Patriarchy, male entitlement, & capitalist greed killed Amy Winehouse, not boozing

Amy Winehouse. Photo: CAMERA PRESS/Mari Sarai.
Amy Winehouse. Photo: CAMERA PRESS/Mari Sarai.

The first time I heard Amy Winehouse back in 2007 I was hooked. Back to Black was so perfect I could hardly believe it existed. I’d been listening to old soul music since I was a child, obsessed with my mother’s Supremes record and, later, with musicians and groups like Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, The Shirelles, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Temptations, Etta James, Al Green, and on and on. I barely listened to anything current until I discovered hip hop in the 90s. Amy had managed to create something that I’d thought was no longer possible and I couldn’t stop listening.

As I watched her very public and publicized downfall, as she was abandoned to her addictions, depression, now-apparent eating disorder, and struggles with the pressures of fame, I noticed the different treatment she received in the media.

Male substance abusers are often afforded a certain level of respect no matter how much they drink or use drugs — women, less so. Framed as “trainwrecks,” unfeminine and embarrassing, both pitied and mocked — women are meant to maintain composure and class in a way men aren’t expected to. Generally, drunkenness in men is viewed as normal and acceptable whereas women who party are portrayed as messy, trashy, slutty, and deserving of any “punishment” they receive (see: the victim blaming of rape victims who were under the influence when assaulted) for their unladylike behaviour.

As pointed out by Molly Beauchemin in Pitchfork, “Men who grapple with issues that coincide with art and fame are canonized in death.” Indeed, male addicts are romanticized as troubled artists while women who struggle with addiction or mental illness or both, as the two often go hand in hand, are seen as disasters. Kurt Cobain is one example Beauchemin offers who has most certainly been painted as tragic and as having suffered, but also as a universally-respected genius. (Conveniently, many have blamed Courtney Love for his heroin addiction and his death.) Amy, in comparison, hasn’t been treated with anywhere near the respect Cobain was and her death was seen by many as expected and deserved.

I watched Amy on Sunday night, prepared to feel sadness and loss, but less prepared for the level of anger I felt as I left the theatre. She didn’t die, as the media told us, because she was a lost cause who cared only for boozing and nothing else. Amy died because the men in her life were selfish, careless, capitalists who faked compassion for cameras when it was convenient, but only in order to boost their own “careers,” fill their bank accounts, and satisfy their own needs. More broadly, she died because of a culture built on greed, misogyny, and individualism.

Amy’s father, Mitch, taught her how little he valued women right from the very beginning, trading fatherhood for womanizing. He was never around when she was a child, busy cheating on Amy’s mother, Janis, and eventually leaving them all for another woman. Mitch didn’t really reenter Amy’s life until he saw her as a financial opportunity, talking her out of going to rehab early on when it became clear that her drinking was becoming dangerous, showing up with a reality TV camera crew when Amy tried to escape both drugs and showbiz in St. Lucia, and forcing her to go on tour when she really just needed (and wanted) to get out of the spotlight (We’re under contract, he explains, verbally shrugging his shoulders. Whatcanyado.) Mitch’s documentary, My Daughter, Amy, of course, both had nothing to do with Amy but couldn’t exist without her. On the surface, it centered around Amy but really was only for and about her father. Mitch may have cared for his daughter, but he certainly put his own interests and well-being before hers, time and time again.

The other central figure in Amy’s life was (surprise!) another womanizer, her ex-husband-to-be, Blake Fielder-Civil, who eventually decided to settle down with her in order to have access to her bank account and in order to maintain own drug habits. Not only did Fielder-Civil introduce Amy to heroin and crack, but he seemed determined to ensure she didn’t get clean, sneaking drugs to her while she was in rehab. If Amy got off drugs, of course, Fielder-Civil’s ability to feed his own addictions would be in jeopardy. On the day the couple decided to get married, camera footage shows Fielder-Civil in a bar, with Amy in the background, as he brags that it will be his new wife who will be picking up the tab — he was broke, after all. It’s also alleged that Fielder-Civil sold nude photos of Amy to the media, completing the full circle of male exploitation of women, pornifying as punishment.

Both men courted the media after Amy’s death — Fielder-Civil brought them along to photograph him in mourning, at her grave and Mitch has been busily trying to spin his own version of Amy’s life story in a way that makes him look like a caring, selfless father.

