Just six months after Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by an off-duty police officer in the UK, Gabriella Petito was traveling with her fiance in the United States. The disappearance, and her now confirmed death, made international headlines. Although the stories of Everard and Petito are very different, they add to the feeling that gender-based violence threatens women around the world.
Then, about a week after the Pettitto case attracted media attention, the United Kingdom reported the violent death of another woman. She was a 28-year-old teacher Sabina Nessa, who was travelling from South London. Walk from home to a nearby bar.
The Nessa case exacerbated local concerns about the insecurity of women on the streets of London. But this fear is global. This is nothing more than a response to another epidemic that plagues our society-gender-based violence, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this situation.
Visibility of certain people
From March 2021 to September 2021, many women disappeared or were murdered around the world. However, we don’t even know the names or circumstances of most of them—even those in the UK or the US—because their stories have not made domestic or international headlines.
So why do some stories become news and others not?
Feminist media scholars have long pointed out that the race, class, and age of victims of gender-related violence play a crucial role in determining whether stories are newsworthy and how they are framed; that is, whether victims are portrayed as “innocent” “, or vice versa, whether it has been humiliated and blamed.
The families of victims whose stories are ignored are well aware of this.In the recent Washington Post article, They condemned the silence surrounding the death of their loved ones. They insist that the reason why Gabriella Petito’s case has received such widespread attention in the international media is precisely because she is white, middle-class and photogenic. And the disappearance of their loved ones—women of color, poor women, transgender women—at best is not noticed in public.
However, this differentiated media report only reflects a broader social truth: some people’s lives are considered to be more miserable, so their deaths will cause public grief. As the feminist philosopher Judith Butler told us, other lives are considered less valuable.
She said that we live in a society where the distribution of livable life is extremely unequal, and only those who are considered “important” can feel sad in a broader social and public sense.
This also helps explain the power of the #SayHerName tag, which was originally designed to raise awareness of the number of black women and girls killed by law enforcement officials in the United States. It is now used in connection with the murder of Sabina Nessa.
Publicly naming the victims is not only to raise awareness, but even to recognize the uniqueness of each victim. Each victim has its own specific history, passion and dreams. On the contrary, by naming these women, we refuse to turn them into a number or a statistic, and at the same time-crucially-claim that every life is important and therefore pathetic.
Hold the media accountable
Although Sabina Nessa’s brutal murder did become domestic and international news, social media commentators pointed out that the mainstream media initially lacked attention. This is because, unlike Everard and Petito, Nessa is a woman of color.
After the murder, there was a storm on Twitter, highlighting the difference between the Nessa case and the Everard case that received media attention from the beginning.
The famous actress and TV presenter Jameela Jamil’s tweet asked to see “the same level of energy and anger” in the Nessa case as in the Everard case, making it more difficult for traditional news media to ignore the growing The growing anger is due to the lack of corresponding coverage in the UK.
In view of the fact that mainstream British media are now paying attention to the case every day, the intervention across cyberspace seems to have had an impact. In fact, they seem to promote racial liquidation in traditional media, which is driven by the power of influencers and social media.
But the label movement did not appear in a vacuum. After all, in the past few years, there has been increasing anger, frustration, and public mobilization over gender and racist violence. Therefore, without large-scale local protests-from the women’s march to the hundreds of demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd, people cannot really understand the influencers and #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName and # The impact of label movement such as MeToo.
This powerful combination has helped open the floodgates of anger, and gender and race continue to make certain lives—usually the lives of black and brown women—more unworthy and therefore less sad than the lives of others.
So we can start with #SayHerName: Sabina Nessa.
But we cannot stop there.
We also need to hold the media accountable for their equal coverage of all lives, eradicate this gender-based epidemic, and work tirelessly to build a sad world where everyone is livable.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.