I don’t often get upset on my blog but I am at the moment. Why you may ask?
Colleen McCulloch, a brilliant Australian author, passed away on 29 January 2015, aged 77. It’s sad enough when someone passes away but to make matters worse an Australian newspaper published an obituary that was absolutely dreadful. My mother always taught me that if you can’t say anything nice about someone then don’t say anything at all. I wish the person who wrote the obituary had taken my mother’s wise advice. It’s not just the words used but the whole tone that I don’t like.
For those who don’t know what the obituary said here is the first paragraph:
COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”
The only good thing to come out of the dreadful obituary is that it has sparked serious discussion about the way men and women are treated, not just in life, but in death too it seems. It has also sparked an amazing response on Twitter with the #Ozobituary tweets. A lot of people are comparing the obituary with others for well known writers such as Bryce Courtney. Funnily enough his weight and looks didn’t get a mention.
Colleen McCulloch was also a neuroscientist as well as an author – shouldn’t these accomplishments take precedence in her obituary, not how she looked and how she managed to attract men? What does this say about us, our society and what message does it send to young women growing up with a full life ahead of them?
I have read a few pieces in the media dealing with the outrage that this sparked and this is just one from The Guardian’s Rebecca Shaw. She sums up my feelings very well.
On Twitter there has been a torrent of people, from all walks of life, writing their own tongue-in-cheek obituaries, either about themselves or historical figures, in much the same tone as the one in the paper, using #Ozobituary. If you are on Twitter do a search and have a read to get the idea. Some are very clever!
I’m offering my own version here and invite you to do the same. Leave me your obit in the comments below or do it in Twitter using #ozobituary
Here’s mine (on me):
Short of stature with hundreds of what she called beauty spots (and what we call moles) all over her face and body, she was nevertheless a caring person who loved her family and liked to help others less fortunate than herself. She was well known for her smile and her legs. She didn’t really amount to much else.
RIP Colleen McCulloch – I particularly loved your books The Thorn Birds and Tim.