Last updated 2018 10 25
Alcohol suspected in fatal crash caused by woman. That the drunk driver was a woman is not mentioned in the headline for the article.
February 4, 2009
Alcohol suspected in fatal crash
Canwest News Service
A 51-year-old woman driving a minivan died Monday night when the speeding vehicle smashed into a light standard on St. Albert Trail near the 118th Ave. traffic circle….
Police suspect the driver had been drinking….(Full Story)
The article on “Alcohol suspected in fatal crash” was contained on one of the back pages of the Edmonton Journal. Notice also that the headline does not give any indication of that woman was the drunk driver in the fatal crash. It would not have taken too much effort to include “caused by woman” in the headline. The practice of downplaying women’s roles is quite common with articles that describe women as the perpetrators of any crimes.
On the other hand, articles that describe women as victims will make that circumstance clear in their headlines and be front-page news or at the least be shown in the A or B section. Those facts and the reasons for them were described in detail in the following.
By J.W. Boyce
Canadian Press recently reported on a study finding that more women are being charged with husband abuse.
Should this surprise us? Yes.
But not because men’s victimization in the home, or in general, is a recent phenomenon. It isn’t. It’s surprising because the news media covered an issue it has traditionally ignored.
In their widely-cited book “Manufacturing Consent”, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman argue that the U.S. news media are biased. On one hand, they report on “worthy” victims — those who have suffered violence in nations on hostile terms with the United States. They are “featured prominently and dramatically” with the detail and context needed to “generate reader interest and sympathetic emotion.” In contrast, the “unworthy” victims of violence, in nations on friendly terms with the United States, “merit only slight detail, minimal humanization, and little context that will enrage or excite.”
My study of Canadian newspapers found a similar phenomenon. But in this case, the worthy victims were women and the unworthy victims were men.
I examined coverage of gender and violence in 1242 headlines published in seven major Canadian dailies from 1989 to 1992. (I chose headlines since they summarize news articles and are the most read and remembered part of a newspaper.) Considering that statistics on violence typically show that men are at least as victimized as women, the contrast in the amount of coverage given to each was striking:
Of the 540 headlines which directly referred to the gender of victims, 525 (97.2%) focused on women and 15 (2.8%) focused on men, a ratio of 35 to 1.
A random sampling of the articles accompanying the rest of the headlines suggested the gap was even greater. I estimated that a total of 991 headlines focused on the gender of victims. Of these, 972 (98.1%) emphasized women and 19 ( 1.9%) emphasized men, a ratio of 51 to 1.
Our hypothesis is that worthy victims will be featured prominently and dramatically, that they will be humanized, and that their victimization will receive the detail and context in story construction that will generate reader interest and sympathetic emotion. In contrast, unworthy victims will merit only slight detail, minimal humanization, and little context that will excite and enrage.
—Herman and Chomsky,
Manufacturing Consent (1988, p.35)
The contrast in the content of head-lines was as dramatic. The few headlines on male victims tended to give only raw data on the amount of violence they suffered. This suffering was not personalized or explained…. Read more