Outskirts online journal

Chelsea Hart and Amanda Gilbertson

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About the authors

Chelsea Hart is a recent graduate of Honours in Gender Studies at the University of Melbourne, during which she wrote an extended version of this paper as her thesis. She currently tutors at The University of Melbourne in Gender Studies and Media Studies.

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Amanda Gilbertson is Lecturer in Youth and Contemporary India at the Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne.

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Publication details

Volume 39, November 2018

When does violence against women matter: Gender, race and class in Australian media representations of sexual violence and homicide


This paper presents a critical discourse analysis of violence against women in Australian news and information media. We draw on Judith Butler’s concept of ‘grievability’ to question the frames through which violence against women is made to ‘matter’ in media representations. Through an intersectional feminist lens, we explore how victims, perpetrators and the violence as a whole are represented in three relatively high profile cases of sexual violence and homicide. In the case of Jill Meagher, discourses of the victim’s ideal White femininity and the perpetrator’s deviant underclass morality frame the murder as tragic. In the case of Lynette Daley, stereotypes of deviant aboriginal sexuality and abject motherhood frame the case as ‘wild sex’ gone wrong. And in the case of Jyothi Singh, Indian society as a whole is condemned for the attack, distancing male violence from White, Western morality. We argue that while gendered discourses do indeed saturate the representations of each case, racialised and classed discourses are integral to constructions of who is a ‘grievable’ and, conversely, who is a ‘killable’ victim of male violence. 

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