And a big, hearty “fuck you” goes to:

9 05 2008

the mainstream media, for their shitty coverage of certain missing persons/murder cases. Read: Missing White Woman Syndrome

But you know what? It’s not just the media. The family of 21-year-old African-American murder victim Ramona Moore has launched a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for ignoring her case – because she was black.

It’s not just about race, either. Generally, for the mainstream media to jump on a case, the victim generally has to be:

  • White
  • Female
  • Young
  • English-Speaking
  • Attractive
  • Straight
  • Able-bodied
  • Wealthy or middle class
  • Cisgender
  • Conventionally appearing (no tattoos or piercings; not punk or goth)
  • Not homeless, a runaway, or a sex worker

… and so on.

And it’s so enraging that it makes me want to scream.

Yeah. I know. The media can’t cover everything. But when the only murders the public cares about are of attractive, white, young, straight women – the stereotypical “All American Girl” – then it begins to seem like bias. A lot.

In 2003, in Toronto, a 32-year-old transsexual, Asian Canadian sex worker was murdered in her apartment. Her name was Cassandra Do. Her killer has never been found.

Mainstream media response?

(crickets chirping)

That’s right, folks, a big fat nothing courtesy of the mainstream media. The only reason I even know she existed is because of one or two stories in the local queer press, and some internet research. Which is sad – how many others are out there like her? For every Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway, how many stories go untold? I know of many, and there are so many more – simply because the media doesn’t pay attention. And don’t give me some feel-good bullshit of “But they want something the consumers can relate to!” Crap. How many people do you know that fit the exact description above? And, apparently, people like me, and a hell of a lot of other people who are “outside the mainstream” (which is a load of crap, since most people do not meet all of the above criteria) don’t exist.

I remember seeing Cassandra Do’s picture in a local community centre a couple years ago, along with the generic “if you have any information about this case, please call…”. I didn’t know anything about the case at the time, but I remember thinking, “Poor girl. I wonder what happened to her?”

I’ve often wondered if the same thought crossed other people’s minds, or if they just walked by, and forgot all about her.

Cassandra Do, and all the others like her, were people. They were people. Okay? Regardless of whether or not they fit some stupid artificial All American Girl stereotype. They had family and friends, and hopes and dreams for the future. They were just like you and me.

And really, what made Cassandra Do’s life any less worth living than Laci Peterson’s or Taylor Behl’s? Because she was trans? Because she was Asian? Because she was a sex worker? Her life was just as valuable as those of the damsels in distress you see on CNN. So why was her story deemed not worthy of talking about?

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5 responses

9 05 2008
Brianne

Whenever I have heard about someone who does not fit the “all american girl” profile, it has been either by accident or much, much later than when it happened. It seems as if the media is trying to fool us by presenting a “multicultural image” with certain things and then holding their discrimination behind their backs. Nothing irritates me more than to see the over representation of a certain group of people as a certain type of people.

I’ve noticed patterns of over-coverage in stories about these AAGs from little things like constant comparison of other cases to theirs to request of community involvement. It’s just something that needs to be changed. Now.

12 05 2008
Tirade

It’s a vicious cycle. The media tells us what we should aspire to be by holding up their ideal person and so that makes it so people ‘relate more’ to that one kind of person, giving the media an excuse to continue to hold up that kind of person as the ideal. :\

12 05 2008
Ry

I heard somewhere that one transsexual gets murdered each month. I really doubt that the numbers are less dismal for gays/lesbians. People don’t like anything outside the normal. Hearing about people outside the “mainstream” can make viewers “uncomfortable”, so they don’t do it.

It’s really pathetic, though. A lot of serial killers seem to go after gay men (I base this on one book of 50 serial killers, not extensive research)- but are we going to hear about all of them and how brutally they were killed, or the sweet blonde girl that’s class president and was killed at a rave? We complain that the media only shows the negative- but what it doesn’t show can be even more negative than most realize.

13 05 2008
tinley

this post is amazing. your whole blog is brilliant – so well phrased and opinionated in a way that is not even mildly obnoxious or forceful.

6 12 2009
LisaG

Stumbled upon your blog while doing an online websearch, wondering if any new information has come up in the case, if they have finally found the person who murdered Cassandra.

Cassandra was an acquaintance of mine. We were not very close, but I used to speak with her frequently. I used to see her and a male friend often at a local goth bar and I would usually drink and chat with them. At the time, I worked at a cafe and Cassandra came by most afternoons for a coffee or a light meal. We’d talk about clothes, shoes, the events and people we knew from the nightclub. I thought she was quite nice and very funny.

And yes, she was a sex worker. She often met with clients at the cafe before “dates”. Admittedly, I was none too comfortable with her choice of profession, but who was I to judge her? I never let that affect our relationship. She was nothing but kind to me and I enjoyed the time I spent with her.

I eventually left my job at the cafe and we kind of lost touch. Then one day I visited a local bookshop, where I saw the poster with her photo, the one that read “if you have any information regarding the death of…”. I walked out of the store and began to cry.

I was initially shocked by the lack of coverage about this case; I am still shocked by the police’s inability to find the person who committed this crime. I truly believe that if Cassandra had been an “all-American girl”, as you so describe, her killer would have been found and brought to justice.

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