What does MWWS stand for?

Missing white woman syndrome

Missing white woman syndrome (MWWS) is the disproportionate media coverage upper-class white women receive compared to non-white and poor women in missing person cases and other violent crimes. It primarily relates to media coverage in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Where did MWWS come from?

PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill is credited with coining the syndrome name in 2004 based on research of media coverage performed by sociologists. Eventually, netizens shortened the name to the MWWS acronym, and it became more prominent online, especially on social media.

MWWS Examples

Prominent MWWS instances include Laci Peterson (2002), Jessica Lynch (2003), Natalee Holloway (2005), Mollie Tibbetts (2018), and Gabby Petito (2021). In these cases, the victims received widespread coverage among news outlets, talk shows, and editorials.

MWWS Controversy

MWWS is a polarizing term for those who think it's an example of "race-baiting." Frequently it falls along political lines where conservatives have criticized the syndrome claim, and liberals have embraced it. For example, many conservatives on Twitter heavily criticized Joy Reid in September 2021 when she claimed that Gabby Petito's disappearance coverage was an example of MWWS. She highlighted the MWWS by comparing Petito's coverage with Daniel Robinson's coverage, a person of color who had been missing for three months and received very little coverage.


It's sad to see MWWS play out with Gabby in the media
Yeah, she deserves the attention but many other women deserve it too
Tweet about MWWS
Tweet about MWWS

Related Slang


Updated September 22, 2021

MWWS definition by

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