Thursday, February 25, 2010

And Here It Is

The piece I have been waiting for ever since Amy Bishop killed three people in an apparent replay of the common pattern of men going into a public place and shooting people, more or less indiscriminately. I knew that it was coming, a piece which would link the Bishop murders to feminism or women's empowerement, and I must admit that on some level I was salivating while waiting because murders of this type, or any murders of any type, are so very rarely committed by women and so very often committed by men, and therefore if we take these articles seriously we should conclude that we must put men into the traditional position of women and then we will get a much safer world.

But that is never the conclusion of those pieces, and Sam Tanenhaus, the author of this one, knows that he cannot get away with just finger-pointing at feminism. Instead, he argues that we need art to give us more representations of the woman who is a psychopathic killer:

But the landscape of unprovoked but premeditated female violence remains strangely unexplored. Women who kill are "relegated to an 'exceptional case' status that rests upon some exceptional, or untoward killing circumstance: the battered wife who kills her abusive husband; the postpartum psychotic mother who kills her newborn infant," Candice Skrapec, a professor of criminology, noted in "The Female Serial Killer," an essay included in the anthology "Moving Targets: Women, Murder and Representation" (1994).

Because these don't satisfy Tanenhaus he turns to the writers of fiction and especially detective fiction, as experts on female violence. That's a clever thing to do because we all know that women in those books are much more likely to be the murderer than in real life (where in the U.S. women commit only 12% of all homicides). Otherwise figuring out the who-done-it part would be much less interesting. You could just use those statistical figures to rule out most women in most books when lining up your suspects.

Tanenhaus has a thesis in his piece which is not really about someone having to do a movie and a book about Amy Bishop. It's all about female empowerment turning women into mass murderers. Just like men!:

The uncomfortable fact is that for all her singularity, Dr. Bishop also provides an index to the evolved status of women in 21st-century America. The number of female neurobiologists may still be small, but girls often outdo boys in the classroom, including in the sciences. (Mattel recently announced a new addition, Computer Engineer Barbie, to its line of popular dolls.) A Harvard Ph.D. remains a rare credential for women (as well as for men), but women now make up the majority of undergraduates at many prestigious colleges. And the tenure struggle said to have lighted Dr. Bishop's short fuse reflects the anxieties of many other women who now outnumber men in the work force and have become, in thousands of cases, their family's principal or only breadwinner.

Just go through Tanenhaus's piece by searching the word "feminist" and you see what he is really saying. Heh.

What is oddest about this article may be something almost unstated. Tanenhaus offers us Amy Bishop not only as the fruit of feminism in some sense but also as a sign of the times. Yet the most recent statistics (ending with 2005) I was able to find tell us that homicides committed by both sexes have gone down over time.

Using the simple association technique of Tanenhaus one might argue that feminism seems to have been a good thing for homicide rates, eh? That is a joke, naturally.