Language and Rape Myths in the South: A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis
Date of publication:
December 31, 2013
This essay adopts a Feminist Critical Discourse Analytic approach to the discourse of rape trials as it attempts to locate the relationship between power and gender in courtroom interrogations of witnesses. Seventy four (74) transcripts of stenographic notes of seven (7) selected resolved rape cases serve as texts for analysis. Results show that features of discourse such as repetition, reformulation, agency, and presuppositions in questions function as discursive practices/ strategies of lawyers and judges to exercise discursive control over witnesses. These discursive practices are packaged with gendered ideological frames or rape myths (e.g., tenacious resistance is required, normal conduct of a reasonable person) that turn claims of violence to sexual consent. The rape myths persist despite the efforts of the Supreme Court in correcting them, and claims of their existence are evidenced through the interdisciplinary lens of language and gender studies where workings of power are revealed, negotiated, and sustained.