Today brought the tragic news of designer and stylist L’Wren Scott’s suicide. Scott, 49, was found dead in her Manhattan apartment at 10 o’clock this morning, and news outlets were quick to release the information. And maybe, in the case of the New York Times, a little too quick, because, in announcing Scott’s death, the Gray Lady revealed just what it thinks is the most notable thing about Scott: that she’s the girlfriend of a famous man.
The Times obit page has a history of minimizing women’s professional accomplishments in favor of promoting things like their, um, cooking prowess (see: the rocket scientist who could also make a mean beef stroganoff), but this is a new low, because not only does the Times obit* equate the fact that Scott was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend with her career achievements (“L’Wren Scott, a fashion designer and celebrity stylist who was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend”), but the order of the tweets clearly signifies that the Times thinks that Scott is (and by extension should be) better known as the companion of a famous man, rather than as what she was: a woman who reached great professional heights through her own talents and intelligence. Also in the obituary, Scott’s work is only described after the writer makes sure to note that Scott “was a fixture on Jagger’s arm and, at around 6-foot-3, towered over her famous boyfriend.” Because, you know, the fact that a woman is tall is something that’s really noteworthy, whereas the fact that she built a multi-million dollar business is no big deal.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when this sort of thing happens, but I am. Or, if not surprised, then at least disgusted. L’Wren Scott deserves better than to be remembered just as someone’s girlfriend. Most women’s worth is constantly undervalued, but that shouldn’t be the case. And the New York Times should know better by now. We put up with the constant, tone-deaf real estate trend pieces about the worst people in the entire world in the hopes that the actual reporting—or even tweeting!—done by the Times will be exceptional and held to high standards. Do better, New York Times. Scott deserves it, and so do your readers.
*This is actually an obit by the AP, and run by the Times. The tweets in question are still the product of the NY Times twitter feed.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen