How We Use Language to Promote Victim Blaming

Linguist Julia Penelope studied how passive language shapes oppression. In general, oppression often involves scapegoating and other tactics that shift focus from the oppressor. Consider the following sentences:
  1. John beat Mary.
  2. Mary was beaten by John. (Passive voice; shift of focus to Mary)
  3. Mary was beaten. (We remove John from the conversation altogether)
  4. Mary was battered. (Using a synonym to replace “beaten”)
  5. Mary is a battered woman. (Mary is the focus and her identity is now as a “battered woman”)

Also, consider the phrase “violence against women” versus the more efficient “men’s violence”.  

Source: Jackson Katz (I highly recommend The Macho Paradox for those unfamiliar with his work.)

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