And making fun of suffering: does Girlfriend want to be seen as a mean girl?
[Self harm trigger warning. If you need help, contact Suicide Prevention Australia ]
So, we’ve just marked World Suicide Prevention Day.
World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September promotes worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. On average, almost 3000 people commit suicide daily. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives.
The sponsoring International Association for Suicide Prevention, the co-sponsor WHO and other partners advocate for the prevention of suicidal behaviour, provision of adequate treatment and follow-up care for people who attempted suicide, as well as responsible reporting of suicides in the media.
At the global level, awareness needs to be raised that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. Governments need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programmes and activities in communities.
Dead women as advertising fodder
Preventing suicide is something you would think everyone would support, right?
Unfortunately not. Some companies appear to see the ultimate in self-harm as mere fodder for their ad campaigns.
Take a look at this advertising shoot for a South Korean clothing company called Lewitt and featuring our very own Abbey Lee Kershaw. Shot by Ryan McGinley, it depicts a distressed looking Kershaw frantically running through the streets. At one stage she curls up in a foetal position. She then climbs a building, seems to hesitate, before leaping off the edge. She lands in a crumpled heap on the pavement at the bottom of the building.
There have been a rash of female suicides in South Korea, among them nine models who have committed suicide in the last two years alone. As Frockwriter and Jezebel point out, South Korea has the “highest suicide rate in the developed world.”
So how does the company respond?
Did Alice end up dead?
Well, they say it’s all about Alice in Wonderland.
Oh, of course! Alice in Wonderland, tumbling down a rabbit hole. Except I don’t remember the bit where she ends up dead.
Patty Huntington, aka Frockwriter, asked Abbey Lee Kershaw why the suicide-related theme, given that so many South Korean women take their own lives. She gives non answers.
Frockwriter: I just wanted to ask about this Korean video you’ve done, Lewitt. What is it exactly?
Abbey Lee Kershaw: It’s an Asian label and it was based around the story of Alice in Wonderland.
FW: So what, she’s supposed to be falling down the rabbit hole?
ALK: Ah…I don’t…I mean…however you…we were shooting all day. There were different scenes all day. So his, ah, edit of it…I haven’t even seen it to be honest. I haven’t seen it yet. I think it just came out.
FW: Some might be concerned that it looks like you’re trying to jump off the building.
ALK: Yeah of course people are concerned about things like that. People are always going to perceive…
FW: South Korea has the highest female suicide rate in the world and there have also been a lot of model suicides, with many of them jumping. Do you not understand why it might concern people?
ALK: I understand. I haven’t seen the video.
FW: But wouldn’t you have had the right to see it before it was finished?
ALK: [Starts to move away] I’m done here. I’m done. Thank you.
Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg describes the campaign as ‘manifestly irresponsible’ and wonders if someone did end their lives, if the advertisers could be sued (personal correspondence).
Lewitt should be held to account for glamourising suicide to sell men’s fashion. And Abbey Lee Kershaw should apologise for a terrible lapse of judgement in agreeing to be part of this.
It’s also another example of the increasing trend of violence in advertising, fashion and celebrity culture, which I’ve written about before. See Gucci: Because silent female corpses are so hot right now
Does Girlfriend want to be seen as a mean girl?
So, I’m on a train to my mate’s place after addressing Generation Next’s Teen Mental Health seminar to get ready for another event. It’s Friday, World Suicide Prevention Day (as noted above). I have a new gig of trawling through girls and young women’s magazines and writing about what I find (I feel like I’m being punished for something). So I started with Girlfriend. To my amazement I come across this on p.52.
TLDR – internet speak for Too Long, Didn’t Read – can be used “to hilarious effect” says Girlfriend, “right after someone spills an intensely personal and emotional post detailing their innermost thoughts and feelings”.
The example is given of an individual whose dog has died. They express great loneliness and loss. They are not coping, they feel sad and their “heart hurts so much”. After which the reader adds “TLDR”, at GF prompting.
What is this really saying? Essentially, it is an act of straight out ridicule. TOO FREAKIN’ LONG , CAN’T BE BOTHERED, COULDN’T GIVE A STUFF.
I would have expected the editors to be more responsible about behavior that could constitute, or at least lead to cyber-bullying, which has become so common and devastating for so many young people.
Random acts of unkindness?
Remarkably, on the adjoining page is advice from GF’s “Life coach”. Under the heading “It’s cool to be kind”, GF advises practicing “random acts of kindness for an extra dose of happiness. Like now”. Just not to someone expressing their grief in an internet forum.
Susan McLean, an expert on cyber safety and cyber bullying, speaks on this issue pretty much around the clock. Also speaking at the Generation Next event, she showed this anti- bullying video:
Being mean isn’t hilarious. It’s cruel. We need to do all we can to support those in pain, not make fun of them. World Suicide Prevention Day is a good reminder of this.