Can Women Be Killers Too?


Hi Kara! Did you see the Sam Tanenhaus article “Violence That Art Didn’t See Coming” yesterday in the NY Times? I am dying to talk to you about it.

Tanenhaus writes of serial killer Amy Bishop: “When she reportedly discharged her 9-millimeter handgun, she also punctured longstanding assumptions, or illusions, about women and violence…”

This is a topic close to my heart because I contributed an essay about Abu Ghraib, zine culture and Inga Muscio’s Cunt (like ya do) to an anthology, One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers, which was incidentally reviewed by the NY Times Book Review. (As you know, Tanenhaus runs the NYTBR, and I have written for it a bunch.)

In my anthology essay I argued, much as we do often in this blog, that 90s feminism had a huge, and all but completely ignored, impact on the culture, and that of course ladies could be as violent as men, and historically have been, if in smaller numbers, but that the point of feminism is to demand basic human decency of both men and women, toward themselves and each other. Anyone who argues that one of the goals of feminism is for women to start oppressing men or other women (or to reach parity on death row) is kind of missing the point of the whole movement.

Anyway, the Tanenhaus article goes a lot of places, some of them kind of shocking. Please read it and see what you think, but it seems to me that he’s saying that talking about women as victims is outmoded because women are so much more equal now.

Also I think he’s saying that Karen Finley (you just saw that Jackie O show, right? I missed it, but saw the Spitzer one, which I loved, and have been a longtime fan of her and her work) and Marina Abramovic are old-fashioned because they’re still talking about women as victims.

This seems crazy to me for a few reasons. First of all, is he saying that feminism means equality in serial killer-ness?

And why use this discussion to pick on two performance artists? And is this dismissal of their work really appropriate?  Karen is so not about being a victim. People are so scared of her! And Abramovic’s work isn’t about being a victim either, is it? All the work of hers I know is about relationships and death and ritual.

And since when is killer women a taboo topic? Nineties women talked SO MUCH about women as aggressors. So does pop music today!

I’m thinking about those bloody Lisa Carver zines and about Julie Ruin’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is” (audio, lyrics):

what the fuck if we all got guns
to off the fucking pigs and all the other motherfuckers

And then we have Beyonce doing all those songs like “Ring the Alarm,” not to mention jailhouse confessions (watch it!).

This was especially astonishing to me:

A decade or two ago this all made sense. The underworld of domestic abuse and sexual violence was coming freshly to light. And social arrangements were undergoing abrupt revision. The woman who achieved hard-won success in the workplace might well find herself, like the lonely stalker played by Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” (1987), tormented by the perfect-seeming family of the married man with whom she enjoys a weekend fling.

Is he saying feminist ladies might become killers because they’re jealous of housewives??? And is there a less realistic, more sexist film than Fatal Attraction in the history of cinema?

Clear this all up for me, Kara!!


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