Monday, 25 February 2013

Miscellaneous Mondays: A Death in Pictures

A Valentine’s Day killing of one half of a couple by the other seems like something out of an episode of a crime procedural, doubly so when the two halves in question are a model and a Paralympic champion whose story went global when he competed at the Olympics. Perhaps the writers would have given the athlete a suitably filmic nickname like, say, “Blade Runner”. Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff that, as the adage goes, you just can’t make up.

The story of Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius is a big deal in the way that all crimes committed by people sponsored by Nike are big deals. However, in an article written about the media coverage of the killing, Helen Lewis suggests that the most interesting aspect of this situation is not the downfall of an underdog athlete, but the media’s treatment of his victim.

As always, we heartily recommend checking this article out, though in this case it’s partially because the photographic evidence at the source must be seen to be believed. The thrust of Lewis’ article is that the slaying of Reeva Steenkamp has led to a particularly flagrant disregard for a potential murder victim’s personhood and the reduction of a human being to a sexual object. The newspapers “pay tribute” to Steenkamp not by discussing her law degree or her tragically relevant history of campaigning against violence against women, but by splashing the images from her most revealing photo shoots across their covers. Lewis discusses not only the sexual objectification of a dead woman, but the lengths people will go to in order to defend said objectification, from suggesting that attractive men would be treated in a similar fashion to stating that no other images existed of a woman whose job it was to be photographed.

We’ll be dealing with the issue of sexualizing women in death when we discuss comic book characters in July, but until then, let it suffice to say that we are sick of seeing dead women turned into pieces of meat for the consumption of the male gaze. Death should not make it easier to treat women as sexual objects, and the fact that it does indicates something deeply wrong with society.

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