February 24, 2013

The murder of women still a cheap shot

Men have been murdering women for a long time.  It's very often a "domestic" crime, so of little community or social concern.  Arguments between adults in the privacy of their own lives that end in the murder of a woman is awfully common.  Nothing of interest. The lives of women are disposable.  The sentences doled-out by our judges for killing women are pitiful, embarrassing, insulting, and stuck in a place and time long ago.  The message to all modern women and all female children is frighteningly clear and starkly ancient.

All of this amps up by the power of ten if the man doing the murder is famous.  Astonishingly, being murdered by a famous man renders the dead women even more invisible and disposable than if she'd been killed by a nobody guy from nowhere in particular.

Allison Pearson, bless her, has saved me the emotionally draining task of spelling it out for the slow learners, or for the intelligent people who insist that women have not only achieved equality, but that the poor old white guy is losing power and opportunities because of the uppity women.   The lies people tell themselves.

Ms Pearson will set you straight.
If you have just accidentally shot dead the woman you love, what do you do? Is it:

a) Dial 000 and summon an ambulance.
b) Call your girlfriend's parents and beg forgiveness.
c) Go to a church and pray hard.
d) Hire a leading PR firm to manage your reputation.

Call me a foolish romantic, but I would rule out ''d'' right away. If you were innocent and grief-stricken, why would your thoughts turn to ''crisis communications''? Yet this is exactly what Oscar Pistorius did within hours of the violent death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria.

The 26-year-old Paralympian called Stuart Higgins, the former editor of the London Sun and now a public relations expert. Pistorius' PR team lost no time in relaunching his website to put the most positive spin on what they variously describe as ''these tragic events'' and ''this terrible, terrible tragedy''. Looking at the website, with its stirring pictures of the Blade Runner in action, you notice that the words ''murder'' and ''death'' do not feature. For, lo, we have entered the soothing land of PR euphemism, where world-famous disabled heroes do not gun down women.

Among those paying tribute to Pistorius is his uncle, Arnold Pistorius. ''Words cannot adequately describe our feelings,'' he says. ''The lives of our entire family have been turned upside down forever by this unimaginable human tragedy and Reeva's family have suffered a terrible loss.''

Observe that it is the Pistorius family that has suffered ''an unimaginable human tragedy'' - their golden boy faces a career-wrecking charge of premeditated murder. The family of Reeva Steenkamp, the victim of the crime who appears to have been shot three times while in the toilet, has merely suffered ''a terrible loss''.
Steenkamp's irrelevance to the main event was confirmed by a tabloid headline. ''Blade Slays Blonde'', it proclaimed, not bothering to give her the dignity of a name. On Tuesday, as a hearse took her body to the crematorium, Oscar Pistorius sobbed throughout a bail hearing. It was an affecting performance. 

And so, very cunningly, the tragedy is appropriated from the dead woman and becomes the tragedy of the man accused of killing her. The reports that, according to a neighbour, he silenced Steenkamp's screams with two further gunshots, are of little consequence to Pistorius' supporters.

''I didn't have my prosthetic legs on. I felt vulnerable,'' explained Pistorius, playing the disability card for the first time in a life that has, until now, been remarkably free of self-pity. He was explaining why he fired at a locked bathroom door behind which he was convinced there was a burglar. Because burglars always lock themselves in bathrooms, don't they? To steal the soap and the hand towel. Just as girlfriends always lock the door when they need a pee in the middle of the night. And men who think there's a burglar in the bathroom never bother to shout out first and give their girlfriend a chance to say, ''Baby, put the gun down, it's only me.''

Pistorius' story has more holes than a colander. I don't feel an ounce of pity for him. Of course, his PR man, Stuart Higgins, begs to differ: ''Our job is to capture some of the support that Oscar is receiving from all over the world, lots of positive messages from people who still believe in him,'' he said.

The obvious comparison here is with O.J. Simpson, who went on trial in Los Angeles in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Like Pistorius, Simpson had form when it came to domestic violence. The prosecution thought it had a solid case. But, also like Blade Runner, O.J. was a good-looking sports god who had overcome considerable odds to find fame, fortune and a beautiful blonde. Race was a complicating factor, but it was O.J.'s celebrity that turned a vicious murder case into the Trial of the Century. Last September, 18 years after Simpson was sensationally acquitted, Kato Kaelin (a TV personality and witness at the trial) was asked if Simpson killed Brown and Goldman. Kaelin replied: ''The statute of limitations has now passed … so I can now say … yes, he did it.'' Asked why he let O.J Simpson get away with murder, Kaelin said: ''I was too scared. I was terrified … People hated me. I've been spat upon. They threw gum in my coffee.''
Yes folks, they threw gum in his coffee.  That would silence anyone. 

If you have a spare minute, and a great deal of fortitude, you can find photographs of the murder scene, with Nicole Simpson's body (the neck wound - she was all but decapitated - is pixilated) and Ron Goldman's body in situ.   Then contemplate the horrors and fears induced by a bit of damp gum.
... Just days before Reeva Steenkamp was killed, she sent tweets offering her support for female victims of violence. Her country has a deplorable record in that area. On average, a South African woman is killed every eight hours by her partner or relative.
After her funeral, Steenkamp's Uncle Mike told reporters that his niece wanted to be an activist for ending abuse against women.
Ms Steenkamp would have had a never-ending mountainous job ahead of her.  Not now though.  Now she won't even turn 30.  Now she's not even here to tell her own story.  Some guy with an expensively paid PR specialist will re-write instead.

As Blade weeps in court, we forget the Blonde is the victim


  1. What's the betting the Blade walks?

    Or rolls. Or bounces. Or whatever.

  2. If only he'd done a runner to the front door, into the street, and called for help.