Amy’s bulimia was something I — and many others — knew less about until recently. She had been binging and purging since she was quite young and it took, as bulimia does, an incredible toll on her health. What they say killed her, in the end, was the impact of bulimia on Amy’s heart — that, when combined with drinking to excess, was too much for her body to handle.

While I have never personally suffered from an eating disorder and so cannot speak to the complexities of something like anorexia or bulimia, I have never much cared for it’s categorization as “a disease.” The disease model erases the gendered aspect of eating disorders and the very relevant fact that we teach girls to hate their bodies and obsess over food and their weight. Only five to 15 per cent of people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are male so I don’t know, take a wild guess as to what that’s about.

What’s wonderful about Amy is that director, Asif Kapadia, shows us that she was not a celebrity or a pop star or tabloid fodder or an angel or the devil, but a true and exceptional musician — one in more than a million. Amy wasn’t a perfect human being and who cares. She was, in fact, messy and unladylike — loud, brash, a girl who liked to hang out at the pub and crack jokes, leaving at the end of the night looking as though she spent the night in a pub. I, of course, have nothing but love for those kinds of women — they are the ones I relate to; far more than the classy ones who never lose their cool or get too loud or say inappropriate things or swear and burp defiantly. But those aren’t the kinds of women the world thinks deserve to be respected for their work or art.

Amy may well have behaved badly, she most certainly hurt herself and those around her — it isn’t easy to be around people who struggle with substance abuse nor is it easy to know what to do or how to help. Often, there is really very little you can do to help. That said, Amy’s addictions don’t exist in isolation from larger context and the way she was treated and portrayed as her struggle deepened played an enormous role in her destruction, whether or not you want to see that destruction as self-orchestrated.

This is someone who didn’t even want fame. Amy knew it would hurt her. She wanted to play music in pubs and jazz clubs and to collaborate with other musicians. Fame was something others wanted for her as was, it seems, her demise. Both her father and her husband, as well as the media and the men who managed her cared little about the way she was suffering and in danger. “It’s her choice,” seems to have been their approach to Amy’s survival. And isn’t that an enraging but suitable response from individuals and a culture that believes personal choice is king, that interference of any kind is patronizing and doesn’t respect the agency of individuals, and that no one is responsible for anything except their own actions and how those actions impact only themselves.

Amy’s lyrics are powerful because they are true, vulnerable, and because so many of us can relate. She asks, early on in her career, “What is it about men?” knowing she first learned pain and rejection from them, later blaming herself for being subjected to what she’s smart enough to know is a pattern that is bigger than her.

I shouldn’t play myself again,
I should just be my own best friend,
Not fuck myself in the head with stupid men

Undoubtedly Amy was powerful and headstrong. She was no shrinking violet, waiting to be told what to do by some man. Nonetheless, she, like all humans, deserved compassion and care and instead was taken advantage of and used by those she cared for. I believe, on one hand, that she could have been ok if she’d received the support she needed and was offered an escape from the ever-prying claws of the limelight. Then again, living as a woman in a man’s world isn’t easy for any of us. Perhaps what she really needed to survive was the option of life outside capitalism and patriarchy.

Amy’s tragic death was not truly or solely about her choices, it was about much more than that and there are many more who are accountable. If we still cannot see the ways our culture quite literally kills, and we continue to insist on wiping our hands clean of that blood, I’ll admit I have little hope for humanity.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • danusia

    thank you! i’ve been thinking about this since her death, patriarchal society failed her. may she rest in peace, now. <3

  • Laurie O’Connell

    Thanks so much for this. I’ve been appalled at the deliberate victim-blaming and shaming this brilliant artist endured both before and after her death, so your profound and focused analysis of Amy’s decline is the perfect antidote to all that poison. Like all women, she deserved so much better.

  • Ariane

    Brilliant and well overdue.

  • Rachel

    Really powerful stuff, thank you for writing this. A couple of things that stood out to me the most – firstly, the fact that the men in her life were so absent until they gained something from her. In this case, money. It’s not so simple for her to see or point that out, especially at d seperate times and when you truly, naturally want to believe your father loves you. You want to believe he has your best interests t heart, because the other possibilities really hurt to admit to yourself. The way they spin her story to suit them for more money after her demise actually makes me feel physically ill.

