What does MWWS stand for?

Missing white woman syndrome

MWWS, or Missing White Woman Syndrome, is a term that highlights the imbalance of media attention in cases where white women from well-off backgrounds go missing or are victims of violent crimes. This phenomenon is most commonly observed in media coverage from countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

The term MWWS was first used by Gwen Ifill, a PBS news anchor, back in 2004. Ifill noticed this trend in media coverage during her research. Over time, the term was shortened to MWWS and started gaining popularity on various online platforms, particularly on social media.

Some of the most famous cases that reflect the MWWS include those of high-profile victims such as Susan Smith (1994), Amber Hagerman (1996), Elizabeth Smart (2002), and Madeleine McCann (2007). Each of these cases was heavily covered by media outlets, talk shows, and opinion pieces.

However, the term MWWS has sparked controversy, with some accusing it of promoting “race-baiting”. The issue often splits along political lines, with conservatives generally rejecting the concept, while liberals seem to support it. A recent example is the heavy criticism from conservative Twitter users towards Rachel Maddow in 2021 when she suggested that the extensive coverage of the disappearance of Samantha Josephson was an instance of MWWS. She compared this with the case of Elijah Nichols, a person of color who had been missing for several months but had received minimal media attention.

Example for using ‘MWWS’ in a conversation

Hey, have you heard of MWWS?

No, what does it stand for?

It’s short for ‘Missing white woman syndrome’.

Oh, what’s that about?

It’s when the media gives more attention to missing white women compared to non-white and poor women.