Newspaper, Media And Representation Of Female Offenders

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 Globally, crime takes place daily. Of these crimes there is potential to make media coverage depending on newsworthiness, introducing the audience to a story about what happened. Because of the media madness, crime by women is almost always making the headlines than men. Is this because it is not seen as the social norm, out of character not therefore, having the potential of a worthy read? This essay will analyse the criminal press release of women and focus on the media attention they receive. Being thought of as mad, and other factors such as this sensationalises female offenders in the mass media. It explores why the media portrays female villains in such a way that a critical understanding of whether representation in any way is misleading, starting with an interest in these women compared to men.

Media bears a significant amount of weight over public awareness of serious crimes having the ability to represent news coverage and presents it in such a way that guides the reader’s suggestive position. Newspapers are coordinated differently for many reasons and cannot be thought of as a neutral provider of informing so readers can do and think as they like. Jewkes (2004) said ‘despite often being described as a window on the world, or a mirror reflecting real life, newspapers especially might be more accurately described as a ‘prison’, subtly bending and distorting the representation of the subject it portrays.

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Throughout history, coverage of female criminals tends to be presented in a different way to that of males having the public think that women are designed for a wider choice than men by being more chaotic, mad, bad, weak, or wicked; provoking a huge difference in media coverage for the same crimes and behaviour. Cases regarding female offenders were also reported in larger articles: 31% were in large articles, and 47% in small articles, compared with 16% large reports about male offenders, and 60% small reports. Almost half of the stories about women offenders 45% were accompanied by photographs, whilst less than one-quarter of men’s stories 22% included photographs, Naylor, B (2001, p102).

This was clear in the press representation of Maxine Carr. In 2003, Ian Huntley was arrested and charged with the ghastly murders of two young girls, his partner Maxine was arrested and charged for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Ian Huntley received life imprisonment whilst Maxine, was given three and half years. The investigation represented in the newspaper of Maxine and Ian found that images of Maxine were far above that of Ian, portraying her as a lying, scheming person who played a bigger part in the killings.

Headlines had the audience believe that she had placed the bodies in her car, with her picture placed to the side of the headlines, but with no images of Huntley was evident. Jones and Wardle (2008) suggest that this work portrayed how visual montage and juxtaposition are utilised by media to distort images of female criminals Feminist criminologists suggest that the inequality in representation is down to women committing fewer offences, specifical murder than that of men (Seal 2010).

When a woman commits a crime, it is considered a violation of feminine norms such as tenderness, nurturer, and social compliance. Crimes committed by men are the norm that is accepted, but women are thought of as ‘doubly deviant. Marsh and Melville (2008) suggest that there has always been and continues to be a widely held acceptance of common-sense assumptions about female behaviour. Acceptable and stereotypical norms of women are closely related to the psychological constitution and biological goals. This basic assumption condemns women to different treatment not only in the media but also in criminal law.

Female criminals destroy ideologies about how women should behave, crossing boundaries between men and women to condemn and urge their motherhood to deny that they really can be a product of their environment. Criminal stereotypes continue to spread in society, and women who commit violent offences are the most brutally treated in the media.

Being labelled as mad would give the offender the opportunity of victim status. Of murderous women, the calculation deviates from their psychological well-being to reportedly mental ill. Thus, making us belie the mental illness is common if these women were examined and used at the discretion of the journalist. The media

focuses on recruiting female criminals and not their actions, which leads to a real reduction in perception. However, the fact remains that women’s mental health problems are far greater than men’s. The public, media, and Criminal Justice System make it difficult to accept females of violent crimes unless they are classified as crazy or unstable. It was then discussed the male villains were considered to be more balanced, driven by their thoughts than their biological composition, and therefore the least viewed as crazy.

Female child killers stand for just a small amount of the most serious crimes and because of their newsworthiness, media attention is assured. Whether she has children or not, mass media represent her as ‘the bad mother’. Marsh and Melville (2008) argued that the culturally sanctioned code of femininity and womanhood is that women should nurture and protect not harm. The natural role of a woman and mother prevents society from even thinking of women endangering children. In some cases when the victim is their own child, men scarcely are portrayed by the media and society as bad fathers.

Beverly Allitt. Dubbed ‘The Angel of Death’, committed crimes against children she cared for, betraying the trust she was given was clearly contrary to her crime. Even though she is clearly a dangerous person, the extent to which her crimes are handled increases with total shock and then with a moral panic of intensity where she, as a child’s nurse, destroys the reflection of the feminine values of a valued society.

Instead of her name in the headlines, the words ‘the killer on Ward 4’ (Mirror 2012) were used to show how the media exposed her crimes as an abuse of her role as a nurse. They emphasised her lack of emotion during the trial, examining her masculine appearance and commenting on her weight loss revealing her figure of a boy. The demonization of Beverly Allitt in the mass media guaranteed her a spot in history books along with Myra Hindley and Rose West. Women such as Ms. Allitt are considered unthinkable, perverse, not only did they violate the laws, they also violated expectations. Violence by women is extremely rare, increasing coverage of these cases, thus sensationalising press articles.

To conclude this essay- there is no one gesture to media debate of female offenders. Women really do attract high- levels of media attention as in the case of Ms. Carr. In addition, the media are a common factor in describing female offenders and misrepresenting the true facts of a crime. In the case of Ms. Carr, the pictures used the contorted her part in the crime. It was also found that women come up against negative media reports if there were violations of gender norms, this being evident in Beverly Allitt’s case. However, there is leniency when it is assumed that the woman has a mental illness.

These persuasive elements prevent the media from concentrating on the issues considered and the actual crimes that occur, thereby showing us how gender influences media representation, However, the fact is not altogether bent in the representation of women as mad, as a higher percentage of women suffer from mental health conditions than that of men. Media investigation of female criminals who are described as mad and bad is based on their gender mismatch and the biological bias of the female form.

The media can illustrate a mental depiction of villains who deserve forgiveness to those who do not, and it is important that true portrayals of female criminals are proven in the media. Ongoing investigations in the representation of women criminals and the state of effective media are crucial in the equality and identification of future female offenders. 

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