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Feminist Research Network

20th Feb. 2-4pm Court Senate Suite, Collins Building, University of Strathclyde

Prof. Karen Boyle, Co-Director of the Centre for Gender and Feminist Studies, University of Stirling

Hiding in Plain Sight: Gender, Sexism and Media Coverage of the Jimmy Savile case

In 2012 – less than 12 months after his death – TV personality Jimmy Savile was revealed to have been a prolific sexual abuser of children and young adults, mainly girls and women. This paper will explore the ways in which his crimes have been represented in media discourse. It begins by reporting on a recently completed study on the gendering of violence in news discourse in which I  examined press coverage in the period leading up to Savile’s unmasking. I investigated the conditions in which Savile’s predatory behaviour – widely acknowledged in his lifetime – finally became recast as (child sexual) abuse. Specifically, I seek to challenge the gender-blind analyses of media coverage which have typified academic responses to date, arguing that Savile’s crimes – and the reporting of them – need to be understood in the broader context of everyday sexism: a contemporary, as well as an historic, issue. The paper will conclude with some more speculative comments about the next stage of this project, which will involve an analysis of the numerous television documentaries generated by this case to explore the extent to which themes identified in the press analysis are dealt with on television.

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