The Ipswich Murders and Jeremy Clarkson

No, I’m not suggesting he’s a suspect. Just pointing out that issues concerning language have cropped up in the news today in relation to these.

The Guardian‘s  readers’ editor has an interesting discussion, here,  of  the choice of language in the Ipswich murder case (particularly on the terms ‘prostitute’ and ‘sex worker’).

Some of you have heard quite a bit about my unease (at least) at the casually pejorative use of the word ‘gay’. Well Jeremy Clarkson has been rapped on the knuckles about this. Quite right too, I say. But what do you think?

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4 Responses to The Ipswich Murders and Jeremy Clarkson

  1. annelise says:

    Aftr reading the argument i personally feel it is slightly out of order that the women have been reffered to as ‘prostitutes’ or even as ‘sex workers.’ I am of the opinion that this term used does display a sort of negative attitude to these women and the term ‘dehumanising’ sums it up correctly. Afterall these victims are women despite their occupatation, and their job should not be evewn considered when we are reflecting on the sickening fact that they are now immorally dead. It was slightly insensitive in my eyes that these brutal terms were used, however i am not suggesting that their job title should not be included in the article at all;in a headline however is a boit bold and quite harsh for my liking.
    Furhtermore whoever is commiting these murders, are quite clearly reflecting the behaviour of ‘Jack the Ripper’ annd the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ and by highlighting this fact, it is just aiding this person in becomming infamous in a sickening and revolting way, giving him a title is the last thing i want to do, and the words ‘prostitute’ and ‘sex worker’ are just another reminder of history sadly repeating itself.

  2. Paul says:

    Hey sir! Just replying to your most interesting blog for a while (no offence!) At the moment I feel slightly irritated of the use of the word ‘sex worker’. Every news programme I have watched or listenened to on various channels has not mentioned the word prostitute as if to show respect to the deceased.
    I’ve certainly not used the word ‘sex worker’ in my lifetime and I think that’s it’s a case of political correctness gone mad. i suppose it really doesn’t matter because we know what ‘sex worker’ really means.
    On the matter of the negative use of the word ‘gay’, it’s not just Jeremy who’s been in trouble. As a regular listener to Chris Moyles in the morning (not Five Live or the Today programme I’m afraid), I have on occasions heard him say that something was ‘gay’. Not right in my eyes, but there isn’t much people can do about free speech. Someone should at least mention that their language is alomost as bad as swearing, but just as offensive. Thanks sir!

  3. Mr Heald says:

    Some good comments there, both of you. Annelise, I think I agree with you about the way that sensationalist language about the murderer gives a sort of celebrity status that is rather sickening. I’m also sympathetic to the idea that emphasising that the women were prostitutes might be seen to diminish the tragedy or suggest that in some way they are partly to blame. My hunch is that there has been a shift away from that ‘objectifying’ language as the story has gathered pace and the public reaction has been one of sympathy for the victims, so I think the media may be following public opinion here, but I haven’t read and listened enough to be confident of that judgement. If the muderer had been picking off, say teachers, and the headlines said “Five teachers killed” or whatever, would the same controversy arise? Would people be saying “They are people, not just teachers. Why refer to how they make a living?” in the same way as has happened in this case? If not, why is it different?

    Paul, I think you should be careful about using the phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’. It’s become such a cliche (look at the number of results you get if you put the phrase in Google) that I think it’s difficult now to be taken seriously when using it, and like many cliches it can easily be used a substitute for careful expression of what you actually mean. What exactly is it that irritates you about ‘sex worker’ and why do you regard its use as ‘politically correct’ (whether ‘gone mad’ or not)? Let me be clear that this isn’t a criticism, just an attempt to take the debate forward.

    With regard to Chris Moyles, I was going to mention him in my original post, but thought he was maybe old news now. What is interesting is that the BBC defended him back in the summer, whereas now they have condemned Clarkson for very similar language use. Perhaps they have been influenced by the backlash from many in the gay community, and others of what I would think of as a thoughtful and tolerant disposition (but which others might think of as the politically correct gone mad). You say that “Someone should at least mention that their language is alomost as bad as swearing, but just as offensive”. Well, I’ll lay my cards on the table here: I think that people who use ‘gay’ in that sense should be aware that their language may be regarded as worse than swearing, and more offensive. I would genuinely rather hear someone say “That’s f***ing crap” than “That’s gay” to convey the same meaning, and I think that in schools we are being very slow to react to the casual (and often unintended) humiliation of gay people that is implicit in the way that word has undergone pejoration.

  4. Tonia says:

    They were prostitutes, but before their job title comes the person themself, with a name and a family. I understand that what they all have in common is prostitution and therefore that point has to be raised to ensure that people know that there is a connection with the murders rather than thinking that they are completely random and everyone panicking.

    I also see that prostitution is a bit of a taboo subject, other terms such as “sex worker” or “call girl” or whatever else, are sometimes used to soften the blow but in reality – if 5 lawyers were killed would the headline be “5 lawyers killed” or would people talk in terms of “the 5 lawyers” and if im honest then the answer is probably yes and therefore why would it be such a problem to talk in terms of “5 prostitutes”? and the answer is because of the conotations associated with being a prostitute and the fact that the public upon hearing that it was all prostitutes would probably react differently and less sympathetically than if it was lawyers.

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