Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Media Bias
Posted on  May 8th, 2013
by Justina Tran

PolicyMic published an interesting post last week entitled, “College Rape: Does the Media Focus Only On White Survivors?” Prior to reading the post, I already knew the media had its biases against minorities such as with the Dr. Kermit Gosnell murder trial and the fact that the horrifying case involving a black abortionist and minority clients was virtually ignored by mainstream media. However, I didn’t comprehend the extent of how far media bias can stretch.

The author Wagatwe Wanjuki described herself as, “a scholarship student, woman of color, and a first-generation American” who found it difficult to cope with being sexual assaulted because she wondered, “why a black woman like me didn’t even get to have a judicial hearing to examine not only my rape report, but the violent threats and attack done by my rapist as well.”

Wanjuki wrote her post because, “I am increasingly frustrated and almost scared by the lack of diversity that I see in the survivors receiving national media attention. As I look at photos and watch the media appearances of these resilient, brave survivors I can’t help to feel invisible… An important message that media attention on rape survivors means that ‘you matter.’ Do not other survivors — whether they are men, of color, poor, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming matter, too?”

The last point reminded me of the incident with Danny Brown and the controversy over whether or not he was sexually assaulted. The mere fact that Brown is a man (and perhaps because he is of color?) caused people to question if he was truly a victim or merely a rapper living up to the hyper-masculine role that society expected of a wealthy musician.

Nevertheless, Wanjuki concluded her thoughts with, “What has contributed to young white women being the face of rape survivors in media? I do not know. It may be a reflection of our culture to be more sympathetic to white female survivors as talking about rape and rape culture in mainstream media becomes more prevalent (a sort of extension of “missing white woman syndrome”). It could be general distrust or fear of the mainstream media to properly tell our stories. Or maybe no one wants to listen. When I first was trying to get attention to my story, I remember reporters, producers, and magazines alike asking me to rehash the painful details of my story only to pick to feature other survivors: all of them pretty, female, and white.”

One of the comments in the discussion section seemed to sum up Wanjuki’s points in a concise, straightforward way, “White women are still the majority of women and they elicit the sympathies of that majority. You can’t mainstream any issue in America without it appealing to whites. For example feminism was a movement of white middle class women and if it were started by black women it wouldn’t have become mainstream until it earned white support.”

I feel sick realizing that this is all too true.

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