Reader columnist Sarah Thoms, 29, a political consultant living in Glasgow, pays tribute to Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times and the steely determination displayed by other female reporters.
The reports of the death of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin have really affected me. For her fearlessness and bravery in reporting the horrendous situation for innocent men, women and children caught in the crossfire of fighting in Syria, she paid the ultimate price. For that I feel absolute sorrow.
When I was a little girl I had several career aspirations. First of all I wanted to be a hairdresser then I decided I would be an air hostess. After realising I didn’t really like walking about on aeroplanes, I came up with Foreign Secretary as a suitable alternative job for me, leading to Prime Minister as a logical next step. However at 11 I realised my true dream was to be a journalist just like Kate Adie. I stayed fixed on this course until I was 22 when I decided to the great relief of my mum that I couldn’t put the fear to one side for long enough to get the story.
I used to look at Kate’s fixed gaze in her rolled up powder blue shirt, her flak jacket, khakis and her perfect bob under that tin hat holding her mic and I used to think her words are the most powerful things on the planet right now, they make everyone and everything stop. Her carefully considered paragraphs spoken to camera had the power to save lives, to potentially stop the war she was reporting on, and I worshipped her for that.
Years later, watching Sky’s incomparable Alex Crawford in Libya travelling in a battered jeep with deadly rebel forces hunting down Colonel Gadaffi, I saw that same steely determination I saw in Kate and in Marie. They needed to get the story at all costs and I wondered what it was like to be that focused on something, to refuse to deviate from a path no matter what the cost?
"For every opinion piece I saw applauding her bravery and excellence in journalism, I saw five more asking why she wasn’t at home with her children... Would they ever ask a male reporter that?"
Men do that all the time, but for some reason women are the ones judged for it. Steely determination is a compliment in a man and is attacked as stubborn insolence in women. There is a view that they be softer, more flexible and placed in a job more befitting a woman. No matter the good Alex was doing out in Libya, for every opinion piece I saw applauding her bravery and excellence in journalism, I saw five more asking why she wasn’t at home with her children, asking if she was worried about leaving loved ones at home. Would they ever ask a male reporter that?
Perhaps this inequality is what has bothered me most of all about Marie dying. The fact people are already asking why she was there putting herself in danger like she was some delicate flower who should be nurtured and protected in a greenhouse. The fact that these people are usually not men, they are women, our fellow sisters who should understand the struggle we have daily to realise our ambitions. Where is the support, the solidarity?
But that’s an argument I’d like to discuss further another day. For today, I just want to pay tribute to a lady I did not have the pleasure of meeting, but from the tributes of those who did, (of whom a delicate flower is not an accurate description), suggest a determined, dedicated, professional lady who brought the world some of the best pieces of journalism we have ever seen.
And it should never be underestimated how excellent she looked in that eye-patch, a notoriously difficult accessory to pull off. She makes me proud to be a woman and the next time I’m a bit scared to get out there and live life I’ll take her example and feel the fear and do it anyway.