I was struck today by the way various media outlets handled two eerily similar crime stories — one involving a woman who set fire to her ex-boyfriend as he slept, and another involving a man who purposefully set his girlfriend on fire.

(I know, this sounds nutty, but stick with me. I have a point, I promise.)

First the man:

San Francisco police are looking for a man suspected of throwing a flammable liquid at his girlfriend and setting her on fire.

Officer Carlos Manfredi says witnesses in the city’s Bayview District reported hearing the woman screaming on Sunday. She was taken to a hospital burn unit.

Investigators believe her attacker was 22-year-old Dexter Oliver.

And now the woman:

Maybe she just wanted to rekindle their old flame.

Nicole Dobol, 29, was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly breaking into her ex-boyfriend’s apartment and setting fire to a mattress where he and another woman were sleeping, according to a release from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

On Nov. 11, Dobol reportedly was searching for her ex at Hog Heaven Bar and Grill in Islamorada, Fla. His roommate told her that the man in question was at their apartment.

Some roommate.

Deputies say Dobol busted into the apartment and made her way into the bedroom, where her ex and his new flame were asleep.

In the heat of jealousy, Dobol allegedly torched the mattress. According to the release, Dobol stood over the couple, “taunting” them while the flames leapt around them.

Note the obvious difference in tone between the two stories which report on similar crimes.  The man is labeled as an “attacker,” while the woman’s crime is characterized more as a bout of PMS.  Chock full of arson synonyms, the woman didn’t “attack” but acted in the “heat of jealousy,” perhaps in an effort to “rekindle” her old flame.

The woman’s story first caught my attention via Glen Reynolds, who linked to another news site that described Dobol’s violent act of arson as “one way to heat things up with an ex.”  Domestic violence, in Dobol’s case, is reported as little more than “just a quirky news story about love gone wrong,” Reynolds noted.

What do you think? Sexist double standard, shoddy reporting or both?

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