Gender bias in murder coverage
Opening The Herald this morning we have another example of the way that men and women do not necessarily get treated equally by the newspapers. Carmen Thomas was dismembered by her partner and had been in an abusive relationship, yet the The Herald spins a lengthy piece that manages to make it look as if it is her fault. Binge eating, emotional issues and prostitution paint a bizarre picture of a woman who seemingly tempted her fate.
Carmen Thomas was known for her love of partying, her dazzling smile and her effervescent personality.
The 32-year-old was dedicated to her young son, and to having as much fun as possible. She was kind, confident, articulate, intelligent, attractive, friendly and bubbly.
Carmen wasn't afraid to live her life, she wasn't scared of anyone and she had a way of making people feel comfortable in her company. But behind the smiles, the laughter and the jokes was a woman hiding personal pain and insecurities, a woman who craved attention and who could be difficult, volatile and with a tendency to go off the rails.
Except there is no way we should be receiving this level of detail on the victim. Where is Brad Callaghan's character assassination? Why is it alright to further victimize the victim of a violent and lethal assault posthumously? This piece is not only unnecessary, it is in poor taste and highlights the gender bias that some women receive in news coverage. Indeed, had Carmen not been a prostitute there would be outrage at this kind of article.
The allegation that Carmen hit Brad in the back of the head at the end of the article is equally dubious. Let's put aside the fact that she was in an abusive relationship with a guy who was not only having a baby with another woman that he wouldn't admit to, but quite happy to chop her up and put her in concrete buckets and spend a couple of weeks hiding her body.
The coverage of women that are perceived as falling outside of societal norms in New Zealand is abysmal and evidences deeply held stereotypes about women's position in society. We only need to look at the way that the way Kristin Dunne-Powell or Louise Nicholas were treated to see that our news culture is male, biased and outrageous at times. Both women were put on media trial for their characters without as if the violence meted on them did not matter.
The reality is that we have a huge problem with domestic abuse in New Zealand and this kind of article contributes to it. A recent study found that New Zealand women were more exposed to more violence than other developed countries covered by the World Health Organization. If we want to change this, we need to start with the media. Dear New Zealand Herald, NO woman deserves this violence or this treatment posthumously, and by portraying her life this way you encourage and perpetuate further violence. Would you talk about your own mother like this?