We’ve identified before that passive voice agent-deletion is a particular problem in reports of sexual violence. The victim is centred, just as she is in most narratives of sexual violence (and its prevention), and the perpetrator is disappeared altogether or referred to only obliquely.
Cara at The Curvature identified an example of the results of this approach just this week, when a New York Times article said that British travellers were “hurting themselves” by being raped.
An old friend of mine pointed out one possible approach to a document full of agentless passives: go through the document and insert “elves”.
Here’s an example of an article with the raped-by-elves problem. (Note that I had to go back fewer than 24 hours in Google News to find one.)
A 30-year-old jogger was raped Monday night after being pulled into a wooded area of Rock Creek Park just south of Kensington, marking the second time in the last week a Montgomery County woman has been taken into woods and sexually assaulted, police said.
Inserting the elves:
Elves Rape Montgomery Jogger in Rock Creek Park
Elves raped a 30-year-old jogger Monday night after pulling her into a wooded area of Rock Creek Park just south of Kensington, marking the second time in the last week elves have taken a Montgomery County woman into woods and sexually assaulted her, police said.
Dark humour? Perhaps. It’s not a “rape joke”, however. It doesn’t rest on sexist, anti-woman, victim-blaming tropes. It is intended to point out the deficiencies of the writer, not the victim. And I think “The raped-by-elves problem” might be a useful shorthand when pointing out incidences of this particular linguistic contribution to rape culture.
What are your thoughts? Useful? Problematic? (I’m leaning to “possibly a bit of both”.) I’m not convinced (yet) that the problems are dealbreakers, but I’m open to opinions.
[h/t to NT and RHD]