EDITORIAL: OJ Simpson case betrays continuing contempt for women

The Nightly
3 Min Read
A criminal trial said OJ Simpson wasn’t a murderer. A civil trial — and the weight of public opinion — said he was.
A criminal trial said OJ Simpson wasn’t a murderer. A civil trial — and the weight of public opinion — said he was. Credit: MYUNG J. CHUN/AP

There will be few today publicly lamenting the death of OJ Simpson.

His name became a byword for the very worst kind of domestic violence and male aggression in the aftermath of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.

A criminal trial said Simpson wasn’t a murderer. A civil trial — and the weight of public opinion — said he was.

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And while there won’t be many rushing to eulogise the man who in all likelihood stabbed his Ms Brown, whom he had abused for years, with such force her head almost separated from her neck, many will still think it’s appropriate to marvel at the man’s freakish sporting prowess.

“Hell of a footballer, though,” they will say.

To many, OJ Simpson’s ability to run fast and jump high is almost as noteworthy as his history as an abuser of women.

In part, it was this attitude that led to his acquittal, despite a mountain of evidence linking him to Ms Brown and Mr Goldman’s murders.

Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman (right)
OJ Simpson was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman (right). Credit: AP

It’s why he was permitted a death at age 76, comfortable in his home, in his own bed with his children and family around him. A “good death”. A privilege not afforded Ms Brown and Mr Goldman.

It’s why even now, many of the thousands of obituaries recounting his life put the words “football star” before “accused murderer”.

It’s an attitude that betrays the contempt with which a sizeable portion of the population continues to hold women.

Simpson’s death comes in the same week another young woman was killed, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend.

Lachie Young, the Ballarat man accused of killing 23-year-old Hannah McGuire and leaving her body to be found in a burnt-out car on a lonely bush road is no “football star”.

But that hasn’t stopped there being a focus on the alleged killer’s apparently “declining” state of mental health.

As social affairs editor Kate Emery writes in today’s The Nightly, it’s the same old story every time a woman is killed.

There are the platitudes about needing to do more to prevent violence against women. There is a lot of genuine grief from the community.

And then there is the concern for how the alleged killer is holding up in prison, or his mental state at the time of the crime.

With that undercurrent of concern comes the implication that there must have been a trigger for his violence — if he did it at all. And if he did, there must be some reason, other than selfish brutality.

Searching for an excuse dehumanises the victim and diminishes her suffering and the suffering of the people who love her.

So does focusing on the sporting prowess of a violent, bullying brute.

The families of Ms Brown and Mr Goldman will never see Simpson be truly held to account for their loved ones’ murders.

But we hope that his death brings them some closure and relief.

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