Making true crime communities intersectional

I knew since the beginning that I wanted to close out this project with an overview of how true crime communities can and should be more intersectional and welcoming to non-white women. In doing my baseline research early on, I came across an article about a true crime magazine made by and for women! I was so hopeful. The article interviewed the two creators of Foul Play, Emma Hardy and Grace Harrison, and they discussed how they wanted to appeal to the interest in true crime without glorifying misogynistic killers and fetishistic violence against women (Abraham 2018). That sounded good to me! Hopeful, I went to the website to learn more, and my excitement quickly waned. I clicked on the “info” tab, and a picture of the two white creators looked back at me. I scrolled down to the list of contributors, and I’m sure you can guess what I found- or didn’t find. Out of 20 contributors, 11 are men and 9 are women- a true crime magazine “by and for women” not so much, I guess.

Oh, yeah, and all of them were white. All of them.

This was a recurring thing as I looked for true crime content to feature and reference in this blog. White women were the most focused-on victims as well as the most prominent content creators in the true crime community.

I came across another article about being a true crime fan that was, surprise, written by a white woman. But this one was a bit different- she had the same concerns I did.

“In recent years, I have met dozens of true crime fans. Over time, it has become apparent that often, we are more alike than different: mostly women, mostly white, usually citizens, and largely middle class. My fellow true crime fans are often straight and feminine. Many also espouse centrist or left-leaning politics. And we all share a seemingly endless appetite for murder. The more true crime fans I meet, the more I see myself reflected. And the more troubled I become.” (Your Fat Friend 2018).

Let’s take a quick look at the main questions that I set out to answer with this blog.

Why do women love true crime so much?

Every woman that I have read up on for this project falls under one or more of these categories when asked why they love true crime:

  • Fear
    • Being a woman is scary.
    • Learn what not to do.
    • Learn what to do.
    • Learn about red flags.
    • What if that was you?
  • Empathy
    • Emotional stories are captivating.
    • These people went through so much.
    • Maybe you had a close call with death.
    • That could be someone you love.
    • That could be you.
  • Thrill
    • Being scared is fun.
    • Adrenaline is a trip.
    • Gore is fascinating.
    • Feeling in danger without the danger.
    • That could be you!

Honestly, I think this question turned out to be pretty simple. Why do we take self-defense classes? Why do people like a nice cathartic cry during a sad movie? Why do people like haunted houses and roller coasters? It’s the next question that is not only more difficult to pinpoint, but also is way more important.

How can we make true crime communities more welcoming to fans of true crime what are not white women?

1. Give non-white victims the attention and respect they deserve.

the-media-when-a-black-man-shoplifts-bread-to-feed-23088106

The ways in which non-white victims of crime are somehow made out to be worse than white perpetrators is so ridiculous that it could be funny, if it wasn’t a real, pretty horrific issue.

Black victims of brutal murders often have criminal records dug up and waved around, as if an arrest for a small amount of weed a decade ago justifies their slaying. The reverse is true, as well. White people who commit crimes have their pasts dug up, but this is done to prove that they weren’t all bad (Johnson 2017). The media loves to remind people that many racialized people have faced hardships and had run-ins with the law, but doesn’t seem to want explore what societal factors go into why that is, nor does it want to do anything about it.

Nonwhite children receive about 20% of the amount media coverage of missing children. The rest is devoted to white children. These numbers are not consistent with the amount of children who go missing within any given race (McKelvey 2013).

Journalists need to be held to severe standards, and face consequences when they perpetuate racial stereotypes or victim blame. Journalism is one of the most efficient avenues for change, but it has to be effectively utilized (Ramsawakh 2018b). Or utilized at all.

This doesn’t stop at nonfiction, either. Harmful fictional representations of people of color translate into their real life treatment, and these fictional representations stem from real life beliefs. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken.

And, to do these things, we should…

2. Give women of color a platform to address stories they care about.

No matter how well meaning, white people attempting to tell the stories of people of color often screw it up.

And, at the same time, when creators of color or other marginalized identities break into the mainstream, their content is overwhelmingly praised.

There seems to be something that could be done with these statements, but the media isn’t quite able to put its finger on it. Women like Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay have had some success in the mainstream, but when you see them among their peers, it’s clear there’s still a lot of work to be done.

When white people make content about non-white people, the story tends to be made for white audience, purposefully or not (Mallett 2015). Telling these stories through a white point of view fundamentally changes some very important factors involved- like how being a certain race makes one’s life very, very different than others’.

Being constantly inundated with stories of injustice is traumatizing for people who identify with or are members of the same community as the victim. Diverse voices brings diverse perspectives (Ramsawakh 2018a).

3. Address police corruption and brutality.

This needs to be done not just in the retelling of true crime stories, but in real life, too.

In the past year, I’ve seen several biopic productions announced that spotlight victims of police violence. One about Sandra Bland was released a few months ago. I recall seeing one about Michael Brown is being made. Even fictional films like The Hate U Give address police violence against people of color. Many of these kinds of films are headed by black people, and this is obviously great. These stories should be told and known. But why do we as a society only allow black stories when they involve suffering? How disgusting is it that the general public eats up movies about slavery and poverty and police violence, but for the most part turn a blind eye to original and unique stories by and about black people? We white people can wring our hands about how sad these stories are all we want, but we are making no actual change with the power we have.

4. Stop glorifying murder and murderers.

Seriously, gross. Stop it. Someone’s murder is not your coping mechanism.

5. Listen to and support non-white true crime content creators.

For the record, I do not know a single one of these people (even though I certainly would love to). No one is paying for or asking me to feature them in my blog for a school project that has had a solid 75 views in total.

Are you a woman of color interested in true crime? Embrace it. Put yourself out there. Your voice is something that is lacking and sorely needed. But that’s only half the battle. White women who love true crime, we have to uplift these voices. We are the majority, we are in power, we are in charge of what’s popular in this regard. We can do better.

Works cited

Abraham, Amelia. “‘Foul Play’ Is the True Crime Magazine Made By Women.” VICE, March 8, 2018. https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/3k79vb/foul-play-is-the-true-crime-magazine-made-by-women

Johnson, Adam H. “How the media smears black victims.” LA Times, March 30, 2017. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-johnson-black-victim-20170330-story.html

Mallett, Whitney. “Other Kinds of Violence: On Today’s True Crime Renaissance.” Filmmaker Magazine, April 27, 2015. https://filmmakermagazine.com/93909-other-kinds-of-violence-on-todays-true-crime-renaissance/#.XAmwMWhKjnE

McKelvey, Tara. “Cleveland abductions: Do white victims get more attention?” BBC, May 9, 2013. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22441124

Ramsawakh, Mari. “The Conflict of Loving True Crime While Being Marginalized.” Indivisible Writing, November 6, 2018a. https://indivisiblewriting.com/2018/11/06/the-conflict-of-loving-true-crime-while-being-marginalized/

Ramsawakh, Mari. “True Crime Tuesday: Crime Reporting Needs To Be Intersectional.” Indivisible Writing, September 4, 2018b. https://indivisiblewriting.com/2018/09/04/true-crime-tuesday-crime-reporting-needs-to-be-intersectional/

Your Fat Friend. “The Conflicted Life of a True Crime Fan.” Medium, August 13, 2018. https://medium.com/s/story/the-conflicted-life-of-a-true-crime-fan-e488c8e51b6

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