Tag Archives: Annual Summary

2019 in review: Lesbians in the News

 

By Liz Waterhouse

2019 Lesbian News Summary

In 2019 Listening2Lesbians expanded our coverage to challenge the previous dominance of English stories to better report global lesbian experiences. This shift saw an increase in news reported, with information from additional countries in 10 languages.

It remains difficult to find comprehensive reports of lesbian experiences given the legal or social situation in many countries; largely disinterested mainstream and specialist media; and various language barriers including a reliance on freely available news translation services and sometimes limited use of the word lesbian by victims, police or media.

The news that was reported in 2019 indicated significant continuing opposition to or punishment of lesbians, particularly in religiously conservative regions. The increasing conservatism and religiosity in some of these areas is of particular concern for lesbians who are subjected to both homophobia and sexism, as well as the intersection of the two.

LOCATION – CHALLENGING THE ANGLO DOMINANCE

2019 Stories by Country

 

In 2019 Listening2Lesbians found and shared 258 news stories from 53 counties, up from 152 stories from 35 countries in 2018.

Reports from the USA and United Kingdom dropped as a percentage from 50% of stories to 26% of location specific stories.

In 2018 we identified the dramatic over-representation of news from the USA and UK, based both in the cultural dominance mirrored in media resourcing / output and our reliance on English language media.

In an attempt to better track global lesbian experiences, we expanded news searches from only English to include daily searches in English, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. It is hoped that this search can expand in coming years. Any readers who can assist are requested to contact us.

This expanded news search resulted in news posted in 10 languages in 2019 with 55% of news posted solely in English, 23% in Spanish, 6% in both French and Italian and 3% or under in Portuguese, German, Chinese, Polish, Dutch and Russian.

There remain significant gaps in representation, particularly in countries where homosexuality is strictly or defacto illegal (45 of the 123 countries never reported on by Listening 2 Lesbians). A lack of reported news from these countries cannot mean a lack of discrimination, harassment and persecution of lesbians in these countries.

The under-reporting of lesbian experiences in these countries is almost certainly exacerbated by the (LGBTI and mainstream) media focus on other groups within the LGBTI community. Lesbians continue to be omitted from reports on legal changes, persecution and their effects even when it is evident that they will be affected, and that their experiences will be further exacerbated by cultural expectations of and pressures on women and the punishment levied against women who do not meet these cultural norms and sex roles.

 

ISSUES

Discrimination and harassment were the dominant issue reported in 2019, representing 46% of the global stories reported in the English media.

Physical and sexual violence against lesbians, including murder, represented 37% of reported stories with persecution a further 11%, often including stories of lesbians seeking asylum to escape it.

Issues reported 2019 Global

This breakdown is not globally representative with the USA breakdown between discrimination and harassment and persecution significantly different to that in the rest of the world. Discrimination and harassment in the US represents 77% of the news items and persecution is not represented. This represents a shift from 2018 when 61% of the stories reported discrimination and harassment and persecution was present in 5% of the stories.

Physical or sexual violence, including murder, represented only 14% of the stories, down from 31% in 2018.

Issues reported 2019 USA

For the rest of the world, minus the USA, discrimination and harassment represent just 40% of the stories in 2019, marginally up on the 36% in 2018. Persecution stories decreased from 24% to 13%. 

Physical or sexual violence, including murder, represented 41% of the stories, up from the 29% in 2018.

Issues reported 2019 not USA

 

HOSTILITY SOURCE

News stories reported in 2019 were coded for source of hostility, abuse or discrimination to provide insight into the nature of the opposition to lesbians.

Global data was considered first, with individuals and community hostility increasing from 35% in 2018 to 55% of 2019 reports. Government hostility and discrimination dropped as a percentage from 28% in 2018, the single largest source, to 9% in 2019.

2019 hostility source chart global

The USA vs global minus USA data was also assessed, showing significantly lower community hostility than global reports but a mirrored increase in business hostility (approximately 10% difference in both).

2019 hostility source chart USA

 

The USA hostility source data shows no publicly reported hostility from family and friends and little government hostility.  Public sphere hostility represented 66% of hostility in USA stories (education, business and individual/stranger hostility combined), an increase on the 50% reported in 2018.