    Secondly, the eating disorder stuff. Thank you for pointing this out.

    Thirdly, you are so right that men who go off the rails are seen as these “poor, misunderstood souls” that just need some tender love and care, and a good woman to pull them out. Gross. Women are seen as weak, manipulative, self centred, and a mess. How disgusting. I also disagree with the disease model of addiction, I believe it disempowers the person too.

    Finally, although the talent level isn’t the same… I feel the exact same thing happened to Britney Spears. Pushed into fame and being a sex pot at an early age, I think she got sick of that, felt empty and sad, and looked for love, security and safety with that K-fucker. He took her to a ride like nothing else. Just shat on her big time. And the whole world was against her. Kids taken away and everything. She was caught driving with her child on her lap, but they forget to mention the paps following her and hounding this new mum with an abusive partner. She starts stripping and w acting no underwear, and people wonder why? Well hello? Her whole worth was based on being a sex object for women to aspire to and men to admire. I remember seeing polls in whether she would kill herself that year. How sick is that.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Totally. And Spears was treated appallingly. Women are pushed and pushed and pushed and sexualized far too young and then are called crazy when they can’t deal with everything. It’s horrible.

  • Christie

    Amy was no angel. She broke both me and my brother’s heart. My little brother Ralphy was probably her biggest fan(his all-time fave is Al Green, kudos to your taste in music)but Ralphy is also a little different. He has down’s syndrome. I took him to see Winehouse at a theater in the city. He had bought a t-shirt of her online weeks before the show. When it was over an awesome stagehand named Brett noticed Ralph and me and asked if we wanted to say hi to her. Brett searched around for a Sharpie so Amy could sign Ralph’s shirt. When the time came to say hello Miss Winehouse looked at my brother and said ewwww gross and kept walking. Brett(who later married my little sister) took the blame and said he had a booger on his nose but Ralph knew she had judged him terribly. I broke down in tears on the ride home knowing that Ralphy was so sad. I haven’t heard my brother play her music since then.

    • RadFemPornBasher

      My daughter has Down syndrome, too. It can be so painful to be around people sometimes, when you know that sort of thing is in their mind by the way they look at her. Luckily, most people are kind and sweet to her, though her father and I were in a conversation with someone at a picnic last weekend who gave us the other treatment. We are brave, we’ve handled it so well! I really hate that, though I know most people are just trying to be kind. She was born just like most babies in the world, and you get what you get; and I don’t think it’s very courageous to take your own baby home! But people with Down syndrome can be- not always!- very emotional and enthusiastic, and it’s painful when my little girl is rejected because of who and what she is. She is such a lover! But she cries tears just the same as anyone else, and sadly, she has difficulties understanding why people can be so unkind.

      I never heard her music, but I saw the online tabloids harassing her. Such a tragedy!

    • Ellesar

      She was a flawed person, but all this is true just the same.

    • Delilah

      I have a child who also looks “different” so I understand completely your heartache about this. Addicts and alcoholics often act selfishly and hurt others deeply.

  • DefenderofThemyscira

    You know this reminds me of the Britney Spears case where she went crazy in 2007 and shaved her head and all. I don’t know if it’s the same case but it certainly reminds me of that.

  • Kate

    This is really awesome Meghan. When I saw the movie I was struck too by the love and loyalty she felt for her close female friends, and then the almost total absence of any other women in her life towards the end. It’s a tragic reminder how important our relationships with other women are, and how dangerous life can be without them.

  • Adam Sowa

    Yeah.

    Driving onto the southbound on ramp at rt-12 and rt-53.

    It’s burned into my mind.

  • SaraClue

    Her voice was so arresting, absolutely one of a kind. I think racism also played a part in her downward spiral, she was, like so many Jewish women, mocked for her “ethnic” looks.

  • Captain Truth

    Amy Winehouse wasn’t a musical genius and lyricist like Kobain was, she didn’t shape the music of a generation but was instead the product of Kobain’s legacy.

    Why should she be treated the same way.

    And no, it was booze and drugs that killed him, not Patriarchy or entitlement. The Patriarch didn’t come down and shove pills down her throat, she did that. All on her own.

    Just like Kobain shot his own fucking head off.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Amy Winehouse wasn’t a musical genius and lyricist like Kobain [sic] was.”

      How and why and in what universe?

