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Making headlines – why language matters when reporting violence against women – by Kirsty Strickland

Journalist Kirsty Strickland (@kirstystricklan) writes for NUJ Scotland about the importance of use of language in news headlines to raise awareness of violence against women and dispel common myths and misconceptions as part of the Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project.

In the aftermath of the harassment scandal sparked by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein a movement emerged which dominated the news agenda for the latter part of 2017.

One of the most powerful and influential elements of this news coverage was the clear link made between men abusing power and wider structural inequality. Inevitably, what followed was a predictable and misogynistic suggestion that women who spoke out may be lying or maliciously over-reacting to their experiences to gain fame or money. Broadly speaking though, the power dynamic of the individuals involved (and the imbalance between them) was discussed and analysed meaningfully across various media platforms.

For women, this wasn’t new information. We understand that violence against women is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. But for media outlets to make this connection and dedicate time to discussing it properly was something new and refreshing.

It’s important to acknowledge though, that had the initial story not focused on the conduct of famous men it’s unlikely that the women speaking out about harassment and sexual abuse would have been given such a receptive audience. Continue reading

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