Stillman, Sarah. “‘The Missing White Girl Syndrome’: Disappeared Women and Media Activism.” Gender and Development 15, no. 3 (2007): 491-502. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20461232.
In this article Stillman explores the concept of “Missing White Girl Syndrome.” American media networks seem almost obsessed with portraying damsels in distress, women who have been victimized and brutally violated, and whose stories appear sensationally splashed across headlines. Various commentators have mentioned the media’s preoccupation with these women, discussing how it reflects the idea of women who need heroic others to save them. However, Stillman points out that the women who have the dubious honor of at least being recognized and remembered in the mainstream media tend to fit a very specific mold, and are usually middle class to wealthy, conventionally attractive, white women. As the stories of one missing university student appear on all the major media outlets, the stories of other missing women are pushed to the side and forgotten. Black women, Hispanic women, and sex workers are often either not mentioned in the news when they disappear or are found dead, or are given only a cursory mention before going back to the “main story” of the current missing white girl. Stillman argues that the point is not to forget the plight of pretty white women who suffer horrible violence, but rather to expand our capacity for empathy to include women who do not fit the conventional mold. She argues that in order for this to happen, we need to share the stories of marginalized women to humanize them in the public’s eye. However, simply running news stories of dead women is not enough to bring the full plight of society’s marginalized women to light. Instead, Stillman argues, we need to be more aware of marginalized groups at all times, especially in life, and work to change their situation so fewer women end up as victims of violence, with gory tabloid pictures garnering publicity.
One of the possible contributing factors of missing white girl syndrome is the fact that so many reporters are white middle class men, as mentioned by Jennie Ruby.