Pauline K. Brennan, Meda Chesney-Lind, Abby L. Vandenberg, Timbre Wulf-Ludden


We examined the role that race/ethnicity played in media depictions of female drug offenders.  Few have considered how the media characterize female offenders, in general; no one has yet examined how the media portray female drug offenders, in particular.  To test our expectation that portrayals would be more favorable for white women, we conducted a content analysis of front-page newspaper stories about female drug offenders.  Stories about female offenders from 17 nationally-available newspapers from different regions of the United States were coded for their overall tones.  We found that the stories about minority women who committed street-drug offenses were more negative than the stories about white women who committed such offenses due to differences in the emphasis that authors placed on an offender’s degree of guilt, harm to another person, and reform potential.  Discussions of reform potential differed most markedly for white women versus minority women.


media depictions of offenders; media treatment of offenders; drug offenders; female offenders; female drug offenders; racial/ethnic stereotypes; gender stereotypes; techniques of neutralization; crime reporting

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