Colleen McCullough's Sexist Obit Is Shameful

by Caitlin White

Imagine for a moment that you're reading an obituary for a well-respected, hugely successful male writer. Let's say, for the sake of argument, Nobel Prize-winning Ernest Hemingway. And imagine that the first paragraph of that obituary — in bold font — didn't mention these accolades, but instead read: The awkwardly lanky and overwhelmingly unattractive Ernest Hemingway was also a writer. (No disrespect to Hemingway, who I actually think was a fox.) We're all going to have to imagine this because the truth is that this would never happen — to a male writer. But it did happen to the prolific and critically acclaimed Australian author Colleen McCullough, and it's straight-up infuriating.

Colleen McCullough, who is internationally recognized for The Thorn Birds, died Thursday at the age of 77. And how did The Australian celebrate her life? McCullough's obituary began by calling her "overweight." And no, we didn't read this in The Onion. Here is the exact text:

COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”

Ummm. What?! Let's see it in print, just to make sure our eyes aren't deceiving us.

Oh. My. God. It really says that.

Let's think of what could have been included in the introduction to this incredible woman's life: The Thorn Birds was a worldwide bestseller and its television adaptation is one of the most watched mini-series of all time; the paperback rights to the book sold for what was a record at the time, $1.9 million; she was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree by Macquarie University in 1993 for her extensive work researching historical novels of Rome; she was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and I could go on. But no. And I'm going to put this in all caps so please excuse me, but WHY ARE WE BODY SNARKING A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN EVEN AFTER SHE HAS PASSED AWAY? Can no woman escape this kind of treatment, even from the grave?

Luckily, we're not alone feeling this way. The grotesque obituary has been mocked and shamed across the globe, and a Twitter hashtag has opened to snark on the snark.

I mean, this is basically exactly what they said.

(I have a hearty LOL to that one.)

A very deserved burn The Australian, BURN.

As always, we hope that these kind of things can highlight major issues in our society that we can all push to overcome, but boy, I have to admit that I'm still reeling on the fact that this obituary is real life. You deserved far better, Colleen.

Image: Simon & Schuester