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Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. Not 'Blonde'.

By MIA FREEDMAN

Blonde. Blade Runner’s girlfriend. Swimsuit model. FHM model. Model gal-pal.

Did you hear? Olympic hero, Oscar Pistorius killed some hot chick. It may have been murder – that’s what he’s been charged with. Or it may have been an ‘accident’ – that’s what he claims. Details, details. The important part is that she was HOT. Have you SEEN her in a bikini?

Wait, of course you have because her picture is EVERYWHERE.

The media coverage in Australia hasn’t been nearly as crass as in the UK  and the US where there’s been this:

And this:

And also this:

Is a crime worse when the victim is young and beautiful? Of course not. But it does get a disproportionate amount of media coverage. Print and TV need pictures to go with their stories. And sexy sells.

This story has everything: a sports ‘hero’, triumph over disability adversity, a beautiful woman WHO IS A MODEL and thus has a bonanza of bikini shots in the public domain, an alleged murder and some sordid, mysterious details.

That sound you can hear? It’s male editors and news producers wetting their pants with excitement.

This tragedy is the South African version of OJ Simpson – the US ex-football star who was charged – and bafflingly acquitted – with the horrific stabbing murder of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994.

But bikini shots? While her body is still in the morgue? Many readers were so offended by the cover of The Sun that they are circulating an open letter to editor Dominc Mohan, along with a petition demanding he apologise. Their words are potent:

Dear Dominic Mohan,
Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. Her name was not ‘Pistorius’s lover’. She had her own name, her own identity. She was not just defined by her relationship to a man.
She was a woman, a model, a law graduate, a woman who spoke out against violence against women. She was not just a sex object in a bikini.
Why then, does your cover on Friday 15 February reduce her to these things?
This is a news story about a man who has been charged with murdering Reeva Steenkamp. It is not a story about sporting success, it is not a story about sexiness.
Your presentation of this news story sexualises violence against women and girls. You’re juxtaposing murder and sexiness. There is nothing sexy about this terrible crime. There is nothing sexy about a man killing a woman. There is simply no reason to illustrate this tragic story with such a highly sexualised image. This is a news story about a murder. There’s nothing pretty about that.
I believe your paper needs to apologise for ignoring that Reeva Steenkamp had a name. I believe you also need to apologise for your consistent attempts to sexualise violence against women and girls – highlighted at the Leveson Inquiry. In this case your paper has chosen to ‘sex-up’ the murder of a young woman called Reeva Steenkamp.

In South Africa, it is estimated a woman is killed by her male partner every six hours, the highest rate of death by domestic violence in the world.

What’s been puzzling, distressing and depressing about the tsunami of coverage of this crime is the way Oscar Pistorius has had the highlights of his life and career gushingly detailed while victim Reeva Steenkamp has been relegated to pretty blonde window dressing. In her own alleged murder.

As writer Jessica Valenti wrote: Here we go again. Another woman shot dead by her partner, another round of media coverage fawning over the killer. Just one day after shooting Steenkamp four times, Pistorius has been called “calm and positive” and “inspirational.”  Steenkamp? She’s been called “a leggy blonde.”

In so much of the coverage, Reeva Steenkamp has been nameless – as are so many victims of violent domestic crime. As Jezebel.com points out: this is hardly the time to remember the accomplishments of her alleged murderer. This is not his obituary.

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