The media must play a key role in the fight against femicide

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On December 6, 1989, an act of violent misogyny killed 14 young women at the École Polytechnique of the University of Montreal.

This mass femicide, although perpetrated by a single man, was born out of a societal environment of gender inequality, misogyny, colonialism, racism and other intersecting systems of oppression.

Femicide, which refers to the sex / gender-related killings of women and girls, does not happen out of the blue. Although the media often present feminicides as spontaneous ‘crimes of passion’ when men kill their female partners, these feminicides are the culmination of a history of violence in more than 70% of cases – and are more often crimes of passion. control.

They are also often more likely to be premeditated than murders of non-intimate partners. So many of these deaths are preventable and we must use all the tools at our disposal to raise awareness and improve prevention.

Hold officials accountable

Public health efforts around the COVID-19 pandemic have illustrated the importance of clear messages, prioritizing expert voices and holding political leaders and social institutions to account for saving lives.

As these efforts continue, we again celebrate December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and reflect on the current pandemic of male violence that continues to kill women and men. girls around the world.

A woman stands next to the Women’s Monument in London, Ontario, as people gather to mark the 25th anniversary of the 2014 Polytechnic Massacre.
THE CANADIAN PRESS // Dave Chidley

Our work at the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability tracks this extreme form of gender-based violence. As is so evident with the COVID-19 pandemic, the media plays a vital role in informing us about what threats are, what to pay attention to, and how to deal with a given issue.

In short, the media frame the problem and offer solutions. As such, the media can be a key mechanism for primary prevention, but only if the problem is accurately portrayed.

By covering femicide, the media have a leading role, not only in general awareness and education, but in actively shaping the construction of attitudes and beliefs that can aid prevention efforts.

In contrast, prejudicial representations include those which describe these killings as isolated or individualized events, focus on the behaviors of the victims to suggest (implicitly or explicitly) that they were responsible for their own deaths or marginalizing certain groups on the basis of race, religion, socioeconomic status. class, involvement in the sex trade, sexual orientation and other factors.

There is also the question of who is not represented at all. The “missing white girl syndrome” highlights that white victims, generally privileged by their social class, receive abundant media coverage, while missing and murdered Indigenous, black and other racialized women and girls are excluded from attention. of large-scale society. Therefore, some women and girls remain invisible in life and death.

Girls and women in brightly colored skirts hold drums as they march.
Young girls walk together in the annual Vancouver Women’s Memorial March in February 2021. The walk is held to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls with stops along the way to commemorate where the women were. been seen or found for the last time.
THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darryl Dyck

Media coverage of femicide is key

The way journalists frame feminicides is therefore critical to accurately informing the public. Media coverage of femicide has the potential to link it to broader issues related to violence against women, thereby educating the public about these crimes, their broader societal causes, consequences and implications.

This media coverage may include terminology such as femicide, statistics on the number of women killed by intimate partners, resources on domestic violence, or new sources of experts more qualified to talk about femicide, including service providers. frontline workers, advocates and researchers.

In addition to providing a more in-depth and empirically substantiated context about femicide, this type of coverage raises public awareness of the problem. It reports feminicides not as isolated incidents, but more directly highlights community and societal solutions.

This can include funding for services that help victims of violence, prevention education, legal reform, and cultural change, such as targeting attitudes that support or normalize violence against women.



Read more: “Home is the most dangerous place for women”, but private violence and public violence are linked


As we remember these women and girls killed by violence in Canada, we can think critically about how their stories are told and how the media informs us of their deaths. We can move beyond police narratives and cultural framing of femicide, drawing on the experiences and expertise of survivors and those who have lost loved ones to violence.

We can reduce the sensational and graphic reports of femicide and stop suggesting that the actions, behaviors or lifestyles of the victims contributed to their deaths.

Femicide is a tragic death. It is the most extreme act of violence against women, a violation of human rights and part of a public health crisis. An accurate portrayal of this crime by the media must include perspectives that address all three areas.


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