Leaders of Argentina's feminist magazine share tips for covering femicide

by Jacqueline Strzemp
Oct 30, 2018 in Specialized Topics

On the heels of a historic vote challenging Argentina’s abortion ban — which failed to pass the Senate — there was no shortage of conversation about women’s issues at Media Party in Buenos Aires.

Florencia Alcaraz and her team of five women from the Argentina-based outlet LatFem, a magazine aimed at covering Latin American news from a feminist perspective, took to the stage. They led a session on best practices for covering  issues of femicide and domestic violence, a rampant problem in Latin America. The presenters walked participants through example articles published by national news outlets, pointing out the harmful stereotypes or tropes the articles’ writers used to describe the victims, including as an irresponsible club-goer, the victim of a crime of passion and more.

The team provided tips on how to write these articles free from stereotypes and implicit biases, some of which are included below.

Avoid using euphemisms and stereotypes

Speak explicitly about events and the people involved in them. Using cryptic language like “a crime of passion,” can undermine a murder or incidence of domestic violence. Equating passion and violence also sets a dangerous precedent for relationships and normalizes domestic abuse.

Similarly, avoid commenting on the victims’ personal lives, as this inverts the responsibility for the crime and places it on the victim. It also reinforces  cultural biases surrounding violence against women.

Be direct and use active voice

In a story about femicide, there is a tendency to focus on the victim, minimizing the role of the perpetrator. It is important to be direct, and to use an active voice, when describing the actions of the perpetrator and their relationship to the victim. This places the responsibility for the crime on the perpetrator, shifting the blame away from the victim.

Use data to show a pattern

Femicide is a recurring problem. This doesn’t mean that violence against men never occurs, but rather that it occurs at a much lower rate. Still, many people fail to understand the pervasiveness of femicide or any type of violence against women. Reporters have a responsibility to shed light on the issue by using data from reputable sources, such as the United Nations, which can help illustrate the prevalence of the problem.

Use multiple sources

Like any story, include a wide range of voices and sources on an issue. Police data and commentary on social media are a great starting point, but branching out from those sources helps to paint a more complete picture of a violent event and the problem of violence against women at-large.

For more information, check out this IJNet resource on reporting on gender-based violence and this guide from La Marea and Oxfam.

Main image CC-licensed by Unsplash via Héctor Martínez.