Another victim of gun violence died yesterday. Sixteen-year-old Jaelyn Willey was taken off life support after being shot in the head at Great Mills High School in Maryland. Her life was taken by a 17-year-old boy she had reportedly been in a relationship with. One other student was shot in the thigh.
The shooter is also dead. It is unknown if he was killed by police or killed himself.
As news coverage came out about the tragedy, a glaring flaw in the way the media report certain kinds of stories came to light. The Associated Press described the shooter as a "lovesick teen." The story was then picked up by other news outlets including ABC, Time, and MSN.
The backlash was swift. People have had enough.
But it was Ashley Alese Edwards, senior editor of Refinery29, who spelled it out in a series of tweets:
I literally just published a story about this but hey @ABC and @AP, a teen who shot and ALMOST KILLED his ex girlfriend and another classmate because he couldn't accept that relationship was over is not "lovesick." He's ABUSIVE. pic.twitter.com/5c9hCl7wa7— Ashley Alese Edwards (@AshleyAlese) March 22, 2018
Someone who brings a gun to school and shoots his ex and someone else should not be labeled as a lovesick puppy. No, that's an indication of someone who is abusive and controlling.— Ashley Alese Edwards (@AshleyAlese) March 22, 2018
This is exactly how domestic abusive is normalized — by rationalizing the shooter's violent actions because he was "heartbroken."— Ashley Alese Edwards (@AshleyAlese) March 22, 2018
The end of a relationship is not an excuse or a justification for attempting to murder your former partner.— Ashley Alese Edwards (@AshleyAlese) March 22, 2018
Writer Leslie Streeter had a good idea of how this happened:
And until we have a diversity of gender, ages and experiences in the newsroom this will keep happening. This is awful.— Leslie Streeter (@LeslieStreeter) March 23, 2018
Others weighed in on the appropriate use of the term "lovesick":
There was a lot to unpack here, from male entitlement to racism in the media:
Terms like "lovesick," "loner," "nerdy," "quiet," only get used when offender is NOT a POC.— Mr Mosnar (@Mr_Mosnar) March 23, 2018
When it IS a POC media uses "criminal," "suspected gang ties," religion i.e. "Muslim," etc.
This is PROBLEMATIC! Both MEDIA & law need to be aware of biased language re: offenders.
“If only she had not rejected him...” it’s how they blame the victim for the violence committed by white males.— Cat West (@catawu) March 23, 2018
Exactly. It's great that everyone's talking about guns, but we also need to talk about male violence. Yet every time I mention it, everyone either ignores me or gets offended.— Rose K (@ramblingrosek) March 24, 2018
Why do they continue to try to apologize and humanize the mass shooters and now bomber? Yet every person of color, immigrant and Muslim is a criminal with zero redeeming qualities. Fear of the Other.— Alan Handley (@Allon2324) March 23, 2018
Who in the hell approves those headlines? He wasn't lovesick. She died because he felt that she was owed to him. Women still face the very scary reality that if you say no to a man in anyway that you will pay for it with your LIFE! This poor girl. :(— Carrie (@KissTheSunLight) March 23, 2018
We can do better, and we must.