Home Institution

Providence College

Language Proficiency Level

SPAN 4000

Publication Date

Spring 2012


The idea for this project came from many influences. Firstly, my deep love for language has been one of the sole motivators for this project. From a very early age, I grew an appreciation for learning other languages. I was always fascinated by words and expressions. Learning how to say something in another language was like learning a secret code for me. My studies of the Spanish language only fomented my passion for learning. Having been abroad for a year, first in Madrid and now in Granada, I have realized the deep connection between language, culture and society. One can never truly understand a people without learning their language. One’s language is a reflection of his or her spirit and mirrors the values, customs and opinions of the people. It is not solely a means of exchanging ideas. Our words have meaning and can be used very carefully in order to convey a certain message or idea. In the same way that one can craft or phrase a beautiful sentence, a person can also use words to give a false interpretation of a subject or to create a damaging image of a person or topic. Diction has a great impact in writing and its effects are far reaching, even going so far as to effect community actions and perceptions.

Relating the program’s theme of “Language, Community and Social Change”, the idea of violence against women occurred to me as a great marker of social change in Spain. In one of our language classes, we watched the film “Te doy mis ojos” which peaked my interest in the subject. Although I’m aware that violence against women is a global issue, I didn’t realize how prevalent it was in Spain and how much has been done for the cause in terms of laws and social services in the last few years. In addition, our seminar on social change in Spain touched on the topic of violence against women. The professor talked about the changes in law and the different campaigns broadcasted by the government and women’s rights organizations. In fact, it was one of her lectures that inspired me to connect the language used to define violence against women with the legislation and campaigns that are promulgated to the Spanish public. As she was talking about the changes in legislation during one particular class, she mentioned how a delegate had addressed members of a committee using “miembros y miembras” and how that had spurred quite a debate. She added as a side note that the wording used to describe violence against women was very interesting and from just that small comment, I decided to investigate this relationship. In this manner, I could see how language really impacted the community and together could bring about social change. I hoped to discover how the terminology employed affected the perceptions we have of the abusers and victims of violence against women. This paper explores how the vocabulary and phrasing used to describe gender violence impacts our perception of the issue and, consequently, affects the methods we take in offering support, services and education to the public.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Social Welfare | Women's Studies


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