2018 hostility source chart global - usa

2019 hostility source chart not USA

Government as a formal source of hostility decreased from 34% to 10% in global reports that excluded the USA. It is hard to know whether this represents a variation in incidents or reporting, or a variation in the source countries included in the 2019 news reports.

For countries other than the USA, community and in individual/stranger hostility rates are significantly higher than in 2018 reports (from 14% to 25% and 19% to 35% respectively, a net increase in 26%). The stories reported in 2019 challenge the idea that lesbians do not experience street violence, with butch or gender non conforming lesbians particularly subjected to harassment, violence and murder.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The data gathered in reporting discrimination and violence against lesbians around the world in 2019 shows significant variation across the global lesbian experience, reinforcing our need to focus on the communities we do not hear about.

Given the fragmented and unreliable nature of reporting on crimes against lesbians, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the limited reports we have, however, it is evident that the experiences of living in countries with deep and clearly expressed social and legal opposition to lesbians differs from that of lesbians facing discrimination and harassment in states with civil remedies and protections. The increasing conservatism and windback of legal protections in various jurisdictions around the world is of particular concern.

Civil remedies and greater community acceptance do not appear to have resolved the issue of interpersonal violence which represents approximately 36% of the 2019 reports, an increase on 30% in 2018.

RESPONSE TO THE NEWS

In 2018, the Listening2Lesbians story with the most individual views on WordPress was Brazil: murders of lesbians increased by 237% in 3 years, also the Facebook post with the greatest engagement.

In general, responses mirrored patterns evident in 2018, namely that reports of harassment or discrimination against white lesbians in the USA or UK received consistently higher engagement than reports of even murder of lesbians of colour, particularly those outside English speaking first world countries.

While this is disappointing it is not unusual. Listening 2 Lesbians will continue to respond by seeking to focus particularly on finding reports of non white lesbian experiences.

AREAS NOT REPORTED ON

Listening2Lesbians has largely not reported in depth on:

  • Harassment of lesbians in relation to views of gender identity
  • Inclusion or exclusion of mothers on birth certificates in various jurisdictions
  • Access to in vitro fertilisation treatment

In particular, lesbian experiences in relation to gender identity is a specific area with dedicated sites better suited to this focus.

 

POSTS FROM 2019:

 

2018 in review: Listening 2 Lesbians

 

By Liz Waterhouse

As 2018 draws to a close, we look back on lesbian news through the year. The articles located, written and shared were assessed by location, issue and perpetrator or source of the issue. Community responses to articles were also reviewed.

 

LOCATION

 

In 2018 Listening2Lesbians found and shared 152 stories from 35 countries of the world, with 146 of these articles country specific.

The USA was the greatest source of stories with 65 pieces, as many as the next 18 countries combined. 

The USA and United Kingdom were reported on 76 times, exactly half of the total articles for the year. This stark overrepresentation of the USA and the UK reflects various factors including a cultural dominance which is mirrored in media resourcing and output as well as our current reliance on English language media.

In the context of existing analyses of global lesbian experiences, the stories we were able to source this year do not adequately represent the reality of lesbian lives around the world.

There remain overwhelming gaps in representation, with 135 countries or territories never having been reported on by Listening2Lesbians. In 47 of these 135 unreported countries, homosexuality is strictly or defacto illegal and it is implausible that discrimination, harassment and persecution of lesbians do not exist in these countries.

The underreporting of lesbian experiences in these countries is almost certainly exacerbated by the (LGBTI and mainstream) media focus on other groups within the LGBTI community. It has been a source of frustration in 2018 how often lesbians are not included in reports on legal changes, persecution and their effects even when it is evident that they will be affected, and that their experiences will be further exacerbated by cultural expectations of and pressures on women and the punishment levied against women who do not meet these cultural norms/sex roles.

Listening2Lesbians will continue working to discover, document and share the experiences of lesbians in these countries as part of our commitment to global lesbian wellbeing.

 

ISSUES

Discrimination and harassment were the dominant issue reported in 2018, representing 47% of the global stories reported in the English media.

Physical and sexual violence against lesbians, including murder, represented 30% of reported stories with persecution a further 16%, often including stories of lesbians seeking asylum to escape it.

 

Issues reported 2018 global

This breakdown is not globally representative with the USA breakdown between discrimination and harassment and persecution significantly different to that in the rest of the world. Discrimination and harassment in the US represent 61% of the stories with persecution representing just 5%.

