Loving, Doting Dads versus Monstrous Mothers
Agency. The notion that individuals act independently out
of a sense of moral choice and free will, as
opposed to being „acted upon‟ by social forces
Deviance. A social, and usually moral concept to describe
Difference. Concept often used in a negative sense to
encapsulate cultural diversity, whereby patterns
of behaviour of certain groups are identified as
„differing‟ from some presumed norm.
Essentialism. Belief that behaviour is determined/propelled by
some underlying force or inherent essence.
Informs many common sense views on crime and
Familicide/family annihilation. Phenomenon whereby a man is driven by fear of
failure to kill himself and his family.
Feminism. Introduces theories from psychoanalysis and
cultural studies into criminology.
Filicide. Killing of a child by a parent/step-parent.
Heteropatriarchy. A society in which the heterosexual
male/masculine is assumed to be the norm, and
anyone that differs is defined as „other‟ and is
subject to censure or discrimination.
Infanticide. Homicide of an infant under 12 months by its
mother while she affected by pregnancy or
Otherness. Denotes a symbolic entity located outside the
self. Involves perception of the self as distinct
from the not-self (subdivided according to
Psychosocial explanations. Perspectives that draw on psychoanalysis and
sociological understandings, particularly in the
pursuit of knowledge about gendered identities.
Scopophilia. The pleasure of looking; desire to see.
Spousal homicide. Unlawful killing of an individual by their spouse
Unconscious. What is repressed from consciousness.
Media misogyny - Psychoanalytic perspectives
When it comes to constructions of female offending, difference is readily
constructed as deviance by causal association with crime.
o Despite the fact that women rarely stalk, kill or murder – those who do
are highly newsworthy because of their novelty.
Difference in a psychoanalytic interpretation: o Involves the denial of large parts of ourselves or the projection of those
parts of ourselves, which make us feel vulnerable, onto others. E.g.
o Child succumbs to a destructive unconscious solution in which he
expels the part of himself that he finds intolerable (e.g. vulnerability
and humiliation) and projects them onto his newly discovered „other‟.
o Able to disown the harmful feelings that interfere with newly
discovered sense of power and project them onto „woman‟, who is now
defined as different and therefore bad.
o Subsequently, women, femininity, or passivity may be deemed
contemptible and feared because it represents a despised, castrated part
of the self.
The interplay between unconscious fears and culturally reinforced prejudices
defines who, at any given time, is designated the scapegoat other against
whom we bolster our own individual sense of identity and the victimisation of
feminised others goes beyond gendered relationships.
o Understanding otherness helps to explain why identities are often
characterised by polarisation and by the discursive marking of
inclusion and exclusion within oppositional classificatory systems.
Insiders and outsiders.
Us and them.
Men and woman.
Deviant and normal.
1970s: to challenge the androcentrism of traditional criminology.
Applied to constructions of gender in studies of victimisation and seek to
understand the conscious/unconscious that explain why some women fail to
conform to cultural stereotypes of femininity and why legal and media
discourses construct and reflect negative public emotions towards female
o Whether women are treated more harshly or leniently when they‟re in
o Whether women who commit violent crimes in partnership with a man
or in self-defence are passive victims of male oppression or active law-
breakers acting out of choice and desire.
o How women who kill and abuse are represented in the media.
Standard narratives used by the media to construct women who commit
serious crimes are:
o Sexuality and sexual deviance.
Categorised as either sexually promiscuous/deviant or sexually
Used to demonise them and justify their construction in the
pages of the popular press as monsters.
o Physical attractiveness (absence of).
Intense scrutiny regarding their physical appearance and
If conventionally attractive – presented as femmes fatales who
ensnare their victims with their good looks, but are cold,
detached and morally vacuous. o Bad wives.
When they don‟t conform to traditional gender roles where they
put their husband and family first.
o Bad mothers.
When they fail to measure up to the ideas of maternal care.
o Mythical monsters.
To make them less woman.
Reinforce the notion of female killers as scapegoats for a
o Mad cows.
Pathologies a woman‟s physiological and natural traits in order
to construct them as artful deceivers.
o Evil manipulators.
Suggests that women may have enjoyed their crimes.
Avoid the ascription of „evil‟ – spousal homicide, where she
either acts in self-defence against an abusive partner, and
infanticide (viewed as a mixture of sad and mad).
Women who kill
Ideas of femininity and masculinity are socially constructed.
Women seen as normally passive, good, law-abiding, nurturing, caring, etc.
Everything men aren‟t.
Men seen as rational (whereas women irrational), not into feelings (the same
way women are), more able bodied, etc.
Ideas translate into understanding crime and why women commit crimes.
Saying that when a woman commits a serious crime, our reaction is one in
which she is seen as worse than a man.
Broken the law and also departed from the norms of her gender.
o They get harsher treatment.
We fear this idea of a woman murderer.
We say she‟s stepped into a male action.
o We see it as normal when a man commits a crime because we think it‟s
part of being a man (able-bodied, resilience, etc.), but we are perplexed
and freaked out when women do.
We struggle to understand that women commit crimes.
Public response – woman is seen as acting like a man or worse than a man
when she commits a crime.
Because of this, there‟s a disjuncture between this construct of her acting like
a male and what she is actually like.
Usually women aren‟t the fantasy people we see in popular culture – they‟re
Women rarely kill – but when they do, their crimes are highly newsworthy
The news values of sex and violence means that there is a preference for
certain sorts of victims.
This preference extends to female killers and violent offenders who are
marginal and also sensationalised. Women are categorised as either sexually promiscuous/deviant or sexually
inexperienced/frigid, as virgins or vamps.
Newsworthy because their relatively rarity and because they can be further
marginalised and can be told with reference to their sexuality.
If she fits the „happy wife supporting her man, etc.‟ image, then she will get
sympathetic reporting, but if not, it‟s unsympathetic and she is treated harshly
than a male.
Why women kill and why
Scenario 1: women kill an intimate partner or family member.
o There is a divergence between what is represented as interesting and
what actually occurs.
o Female killing often explained as revenge or madness.
o It is usually a form of self-defence.
o Problem - what would happen when a woman tried to kill a man and
tried to rely on self-defence.
o She‟s not equal in strength and size and doesn‟t usually have the same
kind of weapon.
o Women usually in an unequal relationship in that scenario.
o The defence wasn't developed to recognise the situations in which
o Literature tells us tha