Media representations of violent women: exploring stock stereotypes and the denial of agency

Austin, Ashley T. (2008) Media representations of violent women: exploring stock stereotypes and the denial of agency. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    This dissertation aims to critically examine the nature of press representations of women who kill and the extent to which they reinforce gender stereotypes by refusing to acknowledge female agency. Since the press is a pervasive tool which has been found to significantly impact upon the successful implementation of criminal justice policies, this is a particularly important area for study, with legal and media institutions frequently functioning together in their representations of criminal behaviour. The study included a structured literature review, the purpose of which was to outline the various narratives identified by previous researchers as being typically employed by the media to represent women who commit violent crimes. Subsequently, these motifs and stock stereotypes were used as a framework with which to analyse the press coverage surrounding nine cases of female perpetrated murder spanning a period of 130 years. The results support previous research which suggests that representations of female murderers which retain their agency are rarely present in the press discourse surrounding their crimes. It was found that the press frequently resorts to a number of standard narratives to represent violent women and that the narratives employed are largely dependent on the nature of both the perpetrator and the victim of the crime, with the purpose of these stereotypical representations being to maintain the ideological constructions of feminine passivity and domesticity, reinforced by a patriarchal society. Furthermore, following a historical comparison which was undertaken in order to identify the extent to which the press representations of women who kill have changed over the last 130 years, it was determined that, despite the press coverage of female perpetrated crime becoming more graphic and sensationalistic over time, the narrative, motifs and stock stereotypes used by the press to represent female murderers have remained largely unchanged since the Victorian era.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:48
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:14

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