Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis

By Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard; Malcolm Coulthard | Go to book overview

Chapter 13

Barking up the wrong tree?

Male hegemony, discrimination against women and the reporting of bestiality in the Zimbabwean press

Andrew Morrison

Bestiality rarely appears in the litany of sex ‘scandals’ involving soccer stars, vicars, princesses and politicians typical of tabloid newspapers. Although tabloid-style journalism does not often occur within the predominantly state-controlled press in Zimbabwe, there have been occasions when sensationalist material has appeared. Since Independence in 1980 the main government-owned newspaper group has chiefly been concerned to champion the development needs of a predominantly rural population. The group has also exercised considerable control over the content and nature of reporting and has patently promoted the goals and achievements of the elected government. 1 Such practice needs to be seen in the context of the military struggle through which the state of Zimbabwe was created and the continued aggression and destabilisation policies of South Africa. Privately owned newspapers and magazines were published throughout this period and during the 1980s became increasingly critical of the government’s policies. In the early 1990s, with the establishment of a more open economy, newspapers and magazines became more competitive in their search for an audience. It is against this backdrop that a leading Sunday newspaper reported an alleged incident of bestiality. 2 This initial report became the focus for numerous responses through which the alleged act of bestiality was attacked, often on strongly moralistic grounds. However, the responses from readers and editors established a discourse which not only discriminated against the women who allegedly took part in acts of bestiality, but also was extended cumulatively and through dense intertextuality to Zimbabwean women in general.

The allegations were that black women had been paid by a white man to have sexual intercourse with a dog and that these acts had been videotaped for sale abroad. Given Zimbabwe’s history, subsequent material in the press reacted against the inherent racism of a situation in which black women were paid by a white man to enter into prostitution involving bestiality. However, much of the material which appeared not only moralised against female commercial sex workers, but also criticised women in general and was at odds with positive developments in law

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