Feminicide in the Media: A Three-Dimensional View of Symbolic Violence

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Lorena SOSA, Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mariana GROSSO FERRERO, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
The use of the traditional public/private divide as justification for State inaction in relation to violence against women (VAW) has been theoretically and legally challenged in the last 3 decades. Echoing these feminist claims and in line with the international human rights framework on gender-based violence (GBV), Argentina has adopted progressive laws. These recognise the responsibility of the state for VAW in the private sphere and prohibit symbolic violence, a form of GVB that clearly transcends the public/private divide by focusing on the reproduction of harmful gender stereotypes. In addition, the murder of women because of their gender is explicitly criminalized as ‘femicide’, recognized as the most severe VAW. These efforts could help overcome the divide, yet media treatment of femicides suggest otherwise. While many femicides have triggered immediate social condemnation, media reports often reinforce stereotypes, and also the public/private. This article explores symbolic violence in three dimensions, theoretical, normative and empirical, and reflect on the centrality and relevance of the public/private dichotomy in the reproduction of stereotypes. The theoretical dimension examines the meaning of symbolic violence and the public/private divide in feminist literature. Then, we inquire into the legal interpretation and treatment of these notions. Finally, we examine the media treatment of the cases of femicide in Argentina through the qualitative analysis of news articles from the three largest newspapers in Argentina (Clarín, La Nación and Página 12). The covered period is June 3, 2015, date of the first massive mobilization in protest against femicide (the so-called ‘ni una menos’ social movement), until February 2017. The paper concludes with a discussion about the relevance of the public/private divide in relation to tackling symbolic violence and gender stereotyping, and the potential for long-standing public policies in the prevention of GBV.