Main, Opinion, Women, z245
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White Woman Syndrome

Who loves you?

Well, if you are white woman apparently the media does.

For a long time, I had an idea that some people received more favorable media coverage than others.

Recently in Canada, Stephen Harper, a right-wing Prime Minister, received more negative coverage than his liberal opponent Justin Trudeau. We now have Prime Minister Trudeau. In the United States the most flagrant and obvious violation of media objectivity is their coverage of President Trump compared to President Biden. Now they have President Biden.

The media chooses who will be their darling, and then they create a narrative around them. If you have their favour, your weaknesses and mistakes are not reported. If you have their ire, even your good points are twisted into something wrong.

And way before the current chaos in our lands, the media in the United Kingdom were mostly favourable towards the Royal family.  During World War II, the media became the propaganda machine for most governments as they sought to downplay war losses and help to ensure we knew the enemy were the only evil ones.

What does this have to do with white women?

Well, a long time ago I lived in a city in which a lot of bad things happened. One weekend two young men went missing. One was from a rich family and one from a poor family. The rich man received virtually all the media attention while the poor man was nothing but a mention in the article about the rich man.

Even as a young man I saw the injustice in this. Why was one family’s pain and tragedy being neglected while another’s was being covered? It would have been better if neither were covered than to have such biased coverage.

This city is along a stretch of Canada’s northern Highway 16. This stretch is referred to as the Highway of Tears because of the large numbers of women and girls who disappear along it. Most of these are Indigenous women and girls.

Aside from a few special reports here and there, there is very little coverage. According to a study published in The Law and Society Associationaboriginal women who go missing in Canada receive 27 times less news coverage than white women; they also receive “dispassionate and less-detailed, headlines, articles, and images” Click here for more information. READ: Invisible Victims: Disparity in Print-News Media Coverage of Missing/Murdered Aboriginal and White Women

This is such a worldwide phenomenon that is has a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome. The Missing White Woman Syndrome or MWWS. Its coinage is attributed to Gwen Ifill of PBS, and the term references the media’s fascination with missing women who are white, young, pretty, and often from middle- or upper-class backgrounds, and the media’s simultaneous apparent lack of regard for those who do not fit this description. SOURCE: Me(di)a Culpa?: The “Missing White Woman Syndrome” and Media Self-Critique

In my local area there have been many Indigenous women who have gone missing. Hundreds have disappeared across Canada. I could understand lack of coverage, both locally and nationally, if these people, daughters, mothers, and sisters, significant and loved as they are, don’t sell papers. Or if media outlets just didn’t cover missing people at all.

Sadly, this is not the case.

A young blonde white girl from a nearby town went missing about five years ago. Her name and photos are frequently and consistently on television and other media as her story is told and retold. She could be the poster child for Missing White Woman Syndrome. This is great if you are her family but what does it say about the value of other women who go missing?

A much more difficult question to ask is: Does this media bias towards white women reflect societal values?

I am not sure about this. When the media influences how we are to behave or what to think, it is trying to brainwash us. A case in point here is the coverage over the violent riots that killed people and destroyed businesses that occurred last summer. The American and Canadian media called these protests. Most Americans still saw the riots as riots not protests.

This article is a first in a new series that will focus on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Missing White Woman Syndrome may explain the media’s lack of interest, but is it true that people, regular people, don’t care?

I think they do.

More in this series:


Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. His book, The Travelers, is available at and

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