If you have the audacity to get yourself murdered, I have some suggestions on how to keep your name in the media – long after you’re pushing up daisies.
If you desire marches, memorials, candlelit vigils and sensationalist articles written by Clementine Ford et al, it will help if you’re pretty, young, hip, cool, ethnic and female.
Numerous studies from the UK and US reveal that the media regularly reports the murders of female victims over male victims. And according to one 2017 Australian study:
While nearly half of the sampled newspaper articles included female victims of homicide, only one-third of homicide victims during the time period were female according to the national homicide statistics.
With this truth revealed, it’s easy to see why the man-hating narrative is rife Downunder.
Let me state loudly and unambiguously. I’m not minimising the string of recent tragic murders of young women that have occurred in Melbourne. Would these cases have received as much attention if they were old, poor, disabled, uneducated and ugly? And how about if they worked in a stigmatised occupation – such as sex work?
One only has to look at the silence of the Australian media in regards to the tragic murder of Samantha Kelly.
Kelly was a 39-year-old suburban battler. She was the loving mother of four children. She was intellectually disabled with an IQ of 70. She was poor with limited resources and support
This was not the case of some opportunistic ‘white’ bloke or indigenous homeless person preying on a vulnerable woman on the streets. Nope, Samantha Kelly’s murder was the sick fantasy of a 47-year-old white woman who had the delusional intent of taking custody of Kelly’s four children after her murder and raising them as her own.
Female killers and sexual predators don’t fit the ‘all men are killers and rapists’ narrative that the Aussie media likes to peddle.
According to research conducted by Emily Waters, Christine Bond and Li Eriksson at Griffith University:
Lethal violence is particularly ‘newsworthy’ and research suggests that media representations provide a distorted depiction of the actual nature and risks of homocides. Regardless of its rarity in Australia to other nations. How lethal violence is portrayed in the media has important implications for the public’s perception of safety and in-turn, criminal justice policy making.
One only has to look at the media’s framing of Cairns woman, Raina Thaiday, charged with the murder of eight children.
Queensland’s Mental Health Court ruled that at the time of the killings, Thaiday was of ‘unsound mind’. Can you imagine if Thaiday was a white bloke instead of a black chick?
Perhaps if Samantha Kelly had been just that little bit more socially accpetable to Marrickville or Brunswick residents. She would have warranted a bigger mention in the press and received a Melbourne memorial too.
But it’s not popular to be an unfashionable victim.
Vanessa de Largie is a freelance journalist and sex columnist who divides her time between London and Melbourne. You can find more of her work here.
Illustration: Wild Bunch/Gaumont/Space Rocket Nation/Vendian Entertainment/Bold Films/Danish Film Institute/Amazon Studios.
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