L’Wren Scott was found dead this morning in a New York City hotel room, in what was apparently a suicide. Clearly, this is an awful situation, and one that we’ll no doubt hear more about in due course. But in the meantime, there’s something singularly depressing about the way that Scott’s death has been reported thus far — because to the news outlets of the world, apparently the most important thing about her wasn’t her successful career as a stylist and designer, or even her name. No, it’s that she was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend.
Just look at this lot:
And so on. I mean, for fuck’s sake. I don’t follow the world of fashion; I’d only heard of Scott in the most tangential way until today. And still, a five-second Google search was enough to tell me that she was obviously a well-respected designer and stylist. And even if she wasn’t, she’s still worth referring to as, y’know, a person, not as an adjunct to the life of her boyfriend, however famous he may be.
This sort of shit happens far too often — there was writer Elizabeth Jane Howard, who died in January and had a career as a novelist that spanned half a century, but was almost inevitably referred to as “Kingsley Amis’s wife” and/or “Martin Amis’s stepmother” in coverage of her death. After Lou Reed died, Laurie Anderson was almost inevitably referred to as “Lou Reed’s widow” and not by name in the coverage of his funeral. It’s hard to imagine that if roles were reversed, Reed would have been referred to as “Laurie Anderson’s widower.” And then there was last year’s New York Times obituary for scientist Yvonne Brill, which deemed her Beef Stroganoff as more important than her brilliant career as a rocket scientist.
I don’t want to dwell too much on Scott’s death, beyond to say that any suicide is a tragedy and I can only imagine the grief and anguish that her loved ones and friends — including, yes, Mick Jagger — must be feeling right now. But honestly, it takes two minutes to think about how you’re going to report something, and what sort of assumptions you’re going to make, and what that is going to say about you and your view of the world. It doesn’t matter whose girlfriend L’Wren Scott was; it matters that she was a person, a person whose death is tragic and awful.