Sunday, 26 December 2010

Missing White Woman Syndrome

I've just been reading a Wikipedia article on MWWS or 'missing pretty girl syndrome', really interesting, and something I've never really thought about before, although it seems obvious.
The term refers to the level of media coverage given to the dissapearances of middle class, white, women between 20 and 30, and teenagers, compared to that of men, or women of different races, or of lower class. I think it shows how insane the media is these days, and how its driven by the desire for looks and money, a pretty sad reflection.

an example is two teenagers who went missing, but one recieved more media attention that the other, Amanda Dowler, was a middle class schoolgirl

Whilst hannah Williams was from a working class background, with estranged parents and a stud in her nose

Images of Amanda were all over the front of national newspapers, I clearly remember the news of amandas disappearance, but I have no recollection of hearing about Hannah Williams.
Amanda was what the media wanted, a model school girl with a middle class family, whereas hannah was from a single parent home and had spent time in care, the police described hannas mother as 'not really press conference material' she was forgotten immediately. Amanda Dowler continued to dominate the news. Both girls were found murdered.

I've noticed how shockingly similar alot of the missing young women in the news seem to look, there appears to be a certain criteria that needs to be filled to get coverage.
You probably recognise these faces -

But do you recall these ones?


  1. That's interesting and disturbing!

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  3. I agree with you wholeheartedly. However this is not purely about race because "pretty, white middle-class women" also receive much higher media coverage than men, but why is this???

    As a feminist and an academic, I decided to explore this further and compare media coverage of missing white women with their male counterparts and ethnic minority women. Although media coverage can be very useful when a person initially goes missing, it is more or less futile when a body has actually been found as it serves no purpose apart from entertainment value.

    The media coverage given to a missing white woman continues into several stages from her disappearance and remains intense when a body is discovered right to the point of trial. At this stage, usually the Police no longer require information from the Public therefore why does the news coverage continue?? Is it to serve entertainment purposes??

    Another poster on a similar thread stated that during the hunt for the missing woman, 24 hour wall-to-wall coverage includes speculation from a Criminologist as to the woman's fate. Her old school friends and some hangers on will share stories about their school days with the woman. People who claim to know her will describer her as pure, angelic and beautiful. Why on earth is this relevant?? The facts should be that the woman concerned has gone missing. She was last seen at a certain location and then subsequently appeal to the public for information.
    Although, I concede the coverage is detrimental to other generic groups, the constant barrage of 24 hour wall-to-wall coverage is NOT in the missing woman's interests, nor her family. In fact, it can prejudice a captor's decision to kill her and I believe the "pretty, missing white woman" is as much a victim of racism and sexism as other groups.

    Research suggests that frequent media coverage does not save women's lives. The purpose of this reporting is ENTERTAINMENT. Many say that entertainment is a reflection of the public and their demands, so instead of demoralising these women for receiving higher coverage, one should really be asking, Why do we as consumers WANT to know more about white, missing women???

    Think about what happens when the body of the woman concerned is found. Wall-to-wall coverage continues. Lurid and disgusting details of her last hours are reported in sickeningly GLORIFIED detail, almost to the point of gloating. We are told over and over how she was raped, tortured and the like. The media revel in telling us this, whilst also subtly condemning the killer at the same time.
    Compare this to when a MALE body is found. No such coverage of his disappearance or murder. Himself and his family are accorded much more respect. Details of his private, sex life or lurid last days are kept to an ABSOLUTE MINIMUM unless it is a VERY unusual case. The tone of the press in these circumstances is austere but respectful.
    When a woman is murdered, re-phrase that to, Pretty young white woman, there is almost an immediate assumption that she was raped and the motive is almost always sexual. If another motive emerges, ie. money, the media AND the public lose almost ALL interest.

    I believe that everyone should receive equal coverage but my findings suggest that there is a flipside to the "White, woman" phenomena. A damsel in distress theme is commonly identified however is it disconcerting to suggest that given the NATURE of the lurid details divulged in the aftermath of a white female murder and the fact that the media moguls presenting the information (and indeed, nearly a third of their audience) are predominantly white men, that the REAL reason for the media coverage is the unfortunate fact that SEX SELLS, even where murdered women are concerned. Quite a controversial suggestion sure enough but worthy of consideration for today's gutter-press.

  4. Actually, as a websleuth myself, I don't see this syndrome. Truth is while papers will alert us to immediate stories, it does little in the long run. Until parents begin to track their child's interest, take photos, measurement, and note eye color, scars, etc., we don't have much to go on. Many parents just don't take the time and beauty has little to do with searches. Information has much to do with searches. There is a greater source beyond the media, it's called the web. The media can help in immediate matters, but the quicker info can be made web-worthy the greater the search area will become.