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The freshman swimmer and the intoxicated woman : Sexist discourse in news coverage of the Stanford rape case

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Abstract

This article investigates the linguistic manifestations of gender discriminating stereotypes in the news coverage of the 2015 rape case “People v. Turner”. The case centers around a rape perpetrated by Brock Turner on the Stanford University campus in California. Articles from the online edition of the Stanford Daily are systematically analysed with respect to rape-myth consistent argumentation, amount of coverage granted to the perspectives of victim and perpetrator, naming/labelling of victim and perpetrator, and the transitivity choices that were made. All these factors can be identified in the news coverage of the Brock Turner case in one way or another. They result in victim blaming and mitigating perpetrator responsibility serving to show that sexist reporting is still an important issue where serious crimes like rape are concerned. Such linguistic practices re-victimise victims of sexist violence and ultimately contribute to a misogynist discourse and the reproduction and perpetuation of sexist stereotypes.

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Keywords: Brock Turner; discourse analysis; linguistic victimisation; naming; news media; rape; sexual violence; transitivity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 31, 2020

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