      • gaw

        i don’t think she wrote her music– that’s why she’s not as valued, in part.. (p.s.im a female)

        • Meghan Murphy

          Are you joking? Of course she wrote her own music. That’s mostly what the doc is about. If you don’t know anything about her or her music, why are you commenting on it? And I didn’t assume you were male. I listened to Nirvana when I was 12/13, too. Everyone did. My point was that it was aimed towards and most-enjoyed by young white boys. The reason I listened to it was because the young white boys in my grade 7 class did.

        • Ann

          Amy Winehouse had been writing her own music and lyrics since she was a teenager. There’s a strong focus on this in the documentary and how she drew on her life experiences to create her lyrics and music. When men do that it’s called art, talent, gift or genius. When women do that it’s usually trivialized, disregarded and forgotten, as in the media treatment of Amy Winehouse. The fact that you had no idea that she wrote her own music is a good illustration of how society doesn’t value the talent of women as much as it does men. Despite her exceptional talent, she is primarily remembered for her addiction, her mental health problems and her supposedly ‘bad’ behavior. For Kurt those very things become a part of his ‘mystique’ and helped to elevate him to legendary status. Women are not given the same acknowledgement, compassion, understanding or respect. That’s the point.

        • Priscila

          Furthermore, not writing their own music isn’t enough of a reason for a singer to be discredited. Ever heard of Argentinian Mercedes Sosa? Or Brazilian Elis Regina? They’re both absolute legends in their home countries, several years after their death, and mostly performed works by other composers so that they could concentrate on developing their vocal technique. Not to mention that this is how most of classical music work nowadays, too. You need to get a better excuse to dismiss a singer.

          • Priscila

            Btw Elis Regina also died precociously and had developed problems with drugs and alcohol. Amy Winehouse reminds me a lot of her.

    • marv

      Captian Truth is camouflage for Captain Male Bias. If it wasn’t for patriarchy, Amy, Kurt and my brother would probably be alive today; not to forget numerous others.

    • Ellesar

      I do not like jazz and soul, so am not a fan of her music, but your comment is absurd.

    • Priscila

      You’re right. She wasm’t like Cobain. She was much better.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I agree. In my opinion she was far more talented — both as a singer and a musician, than Cobain. Cobain’s music was appealing to angsty teenagers (particularly young white boys). I’m not going to say he wasn’t talented or important, but come on. Listen to Amy, listen to Cobain. Then tell me he’s the real musical genius.

    • DefenderofThemyscira

      If she’s not a legend then tell me why so many people flocked to her gigs? Males have always discredited and diminished art and music made by women saying that it’s not as good or whatever. Things don’t necessarily have to be relatable to males to be good. And also stop taking such a literal view of death. Things add up over the years. Stress from various factors can even cause pathological reactions in the body over the years.

    • Ann

      I wasn’t all that familiar with Amy Winehouse until I watched this documentary, but one thing that struck me the most was what an amazing lyricist and songwriter she was. The reason she’s not remembered for that is precisely the point of this article. Only male artists get reified as ‘geniuses’, especially if they’re navel gazing white boys with guitars. Women artists are usually an afterthought in the ‘pantheon’ no matter how talented and interesting they are.

      By the way, it’s Cobain.

    • Adam Sowa

      Amy Winehouse was a passionate and professional song writer and performer and did this despite fame.

      Kurt Cobain screamed unintelligible words into mic and rode on corporate created fame; Cobain was the Kenny G of grunge.

    • Lisa M

      Completely disagree! It helps to know she was every bit as good a lyricist and songwriter as Kurt! Corny, outdated concepts like shaping a generation are thankfully irrelevant when it comes to her music and talent!

    • lizor

      “Amy Winehouse wasn’t a musical genius and lyricist like Kobain was…”

      Absolutely correct. He was not a musical genius at all – he had a more “right place, right time” sort of career.

      Winehouse’s raw musical talent far outweighs anything Cobain had to offer. People get confused because of her popularity and assume she was the same sort of manufactured product as so many wide-selling musical groups and individuals (yes, YOU, Beyonce – and all of those verbally flatulent boys whose names I choose not to remember).

      She was the real deal, like J. Mitchell, M. Davis and others. No matter where she was or how her life had played out she would have been a musician.

