Friday, October 3

Female Killers

I’m currently reading a book about women who committed murder. Some of them only killed once, others killed a couple of times. Some killed out of greed, others out of pity (well-meant or otherwise) or without any real reasons they could name.

What I perceive as strange - though it seems to be quite a normal reaction in society - is how much more interest people show when a woman murders someone. Male murderers are basically an everyday thing - well, depending on where you live -, but women who kill are something different in people’s eyes.

The question here is why.

Most of the murders in this book have not been committed by brute force alone. Those women might have poisoned someone (in one case first given the hated husband a sleeping draught and then killed him with an axe), but they didn’t jump out of a cabinet with a huge baseball bat in their hands to hit their victim until it was dead and the head was nothing but a bloody, pulpy mass.

Poison has always been said to be a woman’s choice for murder. This is probably because it doesn’t require a lot of strength. In addition, a lot of poisonous substances are available in an ordinary household (and even more of them were available in the past - think ‘rat poison’, very popular once in a while).

The truth about society’s reaction to women committing murder is simple, though. In the heads of most people women are not capable of killing. This is a stupid notion, of course, but somehow it has sunk into the heads. In a society that differs so greatly between what’s right for men and what’s right for women (and people still do, achievements of feminism notwithstanding), people get confused about the ‘nature’ of things.

While it’s considered pretty natural for men to be aggressive (and thus capable of killing in hot or cold blood), it’s not considered natural for women at all. Society differs greatly between bringing people into this world (a process known as giving birth) and kicking people out of this world (a process that might be murder, if it’s not done by a force of nature, disease or old age). On some subconscious level, people seem to think that those who can do one thing (bringing people into this world) are not capable of the other one. As only women can give birth, this thought suggest that they are incapable of killing. Men, after all, are obviously not capable of giving birth, but certainly able to kill.

But are women incapable of killing? Obviously not. Beside the cases of female murderers, women have killed for a living in the past. As (at least in Germany, I do not know how it was in other countries) poultry was the domain of the farmer’s wife, women did care for those hens and geese and quite often also killed them when their time had come (quite often by twisting their necks). In nomadic tribes women have always fought alongside their men, they basically had no other choice. This has led to the myth of the Amazons, of a tribe made up completely of female warriors who only used men for the same things, basically, for which men in other societies use women (so they can propagate, maybe also for household chores, as you can’t be on the warpath and clean the house ... or tent ... at the same time).

Whenever a woman kills a man, the media is in uproar. The other kind (which is much more likely to happen) doesn’t draw half as much attention. If a man kills, it’s just a crime. If a woman kills, it’s an act of evil.

In addition, women are quite more likely to kill children or older people (because they’re more likely to work with both groups). And killing those you should care for (no matter, how hard the job is, how little respect you get for it, how little help you receive), is an act of pure evil, naturally.

A woman, it seems, is like the Virgin Mary. She can give birth to a divine being, she can care for all the women in the world (among Roman-Catholics it’s not unusual for a woman to pray to the Virgin Mary whenever women’s problems are concerned), but she can’t kill (or have sex with men - virgin birth, remember?).

If she’s not like the Virgin Mary, she is some sort of demon (Lilith, maybe, the first wife of Adam who didn’t want to submit to a man?). And demons are evil. Come to think of it ... wasn’t it a woman who introduced mankind to the knowledge of what is good and what is evil? (But she didn’t force Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, did she? He did that all by himself.)

If you turn your eyes away from reality and towards fiction, you’ll find a host of demonic killers of the womanly persuasion. My favourite are the two sisters who turn into werewolves in the three parts of “Ginger Snaps”. There are few female vampires around (Selena in “Underworld” being a prime example), a few female killers in thrillers, too. There are some female hit men (does the term “hit woman” actually exist?) or terrorists. There are cold-blooded women who kill off competitors. They all are shown as something not completely human, though. A man who kills is human (maybe even too human), a woman who kills is a monster.

That spiel is quite tiring, to be honest. I do not think killing is okay - taking someone else’s life (unless that someone is attacking you) is never okay. But I do think that a woman who kills isn’t any more evil than a man who kills.

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