Judged and condemned

Semiotic representations of women criminals

Authored by: Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores how women perpetrators of crime are resemiotised in public discourses, focusing primarily on media narratives of sensational and serious cases, with particular attention to the Brazilian press. I argue that the semiotic resources which represent women criminals are most of the time associated with their gender and have therefore important cultural and political meanings. Crime stories, where sexualised women are represented as main characters, are a significant arena in which social conflict and discrimination are symbolically explored. I will discuss how the female characters are recontextualised in relation to their male counterparts and condemned visually and linguistically because they are women.

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