#Art + Culture

Is Attention To Gabby Petito’s Tragedy A Case Of ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’?

Gabby Petito Foundation ,Gabby Petito case reporting, Gabby Petito body found, Gabby Petito Memorial ,Missing White Woman Syndrome, gabby petito dead body, gabby petito body, Gabby Petito dead, Gabby Petito Case Who is Gabby Petito
What is the ‘missing white woman syndrome’? An American television host has sparked new debate in the highly publicised double missing persons’ case of YouTuber couple Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, questioning why similar coverage is not imparted to cases in which people of colour are victims.

22-year-old Petito who was on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Laundrie was reported missing on September 11, days after Laundrie returned home to Florida alone. Three days after, on September 14, Laundrie’s parents too reported him missing. Follow the case here. Over the weekend, investigating teams said they had discovered remains “consistent” with Petito’s description from a national park in Wyoming. Medical examination will offer further confirmation on identity.

Joy Reid, presenter for the MSNBC channel, on her segment ‘The ReidOut’ said that while Petito’s family deserved answers, “why not the same media attention when people of colour go missing?”

“Well, the answer actually has a name: Missing white woman syndrome,” she continued. Watch below: 

How Does ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ Play Into Petito’s Case?

The phrase ‘missing white woman syndrome’ is generally used to describe lopsided media coverage or public attention to missing cases of white, privileged, upper-class, successful, attractive women and is held up as a prominent instance of racial discrimination against non-whites. Journalist Gwen Ifill is credited with the coinage of the phenomenon.

Natalee Holloway (whom Reid also mentions as part of her report) is commonly considered a prototype of such missing white women. An 18-year-old, Holloway disappeared in 2005 from her graduation trip to the Caribbean. She became the subject of hot sensation in the US and elsewhere across the world for the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. There were endless searches and investigations over the years but her remains were not found, and, at the request of her family, Holloway was declared dead in 2012.

Petito’s case, being cited in connection to the syndrome, projects her as a young, desirable woman whose tragedy the media, both news and social, are dwelling on in a big way given her identity and appearance.

Experts maintain that the syndrome normalises hierarchy that places disproportionate importance on white people. Alternatively, there is some criticism for the concept claiming that it seeks to draw from the value of missing persons’ cases on the basis of race.


Suggested Reading 

Where Is Brian Laundrie? Internet Questions Whereabouts Of Gabby Petito’s Fiancé

Has Gabby Petito’s Body Been Found? All About The Missing Woman’s Case So Far

Is Gabby Petito Dead? Body Matching Description Of The Missing YouTuber Found


Trending now: