party raising funds in support of AIDS during Paris Fashion Week (Haute Couture) Spring/Summer 2006 at Pavillon D'Armenonville in Paris
7/20 L'Wren Scott
L'Wren Scott arrives at the Nina Ricci show during Paris Spring/Summer 08 fashion week in Paris, 2007
8/20 L'Wren Scott
L'Wren Scott attend the British Fashion Awards 2008 held at The Lawrence Hall in London
9/20 L'Wren Scott
L'Wren Scott arrives at the 'Shine A Light' New York premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York, 2008
10/20 L'Wren Scott and Mick Jager
L'Wren Scott and Mick Jager arrive at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood
11/20 Dan Williams, Jade Jagger, Mick Jagger and L'Wren Scott
Dan Williams, Jade Jagger, Mick Jagger and L'Wren Scott attend the Jade Jagger shop opening party in London, 2009
12/20 L'Wren Scott and Mick Jagger
L'Wren Scott and Mick Jagger attend the 'Shutter Island' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York, 2010
13/20 L'wren Scott and Patti Hansen
L'wren Scott and Patti Hansen attends the 'Stones in Exile' screening at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, 2010
14/20 L'Wren Scott, Oona Ingle-Finch and Sydney Ingle-Finch
L'Wren Scott, Oona Ingle-Finch and Sydney Ingle-Finch attend Finch's Quarterly Cannes Dinner at the Hotel du Cap as part of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in Antibes, 2010
15/20 Mick Jagger, L'Wren Scott and Tommy Hilfiger
Mick Jagger, L'Wren Scott and Tommy Hilfiger arrive for the screening of 'Stones in Exil' during the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, 2010
16/20 Diego Della Valle and L'Wren Scott
President and CEO of Tod's Diego Della Valle and L'Wren Scott attend the 3rd Annual Finch's Quarterly Review Filmmakers Dinner honoring Oscar-winning British film producer Jeremy Thomas and sponsored by Tod's and the IWC at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cannes, 2011
17/20 Raf Simons and L'Wren Scott
Raf Simons and L'Wren Scott attend the Christian Dior Haute-Couture Show as part of Paris Fashion Week Fall / Winter 2013 in Paris, 2012
18/20 Stephen Jones and L'Wren Scott
Stephen Jones and L'Wren Scott attend the L'Wren Scott cocktail party during London Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2013/14 in London
19/20 L'Wren Scott
L'Wren Scott attends the British Fashion Awards 2013 drinks reception at the London Coliseum in London
20/20 Jade Jagger, L'Wren Scott, Georgia May Jagger and Mick Jagger
Jade Jagger, L'Wren Scott, Georgia May Jagger and Mick Jagger attend the annual Serpentine Gallery Summer Party co-hosted by L'Wren Scott at The Serpentine Gallery in London, 2013
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.