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Sex roles and stereotyping in a tragic context

By Darlene Taylor - posted Friday, 12 January 2007

It’s old news that Dianne Brimble died on the floor of a cruise ship cabin after ingesting a combination of booze and Fantasy.

Whether Brimble chose to take the so-called “date-rape” drug or someone else made that decision for her is yet to be ascertained, but what can be gathered from discussion regarding the case is that the need to present some females as non-sexual and almost saintly is as strong as it ever was.

Some time ago, I wrote an item about Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old who was murdered in 1913 in the factory where she worked in Atlanta, Georgia.


Instead of acknowledging that a life like Mary’s was tough and undoubtedly resulted in a girl growing up too fast, public discourse about her quickly bordered on the hagiographic.

Of course, a political agenda always accompanies the creation of victims who are deemed to be worthy of our grief.

I argued that:

It was the “Little Mary Phagan” of popular imagination that peered out at newspaper readers before “real” Mary ever got the chance. With a desire to reassert a masculinity eroded by the employment of young women in the burgeoning manufacturing sector, the creation of doll-like “Little Mary Phagan” by the press, politicians and the “people” might have confirmed to some that the traditional Southern patriarchy still existed.

Given the dehumanising and vile language used by some of those involved in the Brimble case, it’s unsurprising that loved ones and others with good intentions would want to fight back with words of kindness and respect.

Nevertheless, we have to wonder how much it progresses the status of women when we’re infantilised and or desexualised.


In last month’s edition of The Monthly, Malcolm Knox’s overly subjective article “Cruising” contained the following sentence:

I am standing on the escalator where Dianne Brimble was photographed in a blue smock with her group, waving like a child on her first overnight excursion.

When the Sydney Morning Herald’s Miranda Devine joined the debate about the Brimble case with “Dignity rises in the midst of tragedy” she claimed that:

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First published in Larvatus Prodeo on October 17, 2006. It is republished as part of "Best Blogs of 2006" a feature in collaboration with Club Troppo, and edited by Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen et al.

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About the Author

Darlene Taylor writes for the popular group blog, Larvatus Prodeo.

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Dianne Brimble - Lavatus Prodeo

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