SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 - Page 32

GENDER: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Decoding the language of violence against W MEN Media reporting of violence against women is found to contain patterns of language that perpetuate the harm and power dichotomy that continue to exist between men and women. The #MeToo movement has been a watershed in global awareness of the scale of sexual exploitation of women, and how this often stems from an abuse of power by men. It has forced onto society both public inquiry and private introspection, along with some incisive research into many of the questions being raised. One of these questions is: What is it about violence against women that makes it so immune to social change? And what is it that makes it so silently accepted at all levels of society? Research by Dr Alessia Tranchese points to society’s patriarchal structure in which violence against women is inherent, to the extent discriminatory practices that sanction violence are invisible. Through her research, Dr Tranchese aims to show how everyday practices contribute to the naturalisation, legitimisation, perpetuation and constant reinforcement of violence against women. In particular, she focuses on language in which sexism is endemic, but is ignored or accepted as natural and harmless. She asks: Can language tell us something about the ways in which we understand men, women, and men’s violence against women? And how can we understand violence against women as ingrained into everyday language? These are some of the questions that Dr Tranchese addresses in her research into media reporting of violence against women, and the language of misogyny. She says: “I look at violence against women from a linguistic point of view, focusing on the media, and this also extends to online misogyny, silencing and cyber sexism”. Dr Tranchese, who is a Senior Lecturer in Communication and Applied Linguistics, has found distinct patterns of language and grammar that are noticeable in the way media reporting deals with violence against women. She has detected, for example, how patterns of silencing and disbelief towards women are common in journalism. Rape is associated with violent sex or described with euphemistic expressions such as ‘forced intercourse’, ‘sex at knifepoint’, or ‘sex with a drugged woman’. The reporting dynamics that routinely take sexual assault and rape to these extremes in the news can, perversely, have a disempowering effect on women and instil a fear of being disbelieved. This silences women further. The rise of #MeToo has been seen as a sign of change in these dynamics, as women seem to have been given a voice loud and clear enough to remove the veil of mistrust that hangs over most cases of abuse against them. Whether #MeToo has led to a real change in the way we understand and speak about violence against women is being explored by Dr Tranchese in a book on the representation of sexual violence in the media. Titled From Fritzl to #MeToo: Ten Years of Coverage of Rape in the British Press, the book is due for release in 2021. It covers high-profile cases, such as Jimmy Savile's alleged 32 ISSUE 1 / 2020