Violence against Women in the News: Progress without Justice

Chagnon, Nicholas
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2016]
Violence against women is a pervasive global issue. It crosses various social boundaries such as class, race, ethnicity, and nationality. This has been widely recognized in Western nations since feminism’s second wave in the 1960s and 70s. One major reason for such awareness has been media coverage of the issue. However, feminist media critics have shown that media coverage also perpetuates inaccurate and misleading ideas about violence against women. For instance, media reports often blame women for being raped and/or beaten by their partners. Some research, though, indicates that the media have recently become more sensitive in their coverage of this issue. This study examines coverage of rape and domestic violence in major news outlets over approximately two decades (1992-2013). Data come from print coverage in the New York Times, television coverage from major broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, and ABC), and online coverage from popular news sites, such as and Keeping in mind the profound cultural shift caused by neoliberalism since the 1980s, the analysis identifies key themes in this body of coverage, as well as major changes over these two decades. This study finds that though the media integrate feminist insights in their coverage to some degree, news reports overwhelmingly apply a criminal justice paradigm, which drowns out other perspectives. Much coverage also includes discourses that perpetuate misleading and mystifying notions about social hierarchies such as race, class, and gender. Overall, this study concludes that media coverage constructs an ideological framework for understanding the issue of violence against women that both reflects and furthers the values and interests of neoliberalism. Moreover, it is argued that such a neoliberal framework is a generalizable concept for understanding how the media today cover social justice issues that rise to prominence.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
violence against women, media, neoliberalism
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