Gender and Language, Vol 13, No 2 (2019)

‘The Nirbhaya who lived’: conflicting discourses and shifting ideologies in Femina’s linguistic representations of rape victims and their perpetrators

Linda McLoughlin
Issued Date: 31 Jul 2019


This article examines representations of sexual violence in Femina, an Englishlanguage women’s lifestyle magazine aimed at middle-class Indian women. A story of rape, written from the perspective of the victim, a lower-caste Indian woman is analysed using feminist critical discourse analysis. The analytical interest here rests on tensions within the magazine, vis-à-vis Femina purportedly aims to empower all women, yet in its mediation of rape, this is achieved through a process of othering. The voices of the magazine’s text producers and the rape victim storyteller are compared to reveal conflicting differences and shifting ideologies in their framing of events. Through intertextual reference, the magazine distinguishes between endemic or ‘simple’ and ‘real’ rape cases in terms of caste-based inequalities claiming that endemic rape cases do not attract media attention because of the victim’s low social and economic status. This presents an issue since Femina appeals to high income, independent middle- class women to come to the rescue of lower-caste women, thus reinforcing a power dynamic between them.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.34994


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