Sarah Harding - Rest in Peace
If only the newspapers would let her...
It was only on Friday that I wrote my first substack post. The subject? The rewriting of women’s stories by men. And yet two days later, we see a very ugly example of this in one of our most respected newspapers. The news that Sarah Harding had passed away at just 39 from breast cancer was tragic.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the obituary The Times published on Sunday of Sarah Harding was written by a man. What makes me come to that conclusion? Because it included this paragraph: ‘Cynics might argue that her talent was unexceptional and her celebrity was based more on style than substance. Yet such a judgment would be harsh…’
It is true, only a cynic would make such a statement, particularly just hours after this poor girl’s death was announced by her heartbroken mother. So why did The Times find it necessary to do so? It is not the obituary writer’s job to pre-empt bitchy comments from their readers, but to report someone’s death and list their achievements.
It went on: ‘Harding made her mark on popular culture singing and gyrating with the band Girls Aloud.’
Gyrating? I am sure there is another word for that? Oh yes, dancing. Dancing to finely choreographed hit songs whilst singing to sell-out stadiums and giving fans the time of their life. I would be surprised if the writer who penned that obituary could even pat their head and rub their belly at the same time.
You don’t need to be a fan of Girls Aloud to recognise that the death of a young woman from a condition that kills far too many women in the UK every year is a tragedy. And yet, The Times instead focuses on pre-empting bitchy reader comments online with nasty asides. Why?
There is only one answer: misogyny.
To be a woman in this life is to be judged, from cradle to grave – and beyond – it seems. Every decision we make: what we wear; how we look; what we weigh; how much we drink; whether we walk home alone at night; to have children; to not have children; to work after you have children; how we got to where we got in our career; to stay with a violent man; to leave a violent man… I could go on. This poor girl’s body was not yet cold and she is still not allowed to rest in peace.
If you’re a successful woman you’re rich pickings to the media, dead or alive. It’s open season to comment on your life, your looks, your successes, your failures — all of which were plastered over the tabloids in Sarah Harding’s short life. Is it any wonder that she ended up in rehab at times with all that to deal with?
Girls Aloud inspired many young women who watched their journey from rags to riches and thought: ‘I can be anything, too.’ I saw the girls perform a few times over the years, I met them too when I was a magazine journalist – a group of girls riding the wave of their stardom, living and loving life, enjoying every minute. Good for them.
But no, what a powerful woman does, is expose the weakness of some men in society, and for that she must be brought down a peg or two. She must be sexy to sell records, but not too sexy. She must wear outfits that ‘flaunt’ her figure, but not too much flesh. She can prove her talent with vocals on numerous hit singles and albums, but can still be dismissed as ‘unexceptional’.
Love them or loathe them, Girls Aloud sold over 4.3 million singles and four million albums in the UK alone. All of their albums went platinum, sometimes two times platinum. Does that really seem like ‘all style and no substance’ to you? Sarah Harding achieved more than many 39 year olds, eking the most out of her tragically short life.
How could anyone think that is anything short of talented?
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