Creating gender-balanced obituaries
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Subjectcritical discourse analysis; death discourse; gender equality; language; obituaries; social practice
Each generation’s obituaries reflect social views on gender due to how representations of the deceased and the social norms informing those representations are mutually reinforcing. Currently, representations of gender in obituaries are not equitable; greater focus on gender-equitable discourse is necessary to correct the discrimination. My study looked at the state of current obituaries to answer the question: How can newspaper obituaries be written to promote gender equality? The research took a qualitative critical discourse analysis approach that involved speaking with funeral directors in Victoria, B.C., Canada and reviewing 350 obituaries from April and May 2016 published in the Times Colonist newspaper (via legacy.com). Applying van Leeuwen’s (2008) social action network model to guide analysis of the ten longest obituaries, I recontextualized the obituary discourse to illuminate its constitutive social practice. My findings indicate that the gender gap in obituary writing is closing, but pronounced differences in obituary language used to describe men and women remain. Keywords: gender equality; death discourse; obituaries; social practice; language; critical discourse analysis
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