  • The Real Cie

    Amy Winehouse, like Janis Joplin, allowed the wrong men into her life and became obsessed with them. Janis’ bisexuality tends to be publicized for shock value, but her sister talked about the man who broke Janis’ heart. As I recall, he introduced Janis to heroin as Blake Fielder-Civil did with Amy.
    Alcohol can certainly destroy lives, and it doesn’t discriminate based on sex or gender. Alcoholism killed Steve Clark (Def Leppard) at age thirty and nearly killed Duff McKagan (Guns n Roses). Duff got a second chance.
    Still, it’s not surprising that the attitudes of opportunistic men played a big part in Amy’s downfall. While Mitch Winehouse may not be the monster that Joe Jackson is, his attitudes towards women are sickening. Women to men like this are toys to play with and tools to be used. They aren’t human beings.

  • corvid

    As a woman who spent most of her youth struggling with alcohol and drugs in response to a pain that seemed to have no origin or end, Amy’s story sends shivers down my spine. I know that, had I the financial resources and enablers that Amy had, I could very well have ended up like her. For some people, once you start drinking, there is no off-switch. Looking back on it now, it’s as though something in me wanted desperately to die, but on a conscious level I was afraid to. So, far past the point of blackout, I would continue to drink until I collapsed. I can’t properly tell you how horrible it felt, time after time, waking up from that. You leave yourself just enough time to get steady again, then you destroy yourself again. It’s horrible and compulsive, a cycle that absorbs everything in life until you have nothing else.

    Amy’s voice was devastating. Clearly she had severe internalized misogyny, with her pomo-1950’s sexualized image and navel-gazing, male-centred lyrics (“I cry for you on the kitchen floor” etc.) She was a product of her culture. I know that she too suffered from that nameless pain that some of us, the lucky ones, have identified with the help of radical feminism. This is why it is so important for us to make this analysis of patriarchy and capitalism accessible to women as Feminist Current does. Thank you Meghan and all.

    • Mar Iguana

      “I know that she too suffered from that nameless pain that some of us, the lucky ones, have identified with the help of radical feminism.”

      That pain has a name. It’s called misogyny. It creates the bullshit belief in male entitlement to women’s bodies and denies women what they are absolutely entitled to: Love.

  • Morag

    This is beautiful, Meghan. A generous and sincere tribute to counter all the sneering unkindnesses that were thrown in Amy’s path when she was at her most vulnerable. Which is to say, when she was literally dying.

    I agree that our culture kills, and that its methods are insidious and varied. Often, the seeds of destruction are planted in childhood via abuse and neglect, with neglect being the less visible, especially for girls, for whom being ignored, diminished and emotionally deprived is their introduction to a woman’s life and is taken for “the way of the world.”

    Lovelessness becomes normal. And then her impulses toward healing — in whatever intuitive forms they take — are blocked or thwarted. So, insult to injury, and then more injury, and so on and so on. Not even giftedness (such as Amy’s devastating voice and talent) can break the cycle or offer way through when that very gift is quickly used up by others for their own benefit. Demise can come more swiftly and sensationally, in fact, in an atmosphere of predatory attention and faux-love.

    I remember Andrea Dworkin, in Intercourse, said something to the effect of (paraphrasing from memory): it’s not just that a woman is likely to be abused, humiliated and penetrated against her will — even in her most (ostensibly) intimate relationships — but that, above all, “she is not loved.” Therefore, because she is not loved, any shabby thing that’s offered to her that even remotely resembles nurturing, is a thing she cannot really afford to refuse. But when she grabs that shabby thing with both hands (e.g., drugs, sex, the attentions of abusive men, including fathers, etc.), and it hurts her, over and over, once again she’s neglected and unloved by being misunderstood, mischaracterized, misnamed. She’s called greedy, selfish, irrational, masochistic, or — most tellingly — “self-destructive.”

    Or, like you said: she is said to “have” a disease. Whose disease, though? Why is this disease always native to the woman, why is it seen as a function of her faulty wiring or the wacky chemical soup of her female body and brain? I mean, if it is indeed a disease, why don’t our healers ever talk about it in terms of carriers and immunity, of contagion and transmission — why not a “viral” model? Like you have here, by identifying brutal systems, and the cruelties (both passive and active) of individual men, as the real killers?

