L'Wren Scott was a fashion designer, not just a famous man's girlfriend

Paying tribute to Scott is about more than just recognising the talents of a woman who has died. It is about making a more equal society for those who are alive

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L’Wren Scott was a famous fashion designer who dressed women in beautiful, fairytale confections. She had her own label, was a respected celebrity stylist, and had created costumes for films like Ocean’s Thirteen and Eyes Wide Shut. Her death only a month before her fiftieth birthday is a huge loss of talent and an utter tragedy. Perhaps just as tragic is the media’s inability to remember her as nothing more than ‘Mick Jagger’s girlfriend.’

Whether or not readers, listeners or audiences are familiar with Scott’s work is immaterial. Mick Jagger is more well known than Scott outside of the fashion world. Yet if journalists take their jobs seriously they should educate them. Dating Mick Jagger was not this woman’s crowning achievement and it should not be remembered as such. It is not the 18th century, with women defined simply by their male partners. Paying tribute to Scott as ‘Jagger’s girlfriend’ is crass and ignorant. It would be just as absurdly sexist to refer to the passing of Bob Crow and Tony Benn by asserting that Nicola Hoarau's partner and Caroline Benn’s husband have died.

When Radio 2 made the announcement of her death yesterday, L'Wren Scott wasn’t even named. It was simply ‘the girlfriend of Mick Jagger’ who had died. Some papers treat L'Wren Scott no better. Five of the major British tabloids today cover Scott's death simply through Jagger’s reaction.  Scott was a person in her own right. If her death matters enough to make the news, she deserves to be rightly remembered.

Some obtuse editors belch surprise as to why readers are upset when the media refer to Reeva Steenkamp as ‘Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend’ and Scott as ‘Jagger’s lover’.  We care because death has already silenced these woman. We refuse to let their memorials be muted too. We are shouting because Scott no longer has a voice. Because when she died she specifically said she "didn’t want to be defined as someone’s girlfriend."  Because what hope ordinary women everywhere have if talented high profile women like this are allowed to be subjugated and forgotten in death?

There’s another reason I care. These ignorant headlines are written by people I may have to work with in the future. They serve as a reminder that sexism is still endemic in journalism, like so many industries. That one day I or one of my female colleagues may get passed over for promotion just because of our gender. Yet the voices of people like Clare Balding, Alice Arnold and Rachel Johnson, who all tweeted their disgust at the coverage give me hope. Paying tribute to Scott is about more than just recognising the talents of a woman who has died. It is also about making a more equal society for those who are alive.

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