Gender disconnect

Reader Response to “Don’t Marry Career Women” – Gender disconnect

Gender disconnect
Regular Contributor
from the Edmonton Sun Canadian Newspaper


As hard as we try to break down the gender divide, it constantly rears its controversial head – especially when a woman is accused of a terrible crime.

When a man is arrested for killing his children, the community immediately labels him a monster and is ready to lynch him before he even gets to trial.

But when a woman kills her own flesh and blood, we typically wonder what kind of difficult circumstances or mental anguish she must have endured before snapping.

Some men commit crimes because that’s what men do, the thinking goes.

But women offend because they didn’t get the help they needed and they were at their wits’ end.

Bad women tend to elicit public sympathy. (Katrina Effert, who was recently found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury for killing her newborn baby, is a notable exception.)

We’d happily drop bad men, however, into a rat-infested dungeon.

This odd gender disconnect was particularly evident last week when an Ontario woman was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her daughters, age three and one.

“This was a tormented woman,” said one area resident, whose grandchildren had played with the girls. “This woman needs a hug. She needs to know people love her.”

Perhaps accused killer Frances Elaine Campione, 31, does need a hug. She’ll need plenty more help in the months to come, considering the terrible crimes she’s alleged to have committed.

But, try as I might, I can’t think of a single incident where a father accused of killing his kids elicited such obvious sympathy.

Men arrested in such cases are invariably regarded as pitiless fiends.

Already, though, Campione has been cast as an alleged victim in the deaths of her two defenceless children.

“Imagine you are so desperate you want to take (the kids) away from the pain so they could be with the Lord,” remarked the woman who said Campione needed a hug.

Can you imagine a neighbour daring to say such a thing if the accused was male?

It’s just so much easier to excuse women’s alleged criminal behaviour because society has generally always done so. But should we still be excusing women’s offences when, in every other sphere of human endeavour, we insist on gender equality?

Dealing the sympathy card for female offenders is misogynist in a sense because we assume bad women are unbalanced, says University of Alberta law professor Sanjeev Anand.

“You’re sort of taking away her autonomy as a human being – her ability to choose right from wrong,” he says.

“Underneath that sympathy is almost a very degrading way of viewing women’s autonomy, and I think that’s problematic.”

We tend to associate male violence with innate aggression but find it hard to accept that women, who are supposed to be naturally nurturing, can commit horrible acts, especially against kids, says Anand.

“We sort of accept that if it happens by a dad or a step-dad, well, that’s just because men do that,” he says. “But with women, we try to pathologize it.”

A lot of people couldn’t fathom that Karla Homolka, for instance, could be willingly involved in the sex-killings of two teen girls, he notes.

“As a society, we don’t want to believe that women are capable of these kinds of acts but … we seem to have no problem (believing) that men are capable of these acts.”

It seems inconceivable that a woman could commit a heinous crime unless she was abused, says Anand.

“The reality is, if you scratch the surface of most male offenders, there’s abuse in their backgrounds too.” But we gloss over that. After all, they’re bad men.

10-09-2006 12:14 PM

Re: Gender disconnect

Very good post, Khan. And so very true. Women get away with every **bleep** thing and men are pounced upon before they can even open their mouth.

This is just too frustrating.

10-09-2006 08:41 PM

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