Query: White middle-class sex assault victims receive more media attention?

Feminists, philosophers, I seem to remember reading that victims of sexual assault are more likely to be attended to in the media if they are white, middle-class, and cisgendered women.  I cannot remember the source, however.  Anyone have it?

5 thoughts on “Query: White middle-class sex assault victims receive more media attention?

  1. I don’t know what particular source you have in mind, but there is a great deal of evidence to substantiate this point. See for example Kristen Gilchrist’s 2010 article ‘Newsworthy victims?’ (Feminist Media Studies), which compares the representation of missing and murdered white women to the representation of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in local Canadian news press, and finds that white women receive a great deal more media attention and are represented in qualitatively different ways to Aboriginal women. She goes on to discuss the real world impact this has on the lives of victims, their families and communities in terms of how much time and energy are devoted to solving individual cases etc. Jenny Kitzinger has also written a great deal on media coverage of sexual violence (mostly in the UK context) and addresses issues of racism and selective ‘colour blindness’.

  2. Chris Greer, co-director of City University London’s Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, makes some interesting points in Chapter 2 of News Media, Victims and Crime:

    “Demographic characteristics such as class, race, gender, age and sexuality can at times determine news media interest in a fairly straightforward manner. But they can also cut across each other and interact with other variables in nuanced and unpredictable ways that do much to invalidate blanket claims that ‘the press’ or, still worse, ‘the media’ are institutionally prejudiced. The influence of victim demographics needs to be considered within the wider context of the news production process, the other elements of the case, and the prevailing cultural and political environment at that time. In order to unravel this complexity a little further, it is helpful to explore the concept of newsworthiness.”

    Dr. Greer goes on to survey the literature on the criteria of “newsworthiness” (e.g. unexpectedness, violence, celebrity, unambiguity, visualization, proximity, and many other variables). Of course, a few of these variables are likely to pick up bias in various ways. But due to the complex and non-obvious nature of these variables and their interactions, it can be easy to draw wrong inferences about bias based on variability of news representations. Anyhow, lots of good material there, including on the contributions of feminist scholarship in this area. And it’s available free online:

    Click to access 15712_02_Greer_Ch_02.pdf

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