What matters

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp, and she was allegedly shot by her boyfriend this week.

That’s all that matters.

It doesn’t matter that he’s an Olympic track star. It doesn’t matter that she was blonde and “leggy.” It doesn’t matter that she posed for “bikini clad, vamping photo spreads” or spoke out against rape.

What matters is that she’s dead, because he – it appears – killed her. If you’re talking about it any other way – I’m looking at you, New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and The Guardian – you’re doing it wrong. And by “wrong,” I mean, you’re doing it a way that suggests that Steenkamp was somehow to blame, or that sympathises with the alleged murderer rather than with the woman he allegedly murdered. That kind of wrong. And you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Of course, all those other things matter, too. It matters that Oscar Pistorious is a gifted and famous athlete who’s won medals for his country, because it makes it that much easier for apologists to apologise for what he allegedly did, and it makes it that much easier for articles about her death to barely mention her by name and focus instead on him. It matters that she was blonde and leggy because it makes it that much easier for news coverage to veer into titillation and entertainment. It makes it that much more likely that her death is covered at all, because cable news cares when a pretty white lady gets shot. And you can bet your ass it matters that she posed for those photos and spoke out against rape, because it makes it that much easier for people to suggest that she was asking for it, or that she, as an anti-violence against women advocate, ought to have known better than to be with him. It makes it that much easier for us to blame the woman who was murdered, not the man who appears to have murdered her.

It doesn’t matter that he was in tears as the charges were read aloud in court today – no shit he was in tears, he just shot someone.

What matters is that she’s dead, and it’s because he allegedly killed her. And it happens every day in South Africa, and in every single country on this planet. It happens every hour of every day. And when it happens, we don’t blame the men who do it; we blame the victims.

Because they’re women, and women don’t matter.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/moonglaive/ Alyssa Anderson

    …they couldn’t be bothered with stories about her?

    Also, the link to the AP story is directed at the WaPo story.

  • http://feministing.com/members/alisonrose/ Alison

    THANK YOU. Sheesh, the coverage of this story…sigh.

  • http://feministing.com/members/decius/ Dan

    Of course we should leap to judgements about his guilt. He should already have been executed.

  • http://feministing.com/members/veronicacharl10/ Veronica

    I’ve also noticed that she’s not referred to as an independent entity. Nope. It’s “Pistorius’ Girlfriend” or “Olympic Star’s Girlfriend.” She’s talked about in reference to what she meant to him, not as her own person.

    • http://feministing.com/members/jakswim18/ Jen

      Omg! I’ve been so angry reading their portrayal of Steenkamp in this way! What is wrong here!? If they want to refer to her as Olympic Star’s girlfriend, etc, they might as well go ahead and refer to her as Pistorius’ victim. I’m so very saddened by the story’s coverage I’ve seen on those sites. Damn right they’re doing it wrong!!!!!!!!!