Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Language and Labels

A TED Talk about  violence against women.
What struck me most in this was how the language of violence against women is framed to keep from labeling men (or attackers) as abusers and therefore labels women (or the attacked) as victims, starting at about 2:50.
1.  John beat Mary.  (John is the subject, Mary is the object)
2. Mary was beaten by John.  (Same sentence, passive voice, Mary is now the subject)
3. Mary was beaten.  (John is out of the picture, it’s all about Mary)
4. Mary was battered. (The term commonly used now)
5. Mary is a battered woman.  (Mary’s identity)
Do you see how men have been completely removed from the story, and therefore from claiming responsibility?  The label and responsibility now rests on the person who is abused.  You rarely hear in the news that “A man raped a woman,” it’s almost always, “A woman was raped.”  Language is a very powerful tool in the fight for equality and identity of people as people, not just victims.
While I am all for protecting victims and making sure they are not named if they don’t want to be, I think it is important that the person abused has an identity outside of what was done to them, while the abuser is held responsible.  So when you look at your neighbor with the bruises you don’t think, “Oh poor Mary, why is she still there?”  Instead you could think, “John belongs in jail.”  Although the statistics on that are depressing and show a shocking lack of resources for the Marys of the world.

Originally posted 9/17/13.

No comments: