Women, Murder and Justice by Wendy Chan (auth.)

By Wendy Chan (auth.)

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Not having to choose between a sex/gender or nature/culture dichotomy means that it is possible to forgo making the choice between biological or socially constructed explanations of women's violent acts. As Hekman states, there is a belief when making such a choice that we must choose between an absolute or a relative conception of human nature (1990: 144). The consequences of this are clearly stated by McNay, who argues that the effects of positing a single bodily cause of feminine subordination has specific aims: Once the female sex has come to connote specific feminine characteristics, this `imaginary signification' produces concrete effects throughout diverse social practices.

In these cases, women tend to receive harsher sentences than men (Morris and Wilczynski 1993). While it may not be acceptable for men to commit a similar crime, it can be seen as consistent with our stereotypes of them, but this may not be the case for a woman. Inventing the `violent' woman Violent crime rates by women have risen at the end of this century . . Clearly it is high time we provided shade and nuance to the picture . . if we concede that women are ambitious, like men, and 26 Women, Murder and Justice possess a will to power as men do, then we need to concede that women, like men, are capable of injuring others who thwart them.

He identifies sexual urges in women as the definitive motivating factor contributing to the pattern of women murderers and argues that so long as they `overwhelm women at the height of their powers, so long will the woman-murderer be a menace' (1970: 157). The second aspect of this sex bias is the belief that there are two types of women: the `good' and the `bad'. The `good woman' is the mother, the `gentler sex', whereas the bad woman is the whore, the `more deadly species'. The latter has `betrayed her womanhood' and she is, according to Lombroso, a monster.

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