Intersections of race and gender in sexual assault trials
Keywords:rape, intersectionality, African American English, legal discourse, intertextuality
This essay traces the development of intersectionality theory within the field of language and gender in relation to research on the language of rape trials. In early work on the topic, I used Judith Butler’s notion of the ‘rigid regulatory frame’ to understand the cultural intelligibility of certain kinds of rape victims in the legal system and the unintelligibility of others. But the inequities that complainants often experience in rape trials are not merely the result of sexism; rather, it is sexism and racism which together interact to disadvantage complainants and protect white male perpetrators, who occupy a privileged position within these contexts vis-à-vis men of colour. In line with recent work in the field, I end with an analysis of a rape case that demonstrates the necessity of attending to nonhegemonic masculinities and intersectionality.
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