The Grammar of Male Violence
By Jenny Ruby
in Off Our BacksOur use of language in discussing violence works to disguise to the point of invisibility the perpetrators of most of the violence done in the world. One especially egregious and pervasive misuse of language is the focus on women as the victims and not on men as perpetrators. Crime reports are written in the passive voice, with no mention of the perpetrator. The result is that the gender of the victim is clearly stated but the gender of the perpetrator is completely hidden: “A woman was raped” rather than “A man raped a woman” or “A man raped someone” or even “An unknown male assailant raped a person. . . . ”
What if we changed the way we talk about male violence against women? The author offers a rewrite of a press release by Amnesty International to demonstrate the impact of using the active voice rather than the passive voice so we turn our focus from the victims to the perpetrators. Perhaps, then, we can begin to address violence committed by men rather than pathologizing and blaming women victims.