TRACES OF SEXISM IN COVERAGE
At a historic moment in which the debate on sexual and gender-based violence in all spheres of society took off, we wondered if we could find traces of sexism in Spanish-speaking media coverage in the United States.
To do this, we searched articles for various terms or phrases (in Spanish) classified as sexist by various institutions in Latin America. One of those phrases is “crime of passion.” Multiple reports, including one by researcher Rosa Rodríguez Cárcela from the University of Seville and another from UNESCO and various universities in Chile, point out that using this term to report on domestic violence situations or crimes against women is harmful and stigmatizing and minimizes assaults against women.
The search for the Spanish term “crime of passion” in the analyzed database shows that some media outlets continue to use it to describe gender-based crimes.
In the three years analyzed, we found 75 cases in which this term was used in journalistic stories. Of these, it was used on three occasions to exemplify its misuse. The other 72 cases can be considered sexist uses of the term, appearing when describing crimes, primarily against women. We discovered 12 of these stories published in 2017, 37 in 2018, and 26 in 2019.
In total, 15 media outlets made use of these types of phrases to describe some type of crime. La Prensa de Florida was the one that published the most stories with this term: 15. Four outlets from the same business group – Impremedia – published most of these articles: La Opinión NY, El Diario, La Raza and La Prensa FL. In total, these four newspapers represented 47 instances in which the term was used, 65% of all the cases we found.
We also detected this term in articles from Univision (10), Hoy Chicago (1), Mundo Hispánico (4), El Nuevo Herald (3) and El Nuevo Día (4).
This is a sampling of the sentences that some of those articles contain (translated from the original Spanish):
“… they put forth the theory of a crime of passion: that the man would have been infuriated with Zayda for ’having taken’ his girlfriend.”
Univision, March 11, 2018
“Fugitive for a crime of passion on Long Island caught in Nicaragua.”
El Diario, March 14, 2018
“The deceased is the first victim to die from sexist violence in 2018, but not the first Venezuelan to lose her life to a crime of passion on the Canary Islands.”
El Nuevo Herald, January 20, 2018
“All the signs point to a crime of passion.”
El Sol News, February 14, 2019
Our analysis also found an article about the death of a woman in Costa Rica at the hands of her partner, published on February 18, 2019 by La Jornada Latina. In that case, that media outlet assured that “it is presumed that the motive for the homicide is an issue related to jealousy.” The same UNESCO report points out that trying to explain these gender-based crimes by “talking about jealousy, drug use, alcohol or financial problems” is also harmful and stigmatizing for the victims and their families.
Other terms considered sexist by the National Institute of Women and the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico are “___’s lady” (wife), “___’s woman” (wife) or “their women” (wives) that show women as property of men, lacking autonomy or even identity when their name is omitted. We also looked for these types of phrases among coverage from the Spanish-language media outlets studied.
The term “___’s lady” (wife) continues to be used in some Latino media in the United States. Our analysis found 42 cases in which this expression was used between 2017 and 2020. Mundo Hispánico, a Georgia newspaper founded in 1979, is the outlet that uses this term the most to refer to some women. We found 13 articles from that outlet containing this expression, 92% of which were published in 2018.
These are some examples:
“Last Wednesday, Erik Rubín’s lady (wife) returned to Televisa’s morning show, but apparently not everyone was happy with this.”
Mundo Hispánico, August 9, 2018
“Saca’s lady (wife) had requested expedited proceedings to plead guilty before a court in San Salvador.”
El Nuevo Herald, May 13, 2019
“Martinelli’s lady (wife) was called to testify because she runs a foundation.”
Chicago Tribune – Associated Press cable, September 6, 2018
“Pérez Jiménez’s lady (wife), days later, insisted on claiming the suitcase.”
El Tiempo Latino, November 11, 2019
One of the sexist terms that appears the most in the media outlets analyzed is “___’s woman” (wife).
Our analysis found 117 articles, published by 12 newsrooms, which use this expression to refer to a woman. It frequently appears in the celebrity section, but it can also be found in the miscellaneous news section. The four media outlets of the Impremedia business group are the ones that make the most use of the term (74% of all), followed by Univision Noticias (10.2%). Some examples:
“Rosales, Guaidó’s woman (wife), met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the White House.”
La Prensa, March 29, 2019
“Agueda, Fonsi’s woman (wife), published several images where she boasted in style of her husband’s successes”
Mundo Hispánico, November 18, 2017
“ICE will deport a decorated veteran’s woman (wife) in the next few days”
Univisión Noticias, July 28, 2018
“Thalia, Tommy Mottola (Sony CEO)’s woman (wife) and Latina superstar on the Billboard red carpet in 2002”
La Opinion, April 26, 2018
“‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’ even points out that Modric’s woman (wife) would have gotten in contact”
Hoy Chicago, August 2, 2018
“The beautiful Colombian Daniela Ospina, woman (wife) of James Rodríguez, who plays for Madrid”
El Diario, May 2, 2017
“A 50 million euro fine against Rosell’s woman (wife), Marta Pineda”
El Venezolano News, July 25, 2018
“Bezos’ woman (wife), a successful writer, will keep a 4% stake in the giant Amazon.”
La Raza, April 4, 2019
Another term designated as sexist by the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico and by the Cervantes Institute is “their women” (wives), when it is used in such a way that it frames women as belonging to men.
In this case, our study found 108 instances between January 2017 and January 2020 in which the Hispanic media outlets analyzed published this sexist term. Of these, the four media outlets of the Impremedia group – La Opinión NY, El Diario, La Raza and La Prensa – published 76% of the articles discovered. They are followed by Univision Noticias and El Nuevo Herald with six and five articles, respectively. The rest were published by 10 other media outlets.
These are some examples of the stories we found that used this term:
“Arkansas passes a law whereby husbands or legal guardians can report doctors who perform abortions on their women (wives) or daughters.”
Univision Noticias, April 28, 2017
“The country where football fans bet their women (wives).”
La Opinión, March 8, 2017
“If there’s one thing the men of Rockford, Texas, love more than their women (wives), it’s their guns.”
La Prensa San Antonio, April 6, 2017
“A Ugandan MP has recommended that men beat their women (wives).”
Latino News, March 14, 2018
“They reveal conversations between Guzmán Loera and some of his women, including his wife.”
El Diario NY, January 10, 2019
“To the point that their women (wives) cheat on them with foreign men, right under their nose.”
La Raza, January 6, 2020