Women being blamed for the misdemeanours of the men in their lives is not a new phenomenon: you only have to look at the shocking prevalence of victim blaming to see that. Women associated with problematic or abusive men are often put on media trial alongside them – even when they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.
So it’s no surprise to see what happened when pop star Jamelia’s brother, Tafarwa Beckford, was convicted for murder.
The 36 year old was convicted of the 2015 killing of a 25 year old in the singer’s home town of Birmingham.
But, despite having no connection to Jamelia herself, her name was often in headlines about the story – and was often the first word of the entire story.
And now, she’s taken to her blog to call it out.
“My youngest daughter turned 1 on Thursday, my Mum celebrated her birthday on Friday, and yesterday, my Grandparents were having a party for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. We had planned to celebrate this weekend with them all,” she writes.
“These celebrations were unexpectedly tarnished as a huge cloud descended over us all, in the form of a barrage of lazy articles being flung out by every national newspaper in the country, linking me to a 2015 “gangland” killing.
The link? My mother had a relationship (never married) with the offender’s father when I was 2 years old - I’ll be 38 in January.”
The coverage of the story, she goes on to write, has had a severe impact on her children, on her relationships, on her mental health and even on her work and financial situation.
Despite trying to keep her thirteen year old daughter from seeing coverage, Jamelia says, she still came across the story – and was forced to cancel a sleepover because of it. Her mother also made the decision to not attend any of the singer’s public appearances – not because she’s not proud of her daughter, but because “she doesn’t want people to associate her with the constant barrage of bad press I get”.
And every time an article is written linking Jamelia with violent crime, her “job prospects, campaign considerations and upcoming projects are subsequently taken away from me”.
“I have been in talks with 3 major channels about different projects, all of which have now expressed that this news has tainted my profile, and they’ll have to “change direction”,” she says.
“Please understand that this is how I pay my mortgage, school fees, car insurance, bills and taxes, and you take that away from me and my family, every time you print these stories that I have absolutely nothing to do with.”
“I shouldn’t have to denounce violence or condemn criminality, as my own actions should show what I’m about, and what is important to me,” she concludes. “I have never been violent or a criminal. I am focussed on empowerment, inspiration and creating ways to combat the negative effects on our youth that the struggles of growing up in the inner city can leave.
“One of which, unfortunately, is the likelihood of having some form of proximity to crime (whether victim or onlooker) and inevitably being forced to carry a ‘link’ to someone who has committed one.”
It’s an obvious point, but one worth making again – women are not to blame for the actions of the men in their life. We hope Jamelia and others continue to call out this sexist double standard – and stop being on the receiving end of hate when they’re not in the wrong.