Rape is not ‘sex’, and ‘broken hearts’ don’t cause murder. Women are dying – and language matters

The simplicity of the Fixed It project, where I take a red pen to headlines, hadn’t occurred to me back then, but I wrote for the King’s Tribune about Tracy and how her murder had been portrayed in the media.

The rules of sub judice contempt require that journalists cannot report someone is guilty of a crime before they are convicted, which is why the word “alleged” is so ubiquitous in crime reporting. This does not explain or excuse the way rape is so often described as sex, as if the words are interchangeable. They’re not. It happens because all the myths about violence are so deeply embedded in our culture, and further entrenched by journalism.

There was a vast difference in how Tracy Connelly and Jill Meagher were treated. Tracy was dehumanised, Jill was not, and this is not unique to Australia or even to modern reporting. For millennia, women have been divided into “good women” – wives and mothers, sweetly pretty, conservatively dressed nice girls – and “bad women” – sirens and sex workers, drug addicts, page three models and drunken, promiscuous sluts. Good women are helpless victims but bad women ask for trouble. The reality is that there is no type of woman who could conceivably deserve violence but this entrenched division of good and bad women still strongly influences how traditional media report on complex issues, and reduces women to these arbitrary categories.

Source: Rape is not ‘sex’, and ‘broken hearts’ don’t cause murder. Women are dying – and language matters | Books | The Guardian

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