Writing Terror on the Bodies of Women: Media Coverage of Violence against Women in Guatemala analyzes the scope and dynamics of violence against women in Guatemala and how it is represented in the print media. Using nearly two thousand Guatemalan newspaper reports covering murders and assaults on women, this book contextualizes violence against women within the history of violence in Guatemala; gender ideologies and patriarchal social structures; and the contemporary demands of the women’s movement for social and legislative change. It shows that while some newspapers cover violence against women with investigative reports and editorials that use feminist analysis and language, these are overshadowed by the large number of individual reports that reproduce narratives of terror and conceal the gendered nature of violence against women by suggesting that “delinquents,” “gangs,” “unknown men,” and inexplicably violent husbands are the main culprits, while simultaneously upholding dichotomous gendered narratives of “good” and “bad” wives and daughters.
In Writing Terror on the Bodies of Women: Media Coverage of Violence against Women in Guatemala, Sarah England gives us rare insight into how gender based violence works in practice. Through an exhaustive and detailed analysis of the biases that undergird how women, violence, and the state are represented in sensationalist and conservative newspapers, Writing Terror on the Bodies of Women dissects the role of the media in the country’s infamous femicide problem. Importantly, England’s work complicates narratives that assume a violent nature is inherent in Guatemalan culture by demonstrating how feminist representations of women co-exist with a regular spectacle of violent men and violated women circulated in the media.
England’s meticulous analysis of media portrayals of gender violence offers us a treasure trove of information and a critical angle essential for understanding how various forms of violence seep through the lives of Guatemalan women. I cannot overstate the importance and timeliness of this carefully crafted book. Hands down, a major contribution and highly recommended!
Through her fine-grained analysis of newspaper articles and interviews with women’s rights leaders, Sarah England interrogates the Guatemalan media and government and finds the vast majority of journalists, editors, and authorities guilty of perpetuating violence against women. With resonance beyond the borders of Guatemala, England’s study underscores the importance of holding the media accountable for both the content and contextualization of its coverage.