I’m writing this post because Sujal tore me away from my reading induced nap and asked me to read this post about Latoyia Figueroa and then respond to it. He wanted me to write it to post on Fatmixx, and so I am also pposting it on my own beloved website:
When Sujal called me to ask me to write this post, I asked him to tell me about it first. I will admit, my first reaction internally was something along the lines of: Okay, so what do you want me to do about it? There’s nothing I can do about it. I think that was coming directly from my deeply rooted white guilt. And as quick as lightning, a flurry of thoughts ran through my head. I have never been a big fan of the hyping of missing women, white or otherwise. Frankly, I think that it paints missing women as entertainment. Just ask Sujal, I despise TV shows that rovolve around a woman being vistimized: raped, murdered, abducted, you name it. Years ago, I began thinking about how there are very few movies or books about men being victimized by women. (I think I may have even posted about this in the past.) I even opened it up to men being abducted and tortured by other men, and still my list was quite short. I asked a lot of people at the time for their knowledge, and collectively, we came up with a short list. the two that come to mind are “Misery” and “Man in the Iron Mask” (men without any heroic status in the text or film — and yet “Iron Mask” even seems to break that rule). For the most part, men are not protrayed as being so powerlesss. I’d say this goes for the news, too. Women, on the other hand, are the perfect object for victimization in pop-culture, non-pop-culture, and the news. Honestly, I began to think that women were victimized more in reality. I did a little online research to see if indeed women were more likely to be on the receiving end of violent crime. I came upon this website, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Men are indeed much more on the recieving end of victimization. I couldn’t find info on abduction and/or torture. I go through all of this because what really upsets me is how skewed the perceptions of women as victims are. There’s a book called The Culture of Fear. I have not read it, but I see it referenced a lot and know that it deals with fear being a means to control “the masses” and public perception. I also think that portraying the victimization of women, whether it is as entertainment or as news can foster an idea that this IS what happens, and therefore it’s out there, not that it is exactly okay to victimize women, but it’s out there — just like lying is not okay, but it happens all the time (perhaps not on the same scale).
My other hesitation to post about this was because there has been a long standing clash between some white feminists and some feminists of color. I do not want to diminish the importance of any human being, which is probably the main reaction to this phenomenon of underreporting missing minority women. I would agree that it does indicate a disconcerting lack of concern for all individulas regardless of skin color. But I am also not prepared to get into a really big discussion of white feminism vs. feminism of color, and that is probably because I am white and have not looked into it too deeply.
So I guess my feelings on Figueroa are as follows: I am not a fan of any woman’s disappearance being paraded on TV, newspapers, or internet. I usually see these things as private matters, and I do not want to be a voyeur. I do, though, see the helpfulness of publicizing a face of a missing person to report leads. So I guess it gets a bit complex there. As for the fact that minority women are not given the same media attention, well, that is flat out wrong that our media reports that way, obviously. (though any good businessperson will tell you that news is a business, and they reposrt on what sells, so the larger society is equally guilty.) Clearly there are issues of race and class at play. Clearly as a nation we value some people over others. This is wrong. Bust again, I think it is wrong period to treat the victimization of women as entertainment.