Sunday, 31 January 2010

In which I run out of ways to caption the inferior reporting of the media on intimate partner violence

In a post last March, I wrote this:

Ok, I promise that someday I'm going to stop being annoyed by the idiotic ways in which journalists write about violence against women, but apparently today is not that day.

Well, neither is today. In fact, I lied ok? I'm never going to stop, not as long as such ways persist.

From a Nation article yesterday:

IN A DISPUTE between a man and his girlfriend, it was the woman's clothes that came out the loser.

Nealson O'Neil Mason got so hot under the collar after an argument with his girlfriend that he went and torched $600 worth of her clothes.

Actually, no. It was the woman who came out the loser - of at least $600 worth of property, and perhaps her own sense of security, among other things. The url for this article, by the way, carries the caption 'burning hot love'. See how it's all supposed to be cutesy and punny and clever? Except the destruction of property is an act of violence, possibly not the only one in this three-year relationship, since Mason
has 14 previous convictions for drugs, assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, threats and theft.

Also problematic is the passive language of the headline: Girlfriend's clothes torched in lover's tiff. First off, an incident in which property is destroyed is a lot more than a lovers' tiff. And second, the clothes didn't spontaneously combust. Someone set them on fire, and that someone was a pissed off partner. Even if one needs to include the words 'alleged' or 'accused', could we at least have some agency represented here? Instead of acting like the violence was something that happened to the alleged (see how that works?) perpetrator?

The Nation reporter and the accused seem to have something in common, though, since he - the accused - also doesn't think it's that big a deal.

"I would like to say on that occasion, me and my girlfriend was having a dispute so I just separate myself and I burn up she clothes," Mason explained.

"It ain't no need to get lock up or nothing so," he added.

Well, that settles that. I'm getting the impression that this guy sees the destruction of his partner's property as a kind of coping mechanism - a way to avoid 'real' violence - since he 'separated himself' and just burnt her clothes. And one can only hope that in the course of the trial, someone will remember to mention that destroying property is also controlling, violent, illegal activity, and not something to be made light of or joked about. Let's also hope the Nation's court reporter is there that day.

1 comment:

  1. Mar, great analysis as usual. I think many have become inured to reading what passes for journalism in this Caribbean. It seems we are at a middle stage where we have learnt how to write the catchy headlines, the cliche text, but still have yet to focus on content. Unfortunately it seems that this lack of sensitivity is coming from both male and female journalists...


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