 

For the rest of the world, minus the USA, discrimination and harassment represent just 36% of the stories in 2018 with persecution representing 24%.

Physical or sexual violence, including murder, was reported at similar rates of approximately 30% of the stories.

It seems likely that there would be further variation across the regions of the world but there is not yet enough data held by Listening2Lesbians to assess it in greater detail.

 

HOSTILITY SOURCE

After looking at what happens to lesbians, and where, the next question is who – who is manifesting this hostility and opposition to lesbians, what is the source of the abuse.

Stories reported in 2018 were coded for source and while some of the assessments are subjective, the intent was to provide insight into the nature of the opposition to lesbians.

Global data was considered first, with governments the global primary source of hostility and opposition to lesbians (28% of the reports). Individuals and strangers were not far behind at 23% of the reports.2018 hostility source chart global

 

The USA vs global minus USA data was also assessed, with the results reflecting a similar variation as noted in the reported issue breakdown.

Mirroring the discrimination-harassment vs persecution focus of the issues reported charts, the source charts show a marked difference between the USA and other countries. It is possible that this variation would be greater with more comprehensive data for countries with potentially greater overlap with the USA (such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand).

2018 hostility source chart usa

 

 

The USA hostility source data shows relatively low levels of reported family and friend hostility, with strangers and individuals the dominant hostility source. Government is an additional notable hostility source, with discrimination the primary issue.

2018 hostility source chart global - usa

 

For countries other than the USA, Government remains the primary hostility source at 34% of stories, with persecution the dominant issue. Individuals and strangers remain a significant hostility source in non-USA countries with elevated rates of community and family- and friends-based hostility. The hostility resulting from family and friends and individuals and strangers for non-USA reports is predominantly physical violence, including murder. Persecution is notable in the community-based hostility for non-USA reports.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The data on both the source of hostility and nature of the hostility demonstrates a difference across the global lesbian experience, with a focus on discrimination in the USA, and a significantly elevated rate of government persecution and interpersonal hostility in other countries.

Additional data in future years will allow for enhanced analysis of these variations.

While there remains social and legal hostility in a variety of countries, the situation of lesbians in countries with profound violent social opposition and government persecution is evidently of a different nature to that of lesbians facing harassment and discrimination, with civil remedies available to them and a state which will not punish them on reporting a crime.

Civil remedies and greater community acceptance do not appear to have resolved the issue of interpersonal violence which remains consistent at approximately 30% of reports across the board. An assessment of the magnitude or severity of the interpersonal violence cannot be made with the current data.

RESPONSE TO THE NEWS

In 2018, the Listening2Lesbians story with the most individual views was California: Court update on alleged murder of lesbian couple and adult child.

The most shared blog post (from WordPress) was U.S: Man Breaks Woman’s Spine in Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime.

The Facebook post with the greatest engagement was the personally devastating announcement of my partner and Listening2Lesbians powerhouse Lisa Mallet’s death: Listening2Lesbians Mourns loss of Lisa Mallett.

IN SUMMARY

The pattern of engagement with Listening2Lesbians stories shows that violent individual attacks garner the most attention, particularly where those attacks occur in the first world. It was notable that, as in previous years, some significant stories of personal trauma and persecution did not appear to capture the imagination of Listening2Lesbians readership, mirroring a phenomenon well established in the mainstream media.

Crimes and hostility against lesbians seem under reported relative to the mainstream and LGBTI populations in both media sectors which is broadly in line with previously identified trends. The stories which were reported predominantly focus on crimes against lesbians in the English speaking first world countries. Additional stories were located through thorough reviews of English-speaking local media around the world.

In addition to sex, race and class remain significant factors in what is reported (and how), and also appear to influence the community response to those reports. Social and legal structures which prevent lesbians from reporting crimes and hostility against them exacerbate these tendencies, with language barriers inhibiting a deeper investigation of the experiences of lesbians as reported in the non-English media landscape.

As with reporting on crimes against women more generally, there remains little interest in reporting and responding to institutional, family or communal violence or persecution, which appears to be the dominant global lesbian experience as reported in 2018 once the USA data is excluded.

Listening2lesbians remains committed to broadening the information reported on the global lesbian experience, with our focus remaining on seeking to highlight the experiences of profoundly marginalised lesbian communities around the world.

 

Contact information:

Liz@listening2lesbians.com 

 

Posts from 2018: