MISSING WHITE WOMAN SYNDROME
Missing white woman syndrome, also known as missing pretty girl syndrome, is a tongue-in-cheek term coined by some media critics to reference a form of media hype in which excessive news coverage is devoted to a specific missing or murdered white women and girls, while virtually ignoring missing men, non-white women, or other news stories. According to these critics, reporting of these stories often lasts for several days or weeks, sometimes even months, and displaces reporting on other current events that some people consider more newsworthy, such as economics and politics. This syndrome appears to be most prevalent in U.S. media, but famous examples can also be found elsewhere in the world, e.g. the United Kingdom.
The essential features of a missing person said to give rise to Missing White Woman Syndrome are sex, her race, (relative) prettiness, and age. These features are said to provoke positive discrimination in the reporting as news of the disappearance of a young white woman, and so to increase public interest in her disappearance. Missing people claims that cases which generate greatest publicity are those where missing persons are white, middle-class, female and from stable two-parent families, and where is no indication that such a missing person ran away from home. A working-class boy or an older woman is less likely to receive news coverage. Even in cases where foul play is suspected, if the victim is male, is of Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent, is a prostitute, has drug problems, is a persistent runaway, or has been in foster care, reporters are said to decide that their readership is less likely to relate to or empathize with the victim, and they reduce their coverage accordingly.
The typical profile that must be fit: blonde, attractive, if possible blue-eyed, young, petite, vivacious and of a middle class or higher economic background creates the cases of MPWW which involve every local or national news to provide regular daily coverage of any and all developments, accompanied by lengthy discussions about the meaning of such developments. Speculations about evidence, suspects, motives that caused the disappearance rise and family members are called in order to offer more information and to show pictures of the victim. As the story gains momentum and begins to pick up steam like a runaway locomotive more talk shows and news media search details and turn the event into a national issue. The typical case lasts for days, weeks, months, forever and ever resulting in some families creating a website about the case, or a reward is posted, flyers and leaflets are posted all over and cover all neighborhoods.
However, if we take a look at the Doe Network, which is one of the resources that handles missing adult cases, we find out that: a) there are more missing black women in the US than women of all other races combined, b) there are more missing men than women, and c) there are far, far more missing long-term missing persons than most people even dream about. Moreover, from the news you would never know that most missing Americans are men, not women, that nearly a third of the missing are black, and that even ugliness will not save a woman from becoming missing and turning up dead.
[pic] Missing People Chart
The Missing White Woman Syndrome should be taken into account and treated as a huge problem, but at times some cases are emphasize more than others and thus discrimination appears. What is more, “Missing White Woman Syndrome” seems to be interjecting racism into a situation that is much more complex than simple racism, as very often the disappearance of black women is neglected or if at the same time a white woman and a black one are reported missing it is only the white one that catches the media attention and soon becomes national news. Some critics say that pretty,...
Monica Radu, 1st year student of American Studies
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