Women, Violence, and the Media Readings in Feminist Criminology
At times, much like a good teacher, this book had my full attention. At other times, I nodded off. When I was three-quarters the way through, I began to wonder why it sounded like one of my old college text books. When I finished the 279 pages and went back to the preface, which I had long forgotten, I learned why: it was written for college students. That explained it. Had I not had to review it, I might have put it back on the shelf with those other books from a decade or so ago.
It’s not to say Women, Violence, and the Media: Readings in Feminist Criminology was uninteresting. It seeks to describe how women and violence are framed in fictional and non-fictional accounts, which interests me a great deal. The editor, Drew Humphries, professor in the department of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice at Rutgers University, pretty much achieves her aims. It’s just that like most people, I’d prefer to read about TV shows I watch. So, for example, I would enjoy reading an analysis of Dateline or even America’s Most Wanted. Do they serve to enlighten or to frighten? Do they show more cases of male violence than female violence, or is it in proportion to actual crime rates? This would interest me. Instead, there are chapters about Law and Order and Prime Suspect, shows that are popular, but that I don’t personally watch.
Even though I don’t have cable, I did find it interesting that Lifetime does well at depicting crime. It can broaden our understanding of crime because it shows subsequent victimization (like when a rape victim goes to a hospital and faces judgemental behavior by medical staff), which other programs often fail to include. They also have a balanced creative team. Oxygen and Women’s Entertainment actually have more males than females directing, producing and writing. Sounds like false advertising to me!
I would also have loved to read more about victim blaming, but it was only touched upon. I am always shocked and disheartened by news accounts on interpersonal violence and the comments that are sure to follow them. The editor says that victim blaming gives men “an edge in the court of public opinion and frequently in criminal court as well.” I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. In chapter one (“Words That Wound”), the writers say that victims get more support when their behavior follows gender norms (example: wives like Lacy Peterson), and that made sense, too.
The chapter that compared mass rapes in Yugoslavia to those in Rwanda was interesting. The authors quote a researcher who says women are viewed as “victimized women rather than as persecuted citizens.” They analyzed how the media framed the situations in both countries, noted the different terms and emotionally-charged words that were used and how human rights organizations even responded differently to both countries.
Another chapter focuses on mass murder in domestic context. Working in the field of domestic violence myself, the information on this issue confirmed what I had already knew about it (and then wondered, do reporters ever read books like these?), particularly in regard to the media reporting on “nice guys” that inexplicably “snap.”
Once I got through the book, I enjoyed going back over the highlighted parts, which succinctly provided me with information. Since the book has a lot of material to wade through, I would encourage reading this book for a college course, as intended. All in all, I give it a B-.