As with most, I have been following the Gabby Petito news coverage and hanging on every little clue or piece of new information. It was absolutely heart-breaking to learn that her lifeless body was found and identified. I can’t imagine the pain her family must be going through right now.
Today, I was searching for the latest news regarding Gabby’s missing boyfriend, and this CNN.com article was maybe the first or second in my search results. I don’t know exactly why but I feel kind of angry for some reason regarding some of the authors’ false assumptions regarding white women as homicide victims in the media.
The first blaring assumption is that media attention is a “good” and/or “favorable” advantage for the victim. After reading many of the articles, aside from her smiling, sweet, young, pretty face and long blonde hair from photographs of her short life, nothing reported has been overly favorable to her character. For instance, when her and her boyfriend were stopped by police, she was nearly arrested for domestic abuse and this was only because her fiance did not press charges. It was also stated and reported in several articles that she had “OCD,” “freaked out on her fiance simply for dragging dirt into their van,” “the police arranged for a hotel for her while Laundrie was encouraged to stay in his van for the night (another article I read claimed that Petito stayed in the van and Laundrie in the hotel),” “she was an aspiring travel blogger,” etc. At no point would I say the media gave Gabby a “favorable” or even “positive” spin simply for being white and to the contrary, she was painted in a pretty negative light. In fact, strictly from the tone of many of these articles, my impression of Gabby is not that she was a privileged, rich, white-girl but rather a starving young artist, moody, temperamental, high-maintenance and entitled – as if she almost deserved to be abandoned by her male fiance. Certainly not the impression her loved one’s would want for her nor is it likely the way she would have liked to be remembered.
Furthermore, in regards to the “media is a great thing for missing-person victims,” debate, excuse me, she was not brought home alive AND the media’s tips are likely the reason the only “person of interest” was able to get away and remain missing for several days now. One could argue that in a non-publicized criminal investigation, the police would have interrogated the “person of interest” when they had the chance and/or the “person of interest” would have had no idea to take-off in the first place. Once again, extremely unfavorable for the victim.
As with most statistics, yours are completely baseless and/or incomplete. Certainly not enough to make an argument that “women,” obviously “non-white” have it harder than “white” women when going missing and therefore you and others have the right to further victimize, judge, make-fun-of, or otherwise put-down pretty, white homicide victims such as Gabby Petito. I just identified the anger I was feeling, a freshly murdered victim whose killer is still on the loose should never be referred to as, “missing White woman syndrome.”
YOU have effectively degraded her life and death to a trivial twitter meme before her killer has even been prosecuted let alone brought to justice. Not to mention, your own “Native American” female example that made you so allegedly angry and inspired your misdirected article, had a happier ending than Gabby’s or even Halloway or even Ramsey – her mother had the luxury of complaining about the rude assumptions police made about her lifestyle while they were in pursuit, found, identified and it sounds like prosecuted her daughter’s killer. I wouldn’t know because just like with your statistics, your example is painfully incomplete. None of these dead “beauties” have had even a fraction of that.
Yes, I agree with you, PEOPLE are superficial and that is sad and unfortunate. I am not even to the point of blaming the media for choosing to report on pretty, white girls when they go missing because guess what, if there was no audience they would move on. I am, however, appalled and outraged that you would choose such a horrific incident to make a mostly really bad and sadly baseless argument in alleged opposition to “white privilege.” My argument is, media attention is not necessarily a privilege and often an extreme burden especially in regards to missing persons.