Monday, 10 March 2008

Unequal standards

There have been a few stories in the press recently debating the contrasting media coverage of the respective disappearances of Madeleine McCann and Shannon Matthews. In fact, the differing lengths of their wiki entries probably says it all. There does seem to be compelling evidence for the argument that class has played a part in how eager the press and public have been to respond to these cases.

But there's another element of bias that seems to be going on, highlighted by the murder case of Scarlett Keeling. I can't help but think that if Karen Matthews had left a two year old alone in a flat while she went to have dinner, or a fifteen year old daughter alone in a foreign country (during term time) to be looked after by a male tour guide, she would have been loudly denounced in the media for being a neglectful, unloving mother - her actions being typical of all that is wrong with society.

But, strangely, such comments are rather muted in the press. Do pretty, blonde middle class girls somehow not deserve good parenting? Isn't every missing child of equal value?


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that class is the only factor operating here. I think perhaps the cute factor might also be in play regarding the respective coverages. Which is more objectionable as the come-hither for a news story, I wonder?

As to the Keeling case, I think there is a widespread and growing presumption that children/teens are wise souls who can fend for themselves emotionally, spiritually and physically. (cf. the Home Alone series, the conclusion to Madame Doubtfire and almost any movie where a child dishes out wisdom to his/her elders.) It's a big lie, and it makes me very angry.

Either we have forgotten what children really are or, worse, it suits my generation of women to believe that children are resilient enough to survive and even thrive in, for example, situations of divorce (so foreign travel should be a snap.) The unpalatable truth is quite other, as we know.

The most terrifying children's book I ever saw was a little book put out by a US women's studies group, telling children how to be home alone. It included such gems as what to do when you are afraid (many children have a hiding place such as a cupboard!) and what to do if you are injured. I could have boiled those women in oil for trying to normalize a situation which should only ever be a sad and temporary necessity in the life of a child.

Alright, rant now over. Stick close to your mother, Ginger - a mother who makes cake - you're blessed!


Ginger said...

That I am!

I was pleasantly surprised that Shannon Matthews eventually turned up alive and well. Too often these cases end up with the worst outcome.

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