What The Reporting Of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s Death Tells Us About Sexism

Would the reportage look the same if she had been a man?

What The Reporting Of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's Death Tells Us About Sexism

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

It’s no secret that the Internet doesn’t always bring out the best in people. For years now we’ve been roasting the sexist/racist/xenophobic headlines of the right wing press and calling out sexist online trolls. And yet, still, the cesspool that is online reporting continues to thrive.

For anyone who knew her, the news that Tara Palmer-Tomkinson has died in her forties must be devastating. For anyone who didn’t know here, the only appropriate response is surely that it’s sad that someone who has battled addiction throughout their life, suffered poor health in recent years and is someone’s beloved sister and daughter and multiple other people’s friend has passed away.

Not so, apparently the news that a person in the public eye has died compels some people to immediately take to Twitter to be negative, unkind and contrary by dismissing the deceased as a low rent air head…

As Tara Palmer-Tomkinson herself wrote in The Spectator in 1996:

‘It strikes me that the very people who are so keen to imply brainlessness in others must be insecure about their own mental faculties. Why else should they be so rude to others whom they suspect of lacking their intellect? Learning, after all, is not the same as wisdom.’

Beyond Twitter, the tabloid headlines about TPT’s death read ‘90S IT GIRL: Following the sad news of her death we look back at Tara’s life and why she never had kids’ causing people, quite rightly, to ask whether the reporting around her death would be quite so disrespectful had she been a man…

Indeed, while such headlines imply that Palmer Tomkinson’s lack of children is tragic and bewildering what they don’t mention is that she explicitly said she didn’t want children. Is there anything that makes society more uncomfortable than that?

In a 2014 interview she said:‘I don’t think that will happen now. I don’t want children as they scare me. I have such admiration for working mothers who don’t get any help – they must be exhausted. I do believe in love, but I don’t see myself settling down. I was in love once, years ago, but I was left a bit heartbroken and I never got that feeling back. The right guy just hasn’t come along. I also see the way men behave with me as a single woman when their wives are in the kitchen next door. That puts me off.’

What the coverage of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s death proves is that society doesn’t know how to talk about women with addiction problems, despite the fact that TPT herself wasn’t afraid to shy away from discussing it frankly, openly and honestly. It also demonstrates proves that too many people are quick to say something negative, that there’s more social currency in saying someone or something is awful and terrible than there is in saying something respectful and kind. And that's something we should all be worried about.

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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