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Disruptive Voices and Boundaries of Respectability in Christchurch, New Zealand

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In 1998, New Zealand's TV3 broadcast two programmes featuring women who alleged that a prominent Christchurch physician and local politician had sexually assaulted them while they were patients in his care. The allegations unleashed an immediate and decisive backlash in the mainstream media and this article explores that media response. The analysis of the media debate demonstrates the ideological work which must be constantly carried out by the hegemonic groups in society in order to hold on to the power to define normative geographies, which in this case had been destabilised by the women's allegations. The mainstream media attempted to restore the boundaries of hegemonic respectability by calling on gendered notions of typical female behaviour in order to undermine the validity of the women's experiences. The 'official' image of Christchurch was also evoked in order to reassert ideological values in the face of resistance. The process whereby hegemonic groups attempt to secure control of established geographies is always open to contestation, however, and some media forums opened alternative discursive spaces within which to explore women's narratives. This media event highlights the underlying tensions in society surrounding the production of meanings attached to spaces and places, tensions which problematise the common-sense notions regarding public and private, identity, subjectivity and credibility.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Correspondence: Julie Cupples, Department of Geography, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand; e-mail .

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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