A standard for celebrities
Shelly Chatman | Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Mr. Schietinger, I agree with the main argument presented in your article “Innocent until proven guilty?” (Feb. 19). However, I absolutely do not believe that the case of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp is an example of such attacks. You and I may be reading different newspapers, but almost all of the coverage I’ve read – including articles in The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post – have not “rushed to judge and attack” Oscar Pistorius.
On the contrary, following the event I have read descriptions of Pistorius as a hero and an inspiration. A New York Times article attempts to explain his actions as resulting from being an “adrenaline freak” and “not as cautious as he always should be,” while also saying that this event was a tragedy for Pistorius.
This might be disturbing in itself. Though Pistorius has not been convicted of any crime, he has a documented history of domestic abuse against Steenkamp and other women. Describing Pistorius in such a way is extremely representative of our culture’s perception of domestic violence, as are the descriptions of Jovan Belcher as a “family man” following his murder of his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins.
What is even more disturbing than the media lauding Pistorius is their treatment of Reeva Steenkamp. In a Washington Post article, the first sentences that talk about her at all call her a “leggy blonde” known for her “bikini-clad, vamping photo spreads.” Reeva Steenkamp is a murder victim and does not deserve to have her actions shamed and criticized. Many articles barely mention Steenkamp, focusing instead on Pistorius’ “fall from grace.” I would like to point out that your article did not mention her name once.
Because these celebrities, as you argue, are not morally different from regular people, I say we should hold them to the same standard as anyone else. And for anyone else, shooting and killing someone would not be excused by a person’s affinity for adrenaline. Domestic violence and the way it is addressed in popular discourse is a huge problem in our society. This case is a prime example of that.