When They Read The News, What Are They Telling Us?

I'm feeling my Olympic groove this evening, when here comes a commercial break blurb for the local newscast. They're promising me all sorts of wonderfully lurid stuff if I tune in later. Here's one exciting pitch:

This man's wife and baby were held up at gun point!...Details later...

There is a very, very quick shot of a man, and then we see the woman with her baby telling us "He had a gun and he told me 'don't make me do this, you have a baby with you'."

Here's my question:  Why "this man's wife and baby" and not "this woman and her baby"? In reporting crime against women, must we do it so as to make clear who owns them, in favor of that the crime was against them?  When we say "this man's wife and baby were held up at gunpoint" we are implying that the crime, although committed on the woman and baby, was against the man.

There's no excuse for locution like this.  News writers/readers, women are their own agents. You don't need to identify their closest male in order to report news on them.

6 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    jaw. drop.

  • Scientist mother says:

    Bet you if it was her wife & baby, it wouldn't have made the news. Or it would've been this woman and her baby

  • There are part of the world where this is still expected language, which is sad. That this still occurs in the other parts of the world is beyond words.

  • SafetyScissors says:

    You make a really good point, but I'm not sure you're going far enough. It seems to me that "this woman and her baby" still emphasizes who one of the people involved is owned by. Wouldn't it be better just to say "these two people"?

  • Womanonymous says:

    Don't get me started on the Olympic coverage of the female gymnasts who are "smiley" as opposed to "has a face that could melt steel" and their need to work smiles into their routines.

    Or, for that matter, a recent Times article about the women's soccer team that opined that we love them so much not because they're good athletes, but because they show emotion and smile and sign autographs. Mega-retch.

  • JustaTech says:

    The only, and I mean only, reason for the newscasters to phrase the statement this way would be if they were speaking to or about the man. As in: "This woman's son and gandchild held at gunpoint! What can you tell us about what happened to your family?" Even so, yeah, that's a stupid way to say it.