Print Project Proposal: Violence Against Women

For my print project, I have come up with a lot of different ideas concerning how public perception of different groups has changed overtime and how that change has been reflected in the language we use to refer to those groups. Although I’ve considered many marginalized groups, the group that I’ve decided on are women who are survivors and victims of violent crime. This may be somewhat difficult in that the terminology used varies by race, gender identity, and profession of those victimized. Particularly, I think about how on one of my favorite podcasts, My Favorite Murder, the hosts had to train themselves to say sex workers instead of derogatory terms like prostitute. This podcast started in 2016 and although this shift in terminology was introduced to the hosts relatively early on, the humanization of sex workers, including those who are victims and survivors of violent crimes, is relatively new and unfamiliar to the general public.

Race will also be a challenge to consider. Much of the reporting from the 20th century is likely focused on white women who have suffered violent crimes. Women of color who faced violence, especially black and indigenous women, have not been considered news worthy, and thus the coverage is spotty and riddle with derogatory terms. Plenty of serial killers in the 1970s got away with murder for years because they targeted black sex workers and no one thought anything of the disappearances.

Voyant tools will most likely be the most useful way to examine this overtime. I would ideally find articles from every year since around 1970 concerning murdered women, and run them to find out the frequency of words like woman, prostitute, girl, and sex worker, as well as seeing how those women are talked about. I want to explore the frequency of terms like “asking for it”, “high risk lifestyle”, “drug user”, and others that are meant to belittle and delegitimize violence against women.

Overall, this project would be intended to explore if society has gotten any more respectful in their reporting of women who are victims of violent crime. It is possible that the shift in the culture online and among those who really care about these crimes have not reached the general public yet. There is a possibility that the outcome of this investigation would be that newspapers are just as bad at reporting violent crimes against women now as they were in the 1970s. I hope that the language used is kinder, more supportive, and has stopped feeding into the tropes of rape culture. However, it is possible this has not happened yet. Either way, I think it would be an important topic to explore as there is obviously increased visibility of these crimes now and more people who want to speak about them correctly and with the victim/survivor in mind.

One Reply to “Print Project Proposal: Violence Against Women”

  1. This is an important topic and I think you are right to think that there are ways to employ text analysis tools to surface change over time in how violence against women is described and discussed.

    I think you could do this work by building your own corpus of texts, but I think it might be far easier to think about doing this research in some of the corpora that already exist, like Google Ngram and the historical Time Magazine corpus. Those are useful in that you can use them to surface large scale trends and then pivot from those trends to explore individual cases that exemplify changes over time.

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