The Allure of the Murdered Woman

Helen Rumbelow in The Times:

… Hillary Clinton being rounded upon and bullied by her male Democratic rivals in Thursday’s televised debate. It was ungallant, unedifying… and utterly compelling. Violence against women, although in this case entirely conducted through political metaphor, has the thrill of any great taboo, where our conscious disapproval vies with our unconscious fascination.

I read this, and thought of Judith Adams’ article for The LIP Magazine, Biting the LIP:

Question 14: What would be the most popular show on stage?
Answer: A public execution; ideally, the public execution of a woman: sex and violence, misogyny and revenge all in one short act, then off to the bar, boys and girls. Irresistible Box Office. Such a drama goes down a bomb in the multi-billion, on your PC and mobile phone porn industry, and the Afghan arenas, and so does a symbolic form of it on Wall Street and in The City – never mind watered-down fictional versions performing in the West End and on Broadway

The idea of women’s negative treatment is hardly a new idea, but I still feel it is one worth repeating. There seems to be an unhealthy doublethink that inflilrates our discourse on this: The problem never seems to ebb, not matter how often it is highlighted.

It is also worth noting, in passing, that the page on this site that recieves the most hits from Google is my ‘Old Men and Little Girls‘ post, which discusses our appetite for a fresh icon overy few months. It was written almost two years ago, before Madeline McGann was kidnapped, but she is is the obvious heir to Bigley, Kember, and Hollyandjessica.

The Meredith Kercher case is a puzzling twist on the genre (and yes, it is a ‘genre’). Here, the press seems as obessed by the case as the Madeline McGann mystery. Helen Rumbelow mentions these two cases in the same breath, despite the fact that they are very different. Indeed, the only similarities seem to be the fact that both incidents involved females, and both occurred in southern Europe. What is interesting in the latest case is that the press coverage seems focussed on the Meredith’s room-mate, Amanda Knox. We see a new picture of her, courtesy of Facebook, every day. Each time, Meredith’s name is mentioned in the headline, yet the illustration is of Amanda. Furthermore, much less commentary is given over to the male co-suspects, who are – let’s face it – much more likely to have actually weilded the knife.

There is, unfortunately, no conclusion to these thoughts. They are just further notes on an unpleasant, growing feature of our society. And it is one that is, I fear, only destined to increase as media reach increases. It is a negative side-effect of the digital revolution.

Update

Speaking of penis envy, a pun from John Ellis at RealClearPolitics:

For reasons either right or wrong, Americans will elect their first female president only when they are convinced that she is the tougher of the two (or three) choices. She won’t be inevitable until we believe she is as formidable as Tricky Dick.

14 thoughts on “The Allure of the Murdered Woman

  1. “Lesbian murder porn” is more unusual and thus more fetishised than “psycho boyfriend in drug crazed murder shocker”. It also taps into a current theme in popular culture (Films such as My Little Eye, Hostel, et al) of western 20 something back packing slackers coming to gruesome endings in far flung corners of Europe. I’m sure they serve the same social purpose, parables and morality plays, only the technology has changed.

  2. The sexual, power-driven murder of girl children by adult male children, consumed by fear and envy of status.
    China – our partner in the growth of capitalism.
    How many million girl babies under her soil?
    The press – our handmaid of democracy and the free world.
    How many dead women and children sell the papers?
    Moslem women in Britain – how many brutalised, burned or murdered to conform? or commit suicide to avoid what they are told they must be and do?

    Think, it says, in Coriolanus: we had mothers. Most of them in an institution within an institution sanctified by another institution that murders the individual for the family structure. Patriarchy A structure where we live through our men’s values, or die.

    So – we have babies. and are forced by nature to learn what it is to get a chance to put another being before ourselves. Is that worth so many milennia of envious violence? So we bleed naturally – is that worth aping in so many wars? So we go through the change of life and breathe the very air of what it is to die. Have men NO imagination? NO empathy? – that they must fill the world with death and intellectualism and random, inflexible structures, in the hope that will disempower their own mortality?

    Post feminism? Don’t make me laugh. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to have a computer and say these things. But change them?
    Only when the world dies as it is, and finds a whole new way of being – where biology and not the brain makes sense out of existence.

  3. There is no doubt about the lure of Amanda Knox. It seems impossible to put a finger on just what it is, but she has a charisma that is undeniable from the first time I saw her photo.

    She is not a ravishing beauty but there is just something about her that is gravity . . .

  4. I’m very glad you said this, Judith Adams. The immature projection of a certain Dr Freud made me doubt what I witnessed with my own eyes in childhood: the reaction of boy children upon learning for the first time that it was not they, but the girls who get to have children. Envy it is, for sure, that breeds such hatred and violence. I think if we could only unpick this, we could change it.

    And now that you mention EMPATHY, it makes me try to wonder, how would I feel, as a child, a male, fragile-egoed, competitive, rough-and-tumble child, that has already subtlely been socialised to define myself as somehow superior, more normative, than the female, to discover that a miracle of such great importance will never be mine to experience, but the sole domain of those whom my gender identity is bound up with denigrating…

    The sadistic excesses of andocracy, it seems to me, are driven by such sour grapes as this.

