Presentation Title

Grammatical Voice and Gender Violence Issues in Media

Faculty Mentor

Olga Griswold

Start Date

17-11-2018 10:30 AM

End Date

17-11-2018 10:45 AM

Location

C305

Session

Oral 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

Grammatical Voice and Gender Violence Issues in Media

Author: Wan-Ting (Joyce) Wu, California Polytechnic University, Pomona Mentor: Olga Griswold, Department of English and Foreign Languages, California Polytechnic University, Pomona

Grammatical voice is a rhetorical tool that allows for a shift in focus from the agent of the action to the theme of the sentence. Using the Kavanaugh v Ford case as a case study, I investigate how passive voice is used in media publications regarding gender violence issues by comparing the use of passive voice in victim testimonies and in news articles.

In formal hearings and formal testimonies, passive voice is used because the perpetrator is still considered “just a suspect” even though the victim is certain who committed the crime. When it comes to gender violence issues in media, the way rape and sexual harassment are portrayed differs greatly from a testimony in court. In news articles, bystanders often use passive voice to describe their awareness of the situation, but lack of action due to fear of repercussions, while victims use active voice when describing their experience. When examining victims speaking out on social media, the active voice to passive voice ratio is approximately half and half. But in court, victims are more likely to use passive voice to describe their case.

Based on the analysis of passive and active voice in formal testimonies and media, I will demonstrate that using passive voice when discussing the perpetrator’s behavior is so normalized that he (or she) is automatically removed from discussion and void of blame. At the same time, the use of passive voice is used strip the rape and sexual harassment victims of agency, which results in victim blaming. I will argue that stripping victims of agency through the use of passive voice also strips them of agency in the discussions of sexual and gender violence.

Key words: rape, gender, violence, media, voice, active, passive, victim, agency, blame

Summary of research results to be presented

Based on my analysis regarding formal testimonies, I have identified that the frequent use of passive voice is due to the presumption of innocence in the United States judicial system. The perpetrator is innocent until proven guilty even if the victim is certain who committed the crime. The victim is required to testify if they were to bring the crime to light, but if they were to use active voice, they are much more vulnerable to public shaming. In news articles, active voice is usually used to describe the case, but passive voice is used to doubt and question Ford’s credibility, again using passive voice as a tool for victim shaming. As for social media, victims have a choice of whether they want to use active or passive voice, and those that use active voice takes agency into their own hands and rightfully calls the perpetrator out for their crime.

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Nov 17th, 10:30 AM Nov 17th, 10:45 AM

Grammatical Voice and Gender Violence Issues in Media

C305

Grammatical Voice and Gender Violence Issues in Media

Author: Wan-Ting (Joyce) Wu, California Polytechnic University, Pomona Mentor: Olga Griswold, Department of English and Foreign Languages, California Polytechnic University, Pomona

Grammatical voice is a rhetorical tool that allows for a shift in focus from the agent of the action to the theme of the sentence. Using the Kavanaugh v Ford case as a case study, I investigate how passive voice is used in media publications regarding gender violence issues by comparing the use of passive voice in victim testimonies and in news articles.

In formal hearings and formal testimonies, passive voice is used because the perpetrator is still considered “just a suspect” even though the victim is certain who committed the crime. When it comes to gender violence issues in media, the way rape and sexual harassment are portrayed differs greatly from a testimony in court. In news articles, bystanders often use passive voice to describe their awareness of the situation, but lack of action due to fear of repercussions, while victims use active voice when describing their experience. When examining victims speaking out on social media, the active voice to passive voice ratio is approximately half and half. But in court, victims are more likely to use passive voice to describe their case.

Based on the analysis of passive and active voice in formal testimonies and media, I will demonstrate that using passive voice when discussing the perpetrator’s behavior is so normalized that he (or she) is automatically removed from discussion and void of blame. At the same time, the use of passive voice is used strip the rape and sexual harassment victims of agency, which results in victim blaming. I will argue that stripping victims of agency through the use of passive voice also strips them of agency in the discussions of sexual and gender violence.

Key words: rape, gender, violence, media, voice, active, passive, victim, agency, blame