Missing White Woman Syndrome

As I watched this story on CNN and read about it in our local newspaper and stood outside the house of Bobby Cutts as FBI agents removed evidence, I couldn’t help but think that something was inherently wrong with this as a news story.

Not to deny that the
Davis murder was a gripping story: a pretty, pregnant woman missing, her young son left alone for 30 hours, her cop-boyfriend under suspicion.

But as I pondered this, I wondered how her race, her prettiness, her age, and her social status influenced how much media coverage this was getting. What about all the other terrible murders that have occurred in our area? Why does Jessie Davis’ murder receive full coverage on Larry King Live while all the other terrible murders are left unreported?

Then, I learned about Missing White Woman Syndrome (MWWS). Something that has now become such a part of our media that it now has its own entry on Wikipedia.

"Missing white woman syndrome (MWWS), also known as missing pretty girl syndrome, is a term used to describe alleged disproportionate media coverage of white female victims. The individual may be missing, murdered, captured, or even have faked her own abduction; the essential element of the syndrome is that her gender, race, prettiness, age, or social background is alleged to have extended the media coverage and public interest in her case.

There is more interest among Western cultures in news coverage regarding missing or murdered white women and girls, especially blondes, while cases involving missing men, non-caucasian women, older or unattractive caucasian women, or other news stories receive disproportionately less airtime. Reporting of these "missing white woman" stories may last for weeks or months and displace reporting on other current events. However, it has been most prevalent in U.S. media, particularly on 24-hour cable news channels."

– Ahhhh. It makes sense now.

There’s something dreadfully wrong with us when we care more about certain types of people than we do for others. Justice is needed for all peoples, no matter their gender, race, or social status.



christopher said...

Wow! i have noticed this phenomenon and been talking about it for a couple of years now. i didn't know there was actually an official term for it.

Anonymous said...

This is so true. I remember my sister bringing it up and I denied it cos I hate blaming things on racial prejudice. After years of waiting for that moment I can say AH HA! A black girl (lost etc) is being covered.....needless to say I gave up as it never happened. My writing today is actually triggered by something I just saw on the telly, where yet again, a beautiful white woman, lost for over 12 years, was still reciving attention on Good Morning American. I m not naive, I know news is little more than "infotainment" but still, the media can be a little mroe responsible, if they must show missing or murder victims, criteria should me more substantive, like circumstances etc. and not so superficial