  5. Clarice – I am sometimes too, it seems to depend on the subject, or maybe just on whether Robs gone down the pub.

    Getting a bit tired of all this cobblers about “the patriarchy”. Take some responsibility for your own life instead of blaming abstract structures.

  6. Certainly not personal. In this case I think its pretty clear that “Lesbian murder porn” would get moderated.

    I think the issue arises, and the patriarchy is perceived, precisely because women meet resistance when they “take some responsibility” for their lives.

  7. Well, yes, Rob, but that was Judith, not me!

    Thanks MM for the reassurance. Your comment about responsibility is rather sickening to me though. It seems to me there is somewhat an imbalance between the genders in the rights/responsibilities stakes. It looks as if you are expecting women to take responsibility for areas of their lives in which their “rights” are denied them. And that is BANG out of order. What a load of cobblers. Makes me want to heave.

    Well said, Rob

  8. Clarice – that wasn’t aimed at you but at the random rant above.
    As you probably know Freud also postulated something called P***s envy, which led to his eventual discrediting at the hands of feminists. People often forget that Freudian constructs are metaphorical…. and that female children are the default, so not sure how a male child constructs himself as normative. Male children have a psychological fight on their hands, more or less from day 1, to separate themselves from the mother’s identity and internalise the paternal introject, so if there is a cause of “womb envy” it’s probably rooted in that i.e in females not having to go through that fight. The subtle early years “conditioning” (if conditioning why culturally invariant btw) are after all mostly transmitted by female carers. If there is a male superiority complex then surely its roots lie in infantile immersion in maternal aspiration – mothers want their sons to appeal to females, and know implicitly that appearing weak or feminised is not an attractive, or adaptive trait.

    Back in the here and now, I still don’t understand this idea that women “aren’t allowed” to take responsbility. Take the familiar “having it all” narrative. Irrespective of gender, it’s not possible to comit 100% to both a career and a family, but rather than taking responsibility for that decision, women palm it off on the state, who must legislate for equality, the employer who must enact that legislation in the form of family friendly practices, and the tax payer who must fund their child minding needs. In what sense are women here taking responsibility ? They are only taking “rights” (the right to have children, the right to a career and the right to have a choice between the two).

  9. Yes, MM, p**s envy was exactly what I was alluding to when I mentioned Freud’s immature projection of men’s envy of women’s reproductive capacity onto females.

    I presume you are referring to the developmental aspects of sex-determination in foetuses when you state that female is the “default” gender. I can’t help wondering how you expect a two- or three-year-old child to be able to a) know this or b) understand the complexities of the biology of how gender develops in the womb.

    If you genuinely cannot understand how a male child is socialised to view himself as normative, may I suggest you take a look at the hegemony of masculinity throughout history, in culture, in politics, even in language. He only has to look around him to witness this hegemony in all its forms, implicit and explicit.

    As for “having to separate from the mother’s identity” being a sole preserve of males, this is a common misconception, but nonetheless untrue. Why is it “a struggle” to internalise the paternal introject? Why is it any more of a struggle than for a female child to internalise the maternal introject? What might be a struggle for a male is to deal with the fact that he has an attachment to, and dependency upon a figure whose gender is generally subjugated to the male. Now *that* I could imagine would be a headfuck for a child.

    The early years conditioning you refer to is not predominantly female, assuming the child has a present and active father. While it is true that both parents have an influence in this regard, what you will find is that it is the child’s broader social context that is the more powerful.

  10. Because man is born of woman and most infants spend early childhood as part of a mother-child dyad ? For female children this is easier to manage, as same sex identification is immediate and there is no break point. For men it’s harder as they have to metaphorically break that bond and forge a new one with the father. If you beleive in orthodox Freudianism, the character of that break shapes forever the quality of the male childs relationship with (all) women. If the relationship is too strong (so the argument goes), the bond never truly breaks and homosexuality results, not strong enough to survive the break intact, relationships with women will always be problematic. The difficult bit is not “subjugating” your mother, it’s fear of her subjugating you (by psychological emasculation). If there is a Freudian origin of misogynist violence, surely it lies here.

    In terms of socialisation, women still “do” most of the early socialiastion, and are bound to treat male children, consciously or not, as “other”. Quite apart from the growing number of households with no adult male resident of any description, I’d be surprised if there are many families where men genuinely spend as much time with the children as women, and I’m sure most of the important demands, food, affection, body maintenance, nursing, what you might call nurture, still fall on women.
    Knowledge of men being normative (by which I think you mean dominant, biologically we are genetically modified women), surely only becomes apparent at puberty, at which point your own gender, as the most formative component of subjective experience, is perceived as normative, as your in group. Obviously social context plays a huge part, especially peer group, but trying to tease apart which is the most influential is problematic and probably misuided, as external influnces are transactive with each other and the individual.

  11. Oh MM, what claptrap have you been reading? Show me some evidence and I’ll think about it. What? There isn’t any? Oh dear, how embarrassing for you.

    No, I mean normative. Look it up. You’d also do well to read something about early gender socialisation. Children know about gender roles very very early, at leasst age 3. And that includes the social, political, economic and cultural dominance of males.

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