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Gia Allemand and the Objectification of Dead Women

If you’re the sort who follows celebrity news, you might know that Gia Allemand died yesterday. She killed herself. Allemand wasn’t a major celebrity by any stretch of the imagination, but she was an up-and-comer — she attained some measure of fame via ABC reality series The Bachelor, and had recently been cast as Ava Gardner in a biopic about Gianni Russo. And, most importantly, she was a person. You’d know none of this from the reports of her death, however, which have focused entirely on how pretty she was.

The ever-classy Perez Hilton referred to her as “the beauty.” E! Online referred to her in passing as “the brunette.” Fox News called her “a troubled beauty wrestling with insecurities.” The NY Daily News, meanwhile, noted salaciously that “Allemand’s boyfriend… discovered her limp body… and called 911,” while TMZ followed up news of Allemand’s death with a 41-page gallery of photos entitled “Remembering Gia Allemand,” just so everyone could remind themselves of how good-looking she was.

There was also plenty of speculation about why she might have killed herself: TMZ helpfully revealed that “we were told by multiple people close to Gia that she had been extremely upset about a rocky relationship with her boyfriend.” Hollywood Life scoured her Twitter feed, noting that “[Allemand] posted a Bible verse from Proverbs 21:3… It’s unclear what Gia meant by this tweet, but we’re sure it has something to do with her state of mind at the time.” In other words, we have no idea what we’re talking about, but hey, we’re gonna take wild guesses anyway. Good job, everyone.

Clearly, no one should be surprised by the salacious shittiness of these reports — the sites in question aren’t exactly high-quality news sources — but that doesn’t mean they don’t speak volumes about how society tends to objectify women, even in death. Or, in fact, especially in death. The idea of the woman as a tragically flawed figure, too fragile a flower for this cruel world, has informed all sorts of objectifying codswallop throughout history — take VICE‘s recent fashion spread of famous female literary suicides, for instance. You can trace the idea of female suicides being “beautiful forever” right back through the endlessly objectified Marilyn Monroe and the innumerable romanticized depictions of Shakespeare’s drowned Ophelia.

If it were a man who’d killed himself, we wouldn’t be referring to him as “the hunk” or “the blond.” And in addition to objectifying her, the way Allemand’s death has been reported suggests that it’s especially tragic that she died because she was young, and pretty, and on television. This isn’t, of course, to suggest that her death isn’t sad — but it’s sad regardless of her physical attributes or level of fame. Too often we let this sort of objectification go unquestioned, and it’s as disrespectful to those who read it as it is to poor Gia Allemand herself. We all deserve better.

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