    These are rhetorical questions, of course. The fact that feminist understandings of female illness are ignored and/or mocked and demeaned is all part of the whole picture: women are made sick by men’s systems, and then they turn to those same male systems (not just to medicine, psychiatry and social work — but also to money, marriage and the patriarchal family) to be made well and whole. The most vulnerable women die from this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you so much, Morag.

      This was a beautiful paragraph:
      “Or, like you said: she is said to “have” a disease. Whose disease, though? Why is this disease always native to the woman, why is it seen as a function of her faulty wiring or the wacky chemical soup of her female body and brain? I mean, if it is indeed a disease, why don’t our healers ever talk about it in terms of carriers and immunity, of contagion and transmission — why not a “viral” model? Like you have here, by identifying brutal systems, and the cruelties (both passive and active) of individual men, as the real killers?”

      You wouldn’t believe weird culty response I’ve received from people who insist that eating disorders are purely biological phenomenons — genetic diseases completely divorced from gender and social/cultural context. You get something similar when you critique the disease model of addiction, too… Like, addictions come from trauma. This is why almost all female addicts have a history of abuse — more often than not, sexual abuse — in their backgrounds. Sure, genetics and biology can be a factor, but certainly not the only factor. Our culture’s obsession with medicalizing everything is very much about individualizing everything (as well as feeding the capitalist machine, through Big Pharma, etc.). People are so afraid to to look at social context and underlying issues because it’s so much easier to say, “You’re sick, here’s a pill.”

      • Morag

        “You wouldn’t believe weird culty response I’ve received from people who insist that eating disorders are purely biological phenomenons — genetic diseases completely divorced from gender and social/cultural context.”

        I was trying to remember whether I had once read that there is some historical evidence supporting that Joan of Arc may have suffered from anorexia nervosa. So, I Googled it, and the first link I skimmed over was a litany of all her possible — purely biological! –diseases, ranging from a bad case of tinnitus, to schizophrenia, to bipolar disorder. Really, any disease at all, especially ones favouring symptoms of delusion, that would explain how this cross-dressing girl-gone-wild went and got herself burnt alive at the stake.

        Any problem at all, so long as that problem was indigenous to her own body, and had nothing to do with the fact that she lived in a social/cultural/religious context in which — you know — powerful men could decide that some girls ought to burnt alive at the stake.

        And, yes, anorexia was also on this list. Why not? I have no problem believing she may have sometimes starved herself. Perhaps for the same reasons she wore pants and cut her hair: to better accomplish what she felt compelled to accomplish. To camouflage her sex. To look like a boy. To discourage men from raping her.

    • tinfoil hattie

      This is a beautiful piece, Meghan, and Morag, your comment is insightful and bitterly poignant.

      I feel the same way about “borderline personality disorder,” which is said to be hard – if not impossible – to treat, and ha-ha-ha, it affects women about 110% of the time. Whatta coincidence, I tellya.

      • Morag

        Ah, yes, Borderline Personality. Why didn’t Freud think of that? Or, did he, by calling women, traumatized by abuse and male sexual violence, “hysterical”?

        There isn’t a single femme fatale, in all those stylish movies, steamy thrillers and film noir, who wouldn’t meet the DSM criteria for BPD. And, speaking of criteria, one of them should be “conventionally attractive and/or sexy to men.” Because, is it just me, or do most famous cases of BPD seem to involve women whom men find both irresistible and disposable?

        Susanna Kaysen’s memoir Girl, Interrupted explores the sexist social construction of this disorder. Not that the symptoms aren’t real and harrowing, of course. It’s all very real, just not in the way they say it is. Her other memoir is also very good, and it also explores a woman’s illness: this time, extreme and persistent vaginal pain with no apparent cause. Doesn’t sound like a page-turner, maybe, but I recall that it held my attention. Because her grand discovery is not the medical name of her mysterious pain, but that saying “no” can bring out the rapist in an ordinary, very nice, boyfriend. That one is called The Camera My Mother Gave Me.

      • Funkstar

        Sorry, but you are incorrect about that. It is a common myth that BPD cannot be treated. BPD has one of the highest success rates of remission of symptoms. If the sufferer gets correct treatment.

        It is consideted bio-social in origin. So both a pre disposition to hightened sensitivity and being brought up in an abusive, invalidating environment.

        Furthermore, the percentages are generally at about 80% female to 20% male. There are different theories for this. Ie- that men are socialised to not express emotion etc. That men are often misdiagnosed etc.

