Anonymous has jumped to the defense of another beautiful white rape victim, leaving some scratching their heads and wondering “what about the poor women of color who are raped every day?” In yet another example of “Pretty White Woman Syndrome,” which goes hand in hand with “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” Anonymous has chosen to focus on another rape victim who is white and very beautiful rather than the larger number of minority women who are raped each day.
To understand the phenomenon that Anonymous is busy bolstering, we must first define Pretty White Woman Syndrome and Missing White Woman Syndrome. These are both defined by excessive media coverage and societal attention placed on white women who are exceptionally attractive and who are raped, assaulted, murdered or go missing. This is to the exclusion of their black and other women-of-color counterparts, who have slightly higher rates of rape and much higher rates of murder than white women.
Studies have shown that there is a definite media bias toward covering cases of white women who have gone missing or who get murdered. White women get more attention, especially if they are attractive. The racial bias in coverage also applies to children. A 2010 study on media coverage of missing children found:
The findings of this study suggest that television news has some biases concerning the coverage of missing children cases with regard to race and gender. In particular, it was found that, although a relatively large number of African American children are actually missing, they are significantly underrepresented in television news… One study showed that about 35,000 kids went missing one year, and a little more than half of those were white, but about 67 percent of stories covered by The Associated Press were about white children.
According The Crime Report website, one journalist reported that the “damsel in distress” portrayed on the news “must be white,” saying:
The specifics of the story line vary from damsel to damsel. In some cases, the saga begins with the discovery of a corpse. In other cases, the damsel simply vanishes into thin air. Often, there is a suspect from the beginning—an intruder, a husband, a father, a congressman, a stranger glimpsed lurking nearby. Sometimes the tale ends well, or well enough…[b]ut more often, it ends badly. But of course the damsels have much in common besides being female…A damsel must be white.
Newsman Kevin Drum states, “We showcase missing, young, white, attractive women because our research shows we get more viewers. It’s about beating the competition and ad dollars,” while Kristal Brent Zook, a professor of journalism at Columbia, says “Who’s appealing? Who’s sexy? The virginal, pure, blond princess is missing…”
These same principles apply in all criminal cases of assault, rape, murder and kidnapping. The fact is, if the victim is young, white and attractive, she will get more media coverage and attention than women of color suffering the same fate. In the case of Daisy Coleman, she fits all of those criteria to a “t.” Anonymous is planning a protest in her home town of Maryville, Mo., and that’s great for Coleman, who most certainly did not deserve the terrible crime perpetrated against her. However, Anonymous should acknowledge that there are also less attractive and/or women of color who also deserve to have protests thrown for them.
Anonymous defends another beautiful white rape victim. No surprise. Maybe next time, there will be some attention paid to women who don’t perfectly match the “Pretty White Woman Syndrome” criteria, because they also deserve a voice.
By: Rebecca Savastio
Wall Street Journal