WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Once more with feeling: Media Must Report Gender Motivation for Mass Shootings

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

August 5th, 2009

A health club in Collier County, PA this week was the site of yet another horrific mass shooting by yet another disaffected man armed with ammo and a deep hatred of women. The shooter specifically targeted women, reportedly firing 52 shots, killing three women and injuring nine more before committing suicide.

Today, the Associated Press’s Genaro C. Armas reports that the alleged shooter, George Sodini, maintained a website detailing his desire –and plans — to kill women. The calculated nature of the crime, and the gunman’s stated intention to target only women, is eerily similar to the Montreal Massacre of 1989, in which a man opened fire on students after screaming, “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.”

Perhaps it takes this level of hit-us-over-the-head bluntness for media to notice that a mass murder is also a hate crime, when the victims of that crime are solely women. In contrast to many other shootings in which similar motivations have gone unreported over the past two decades, the AP (and several other news outlets picking up Armas’s story) have chosen to discuss the extremely relevant role of misogyny as the root cause of the bloody tragedy in Collier County.

According to the Editor & Publisher blog, Sodini’s website also contained slams against “the liberal media,” Obama, the election of “The Black Man,” and jokes about black men and white women. E&P notes that the AP and other outlets have omitted these details. Had Sodini aimed his guns specifically and only at people of color, ignoring information about his bigotry would not only be racist, it would also deprive the public of a full understanding of the nature of his crime. But while his racist webpages certainly add a fuller picture to this disturbed killer’s mindset, in this case the AP discussed the part of the website most relevant to the crime: Sodini’s anger at being sexually rejected, his deep-seated resentment toward women, and his stated plans to kill women.

So, finally, a gender-based hate crime is being reported (at least by the AP, at least for now) within the context of the killer’s actual anti-woman agenda. It’s an important step forward in media understanding of and coverage of this sort of crime. But if the press’s previous track record is any indicator, Sodini’s misogyny could potentially fall out of the frame of follow-up reporting.

Since such context has been woefully missing from most corporate media coverage of mass shootings over the last two decades, WIMN’s Voices would like to offer some helpful history from the WayBack machine:

From Jonesboro to Virginia Tech - sexism is fatal, but media miss the story
***This includes a discussion of the sexist underpinnings of the murders at Virginia Tech in 2007, and a full reprint of “Jonesboro: Sexism Kills Girls,” May, 1998, Sojourner: The Women’s Forum

Also potentially of interest:

video and transcript of my Fox’s Hannity & Colmes debate about the gender-based aspect of the Virginia Tech shootings and similar crimes over many years.

Women In Media & News urges reporters, editors, news anchors, analysts, commentary writers, pundits and bloggers to keep the spotlight on the dangerous implications of Sodini’s sexism whenever the PA shooting is discussed. More broadly, we encourage media to report this crime within the context of the prevalence of gun violence against women and girls, and the fact that sexism has been the (largely unexamined) motivation behind a great many of the mass shootings we’ve seen in the last two decades.

For additional comment from WIMN, email info[at]wimnonline[dot]org, or call 347-564-5190 during normal business hours.

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