It’s been a pretty sad week by all accounts. Tuesday brought us the terrible news that Kate Spade had taken her own life, and before we’d had time to get our heads around that, on Friday it transpired that Anthony Bourdain had done the same. Of course the tributes on social media started pouring in straight away, but slowly, as they started to get fewer and further between, another kind of comment started creeping in. It’s something I’ve noticed before when similar tragedies have struck, and it really, really, p****s me off! So of course I’m doing the usual and having a right old rant about it…. standard!
The comments in question can range from the mildly insensitive to the downright ignorant, but they tend to follow a certain theme. Who even is this? Never heard of him/her. She’s just some designer, get over it. Why are you crying about someone you never met? Don’t you know there are children dying/families starving/soldiers in action all over the world – that’s what real tragedy looks like…! Now, I’m sure sometimes the commenters are simply trying to get a rise out of someone, but I have even seen these kind of things from people I thought I knew and it really gets to me for, two reasons.
Firstly, I get that if you aren’t into fashion you might not know who Kate Spade is. You might be completely unaware that the ethos behind the Brand when she started it was to make handbags that reflected a woman’s personality rather then her hiding behind an image that had been created by someone else. You might have no idea that her clothes and accessories were all about being fun and light hearted and not too serious. The poignancy of the fact that the tagline for the Brand was ‘Live Colourfully’, and that the clothes contained labels that urgend wearers to ‘Look For The Silver Lining’, will probably have gone right over your head. But it is more than that which grates on me. It’s the way that the fact she was ‘just someone who made clothes’ is casually tossed to one side as though that couldn’t possibly be anything noteworthy. I’ve come across this opinion plenty of times – the idea that clothes and fashion are the interests of vapid or vain people only. That they cannot be taken seriously as art forms in the way that music or film or writing can. And I can totally see that they simply aren’t interesting to everyone. But that doesn’t mean they are in any way less worthy. Clothes are so much more to me than just pretty things I put on everyday. They give me the opportunity to express myself. They represent my persona and they give me the confidence to take on the day. Kate may not be a household name for all, but as a lady who inspired so much joy and empowered so many women to dress the way they wanted to, she deserves to be applauded and mourned just as much as a beloved musician or artist. So there!
The second, and genuinely most important reason it gets to me is this idea that one rich person off the TV dying of suicide is apparently far less tragic than people being killed in warzones or dying of poverty or in some terrible accident. Serious question – who actually thinks they are important enough to rank the level of tragedy everytime someone dies? And how ridiculous is it to suggest that because someone is choosing to publically mention one it means they don’t give a toss about the other? It’s not a freaking competition! The fact is, suicide is killing people with frightening frequency. Mental ill-health is so much more common than we choose to admit, and it has to change. To me, that anyone should have to die of a treatable illness is heartbreaking, whether they were famous or not, and I’m not afraid to stand up and express grief when I hear that it has happened. Suicide IS tragic. So are terror attacks, and natural disasters and all the other terrible things that are killing people all over the planet, but please let’s not pretend that it is any less sad when it is ‘just one person’ or ‘someone that got to live a charmed life’. Nothing will get any better if we continue to allow a perception that suicide is somehow just a fact of life or something we shouldn’t talk about. Please talk about it – and please know that I would be willing to lend an ear to ANYONE who was suffering if they thought it would help.
So yeah, I shed a tear for Kate. I’m not ashamed to admit that and I’m not ashamed to join in the outpouring of grief for her. Because she should not have had to die for those reasons. No-one should.
And that, to me, really is a tragedy.