Katie Price: For Once, Let’s Be Kind *Before* The Tragedy Happens
The alarm’s been ringing for so long that we’ve become accustomed to the sound
After years of social media trolling and press humiliation, Katie Price’s documentary Harvey and Me seemed to trigger a change of heart among social media users, who conceded that Price might not be so bad after all.
Price was granted a brief period of respite from the relentless stream of abuse she’s endured for decades.
Instead, audiences nodded their appreciation at her parental skills while maintaining a disapproving distance by prefacing positive comments about her as a mother with disclaimers such as ‘I don’t have time for Katie Price but…’, ‘I don’t like Katie Price but…’ or ‘I’m no fan of Katie Price but…’
For Price, even approval is qualified by a statement of dislike. Still, praise with a dash of denunciation is better than profanity-strewn venom.
It’s not that Price suddenly earned the forgiveness of thousands of strangers for all her perceived flaws but rather that the public performance of ‘good’ motherhood allowed her to attain respectability — temporarily.
I’ve written about Katie Price and respectability before so I won’t rehearse the same arguments again here. Suffice to say that Price benefitted (momentarily) from pronatalist and maternalist prejudices — the very same prejudices underlying the litany of accusations of bad motherhood that have dogged her throughout her career in the public eye.
That was January.
What a difference nine months makes.
Last week, following a car crash, Price was arrested and charged with drink-driving, driving without insurance, and driving while disqualified. According to the BBC, during her arrest she informed police officers: “I took drugs, I should not be driving, I admit it all.”
This was not Price’s first rodeo. She’s been banned from driving six times in the last decade.
There’s no doubt that, at the moment, Price is a danger to herself and to others. There’s no doubt that she has issues with drugs and alcohol and her behaviour is out of control. There’s no doubt that Price needs medical treatment and professional support. The crash and admission of drug use were no newsflash, though. Risky behaviour is a chronic issue for Price — her alcohol and drug dependence, driving offences and self-sabotage have been covered in the media for years.
She’s ill. She’s undeniably, unquestionably ill.
The alarm’s been ringing for so long that we’ve become accustomed to the sound.
Despite the warning signs that Price has been teetering on the brink of a breakdown, the poison continues to pour from the press, including stories about her son Harvey’s distress at not being able to contact his mum — fuelling the ‘we knew she was a terrible mum all along’ narrative on social media. Positive stories about her ex-partners and husbands — the same ex-partners and husbands who’ve contributed to Price’s breakdown — that serve to demonise Price, even when she’s at her most vulnerable and in need of respectful silence from the exes who’ve made their money and status off her back.
Following Price’s arrest, her family posted a statement on Instagram expressing their concerns about her mental state.
But, you know the old adage ‘Never let a family’s distress get in the way of being a nasty obnoxious shit on Twitter’.
I’ve included some vile social media posts here, knowing that it’s problematic to give trolls a platform, to allow them the oxygen they need to thrive. However, it’s also problematic to leave them out when they’re evidence of the shit Katie Price and her family have to wade through EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I’ve curated some of the many thousands of negative posts to evidence my claims but I’ve left out the worst. Anyone would be deeply affected by the constant vitriol aimed at Price.
As well as the standard name-calling and family-blaming, hundreds of tweets suggested that Price is playing the ‘Harvey card’, ‘the mental health card’, ‘the mother card’ — so many cards, in fact, that you’d think she was a casino dealer.
Where just a few months before her perceived flaws were outshone by her devoted mothering, now many social media users expressed fear and concern for her children.
Two of Price’s children, however, pledged their love and support for their mum under the message from the Price family. Their voices were ignored by know-better strangers on Twitter.
And there’s nothing like mental fragility to bring the misogynist comedians out. Bernard Manning will be quaking with these new pretenders to the biggest bigot jester crown.
Price’s unravelling has been happening in front of our eyes for years now — every relationship breakdown, car accident, botched surgery, and insolvency hearing reported in detail for us to judge, roll our eyes, or tut gleefully at her latest metaphorical or literal car crash.
I’d like to say that we’ve forgotten Price is human but that’s not true. Price is all too human and she wears her vulnerability alongside her bravado.
She’s become one of our cultural lightning rods — a representation of everything we’re taught to hate about women: a potty-mouthed, sexually voracious, middle-aged mother with five children to three different fathers.
She’s a former glamour model who dares to be open about the painful lengths she goes to maintain her looks. The tabloids revel in offering close-ups of her body, her surgery scars. Unflattering photos are used as evidence of her aging face or the results of her latest botch job and subsequent corrective surgery. We blame her for her dysmorphia as if we haven’t been crowing over the photos, as if there aren’t thousands of derogatory comments about her appearance on social media. We’re so used to the theatre of middle-aged women in the public eye who claim to never have had surgery, who promise that their impossibly smooth skin is from the application of olive oil rather than dermatological procedures and medical grade skincare. But Price’s theatre is her honesty and we’re there to lap up her candour — and then spit it back in her face.
Few could withstand the scale of abuse to which Price has been subjected over the years. Then, when she finally, inevitably breaks, the stream of hatred spewed from the press and social media doesn’t even slow.
It must be unspeakably hurtful for Price’s family to witness the public contempt and loathing for their loved one while encouraging her to get the professional help she needs. Asking for space and requesting respect seems to have the opposite effect.
Recent history tells us that we celebrate vulnerable women when it’s far too late. Caroline Flack, Jade Goody, and Sarah Harding are examples of women who were publicly pilloried in life but lionised in death.
We’ve already done appalling, unforgiveable damage to Katie Price. She’s been laughed at and dismissed for every tragedy, heartbreak and assault she’s experienced.
If, as Price’s mum, Amy, is right, and we do lose Katie — then we’ve been complicit in her death, just like we’re complicit in causing her pain now.
I know we’ve got form for being the worst kind of hypocrites. I know that we take people to beyond breaking point with vicious malice on social media. I know that as with Caroline Flack, when the terrible consequences of our actions stare us in the face, we cleanse our collective conscience with sad RIP posts, #BeKind hashtags, and pictures of angel wings for the one we were ‘no fan of’ but who ‘didn’t deserve this’.
It’s beyond the time to get this right and to finally give Katie Price the space, support, compassion and respect that she’s deserved all along.