Kat Gupta

“Her only crime was to be different”: mainstream media and Lucy Meadows in a post-
Leveson context

Abstract

In March 2013, a woman named Lucy Meadows was found dead at her home. Meadows, a primary school teacher, was transitioning from male to female. In December 2012, the school announced her decision to return to work after the Christmas break as Miss Meadows. This was reported in the local press and quickly picked up by the national press. Three months later, Meadows was found dead. Her death prompted discussions of responsible media reporting, press freedom and the contributions of trans* people to society.

In this paper, I focus on misgendering through pronoun use. I collected two corpora of newspaper articles and use these to identify keywords – words that occur more frequently in the Lucy Meadows texts than might be expected from examining the collection of general news texts. I explore one of the patterns of pronoun use in the media representation of Lucy Meadows, and argue that press misgendering can take more subtle forms than the reporter’s use of “quotation marks to dismiss the veracity of the subject’s identity inappropriate pronouns or placing the person’s identity in” (Trans Media Watch 2011: 11). Instead, I claim that reporters use quotations to evade direct responsibility for misgendering while continuing to produce the effect of undermining a trans* person’s gender identity.

Biography

Kat Gupta is a corpus linguist based at the University of Nottingham, UK. Their PhD examined the media representation of the suffrage movement in The Times, with particular focus on the ideologically convenient conflation of distinct suffrage identities. Kat’s research interests include corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, digital humanities, gender, queer theory, and issues of ideology and power.

Kat’s first book, Representation of the British Suffrage Movement, will be published by Bloomsbury in early 2015. This monograph combines historical research into the suffrage movement, corpus linguistic analysis of social discourses and approaches drawn from critical discourse analysis to investigate the representation of the women’s suffrage movement in The Times newspaper between 1908 and 1914.

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