        Im not trying to be harsh on you and it seems you’re not trying to be offensive. But flippant remarks about serious mental health issues are not helpful. I am currently doing DBT therapy to deal with my BPD. BPDs suffer a lot of stigma in the pyschological world and a lot of misinformation and stereotypes abound. This has real world effects in regards to discrimination and people getting treatment.

        Maybe Amy was suffering BPD. Who knows. aNd yeah it probably was caused from trauma, trauma due to the males in her life, patriarchal culture etc.

      • Arachne

        Yes I think I had what they call bpd (the treatment I had wouldn’t tell us directly what we were labelled with, although one person found out and she was really upset about being labeled that way. It was a group and there were different disorders being treated int the same group) but the point is, the therapy worked for me really well. I read an article saying that bpd with it’s very negative image was disproportionately diagnosed for women but that it should really be seen as a form of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) which men are more often diagnosed with, most famously for when they are traumatised by being in a war. There was an analysis of the language – that saying ‘borderline’ brings in the idea that something can’t be defined properly and is somehow chaotic or dangerous; and that the word ‘personality’ makes it sound as though it’s ingrained and it’s the fault of or within the individual – whereas PTSD is locating the problem in the trauma and it’s resultant stress. Hence PTSD has nothing like the same negative image, shame and hopelessness attached. Also I heard someone speak on radio four about their experience of being treated for bpd, that was a man and he was very happy with the therapy he’d had. So we just need to rename bpd and make treatment for it available more widely and we can see a lot more happiness and health in the world!

        • Funkstar

          Yeah, I agree with you on lot of those points. BPD is closely connected to CPTSD (comlplex post traumatic stress disorder). Which is ongoing repetive trauma. It’s said to be massively under diagnosed.
          I also read somewhere that in Scandinavia (maybe?) they want to change the name to CPTSD, or emotional dysregulation disorder. I think a lot better name, it’s literal and describes the disorder.

  • CAt

    Well thought out article that shows a lot of compassion for the social issues Amy faced that contributed to her truly disempowered choices. I really miss her music. What a gift. I feel compelled to add, however, that it is necessary at this point in time for every woman to be told, and to understand, that we are going to have to take the initiative for our own empowerment. We are going to have to change the culture. There is no way, as we know from experience, that men are going to do it for us. Therefore, we need to do everything in our power to inform women that, regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in, that their fate is ultimately in their own hands. Even if we have to be tough on each other, even if we have to put social pressure on women to take responsibility for their own lives, and run from destruction and those who would exploit them, we have to do it. We will not get a freebie from men on this one. Toughen up, ladies. No more victimhood. And one other thing – cherish and appreciate every single man who joins us. May God bless Amy.

    • Morag

      Oh, for crying out loud. Where to begin?

      How about with feminism, which might be the part you missed when you read this article? Feminism, which is not about getting a “freebie” from men — whatever the fuck that means — but which is about women taking the “initiative for our own empowerment.”

      Who else would do this? Perhaps the men we are neglecting to “cherish”? Eww, that was really gross, Cat. I really wish you hadn’t written that down. Plus, on top of it, you called us “ladies” while you wagged your finger at us. All very icky, terrible stuff. Please, look into feminism.

      • tinfoil hattie

        Plus, there’s no such thing as “God.” At least not the “God” created for, by, and about men.

        Just my own formerly Catholic, embittered opinion.

  • Cherry

    This article touches so many profound points but im struggling to see how on earth you can talk about why she died and not mention the public media consumption?! It’s easy to say that it was ‘obvious’ and everyone saw her death coming but no one stoped or stood out to recognise that the tabloids report what we want to read. The public (both men AND WOMEN) craved the next horrific image of her stumbling off stage. Instead of blaming the patriarchy this time I think in this article it’s absurd to ignore the part we all played in it. As women, men and as a society we let her down.
    Blaming the men in her life ist’t incorrect but seroiusly..? sometimes it needs to be accepted that it’s not just a mans world! Im a highly independent young woman who’s surrounded by men who make me feel stong and empowered. The probelm is society not just men.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes, as a society we let her down. Turning her into tabloid fodder was a huge part of the problem. This is all related to capitalism, which I discuss in the piece. Yes, the problem is society, not just individual men. Our society is a patriarchal & capitalist one.

