How are Women Who Kill Portrayed in Newspaper Media? Connections with Social Values and the Legal System

Patricia Easteal, Lorana Bartels, Kate Holland and Noni Nelson, ‘How Women who Kill are Portrayed in Newspaper Media? Connections with Social Values and the Legal System,’ 51 (2015) Women Studies International Forum: 31-41.

11 Pages Posted: 25 May 2015  

Patricia L. Easteal

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice

Lorana Bartels

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice

Noni Nelson

Independent

Kate Holland

University of Canberra - Faculty of Arts and Design

Date Written: May 24, 2015

Abstract

Consideration of the media's representations of women who kill highlights dominant discourses in the framing of public responses to criminal acts of a particular kind, which in turn shapes legal responses to such acts. Generally, women who commit murder are, in some way, portrayed as an aberration of true womanhood — as either 'bad' or 'mad'. Through an overview of the vast literature that has examined the reportage of these women, we examine how this is done and consider whether the framing or portrayal is affected by the woman's relationship to her victim: a violent partner, a child, or a non-family member. We identify some common themes in the 'mad', 'bad' and 'sad' representations of these women, as well as a tendency to downplay information that might contextualise or explain the women's actions. Details of the women's appearance and sexuality were also emphasised in media reports, with particular attention given to sensationalised images, for example, depictions of debauchery, vampirism and lesbianism. By contrast, underlying social issues and causes are often not included. We therefore conclude that our ability to make sense of such crimes in a manner that may assist in their prevention is diminished.

Keywords: women who kill; media representations; media and law

JEL Classification: K14, K42, K49, J79

Suggested Citation

Easteal, Patricia L. and Bartels, Lorana and Nelson, Noni and Holland, Kate, How are Women Who Kill Portrayed in Newspaper Media? Connections with Social Values and the Legal System (May 24, 2015). Patricia Easteal, Lorana Bartels, Kate Holland and Noni Nelson, ‘How Women who Kill are Portrayed in Newspaper Media? Connections with Social Values and the Legal System,’ 51 (2015) Women Studies International Forum: 31-41.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2609824

Patricia L. Easteal (Contact Author)

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice ( email )

Australia

Lorana Bartels

University of Canberra - School of Law and Justice ( email )

Australia

Noni Nelson

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Kate Holland

University of Canberra - Faculty of Arts and Design ( email )

Australia

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