This book examines contemporary media stories about women who kill their children. By analyzing media texts, motherhood blogs, and journalistic interviews, the book seeks to understand better maternal violence and the factors that lead women to harm their children. The central thesis of this book is that media practices have changed dramatically during the past 50 years, as has society’s views on "appropriate" feminine behavior, yet definitions of characteristics of good mothers remain largely defined by 1950s sit coms, Victorian ideals, and Christian theology.
The book contends that in spite of media saturation in American society, and the media’s increased opportunities to tell complex and nuanced stories, news media narratives continue to situate maternal violence as rare, unfathomable, and unpredictable. The news media’s shift in focus—from public service to profit-making industry—has encouraged superficial coverage of maternal violence as reporters look for stories that sell, not stories that explain. Motherhood blogs, in contrast, offer an opportunity for women to tell their own stories about motherhood, based on experience. Interviews with journalists offer insights into how the structure of their jobs dictates media coverage of this intimate form of violence.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Murdering Mothers: From Tragic to Hot 1. Child Murders: A Global, Historical Perspective of an Enduring Practice 2. The Media Landscape: Changing Values, Changing Content 3. Mom Slays Tot; Film at 11 4. The Famous and Infamous: How the Media Construct Celebrity "Monster Moms" 5. The Storytellers’ Stories 6. New Media, New Stories? Mothers Use Social Media Epilogue: Toward New Stories and New Forms of Storytelling
Barbara Barnett, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. She received her master’s degree from Duke University and her doctoral degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She formerly worked as a reporter and editorial writer for The Charlotte News and also as a writer for nonprofit health-care organizations, working in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Her research interests are media, gender, and violence.