    • lizor

      “The probelm [sic] is society not just men”

      How did you manage to miss the myriad socio-cultural critiques on this blog? You are “reading” this blog and it have failed to grasp that Meghan and others whose analyses are published here do not buy into individualist ideology that erases social context? That’s the crux [most] of the critique: that social mechanisms influence, interact and are reproduced by and through individual behaviours and vice versa.

      “Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt”

      – some white guy who probably heard a female friend/family member say it first.

    • Priscila

      You say “it’s not just a men’s world” and on the next line “Im a highly independent young woman who’s surrounded by men who make me feel stong and empowered.”

      If you need men to make you “feel strong and empowered” I seriously wonder how “empowered” you actually are… and I don’t mean to blame you.

    • Sabine

      I remember the media coverage in the UK at the time and it was as if everybody was just watching and waiting for her to die. It was sickening. The tabloids were positively gleeful about it and their faux compassionate veneers utterly transparent. Patriarchy is absolutely to blame; she was fucked over and exploited by her vile ex-husband and her father was blatantly only ever out for himself, something that was all too obvious at the time. He would show up, turning his daughter’s pain and suffering fodder for his own little “Mitch Winehouse Show” and continued to try and cash in after her death. It was no surprise at all that she would end up repeatedly having her heart shredded by sponging wasters with him as a male role model. The media is patriarchal by nature and massively male-dominated and, I think, contributed massively to her heartbreaking decline by constantly hounding her and printing reams of spurious, often outright nasty gossip all for the delectation of a staggeringly dumbed-down, pathetically manipulated and slack-jawed public. She was treated like prey and it has everything to do with society, yes; a PATRIARCHAL society.

  • Jam

    ‘(Conveniently, many have blamed Courtney Love for his heroin addiction and his death.)’ seems like a bit of a needlessly sarcastic, flippant, throw-away comment, especially as you then go on to blame, among others, Blake Fielder-Civil for Amy’s death. It sort of undermines what your saying if you paint the blame game in a negative light, but then proceed to play it yourself. Not that I disagree that there were a lot of external influences on Amy’s downward spiral. I just think that that’s a silly, unnecessary addition to an otherwise interesting article.

  • Thank you for this. Thank you so much. I feel like you have done her so much justice and honor with this piece that Amy may finally rest peacefully.

  • Great article. You might be interested in what I wrote about her a few years ago. We seem to be on the same page, pretty much.

    http://alisonbancroft.com/2014/07/23/life-in-the-key-of-black-reflections-on-amy-winehouse-on-the-3rd-anniversary-of-her-death-2/

  • Raquel

    So the fact that Amy had a stage father instead of the much more common stage mother is proof that her death was caused by “patriarchy”? I’d attribute much of the difference between public reaction to her death and Kurt’s (and the differences in their lives and deaths are many) to the fact that Amy died in the age of paparazzi, her spiraling behavior was extremely public and used as gossip fodder which damaged the public’s ability to empathize. Whitney Houston was mourned in a more appropriate and reverent way, probably because there were fewer dramatic photos of her behavior (Kurt and Whitney also were icons in a way that Amy had not quite achieved by the time of her death.) Lindsey Lohan hasn’t died but her life has and continues to have a similar public spiraling, but I suppose you won’t blame her stage mother, or her girlfriend Sam Ronson who encouraged her drug use at her worst. As for eating disorders, it’s true that men and women self-destruct in different ways, women in more passive ones, whereas men simply commit suicide outright at a rate at least 3x higher than women.

    • Xcritic

      What the “f*** is “the age of paparazzi”, correct me if I’m wrong but this, “the age of paparazzi” start in August of 1962, when Marilyn Monroe is found dead, then rapidly vanishing until. October 1970, when Janis Joplin is now found dead in a bed, presumably from diacetil-morphine O.D., – Talking about Icons – missing for just 2 weeks the death of Jimmy Hendrix, then stays dormant for several decades, leaving alone deaths like the ones of: Jim Morrison, Elvis Prestley, Bon Scott, Kurt Cobain. Probably sleep-walking the dead of Lady Di, on 1997, then keep dreaming ’til the death of Amy Winehouse in the 2011, and, maybe, staying awake for the death of Withney Houston, in the anti-racism era of America, [2003 – present]. This “paparazzi era” seems very selective to the likes of myself.