But the landscape of unprovoked but premeditated female violence remains strangely unexplored. Women who kill are “relegated to an ‘exceptional case’ status that rests upon some exceptional, or untoward killing circumstance: the battered wife who kills her abusive husband; the postpartum psychotic mother who kills her newborn infant,” Candice Skrapec, a professor of criminology, noted in “The Female Serial Killer,” an essay included in the anthology “Moving Targets: Women, Murder and Representation” (1994).
Ms. Skrapec was writing at a time when Hollywood seemed preoccupied with women who commit crimes — in productions like “The Burning Bed,” the 1984 television film in which a battered wife finally sets her sleeping husband aflame, and “Thelma & Louise” (1991), in which a pair of women go on a outlaw spree after one of them is threatened with rape.
Both are essentially exculpatory parables of empowerment, anchored in feminist ideology. Their heroines originate as victims, pushed to criminal excesses by injustices done to them. The true aggressors are the men who mistreat and objectify them. So too with “Monster” (2003), in which Charlize Theron, in a virtuosic instance of empathy (and cosmetic makeover) re-enacted the story of Aileen Wuornos, a real-life prostitute who, after years of sexual abuse, began murdering her clients.
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.
Much has changed since then, but the topic of women and violence — especially as represented by women — remains more or less in a time warp, bound by the themes of sexual and domestic trauma, just as male depictions of female violence are locked in the noir demimonde of fantasy, the slinky femmes fatales once played by Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner more or less duplicated by Kathleen Turner and Sharon Stone.
Why? Because the narratives remain consistently framed by men.
This review of my book, written by a female professor of sociology, writing in “Violence Against Women,” an academic journal, gets it.
“Kelly provides a forum for diverse women’s experiences, analyses, and convictions. Her wide-ranging interviews, of course, bring women’s voices into the debate. At a deeper level, this book provides a kind of dialogue-on-paper that is almost impossible to create in real life, where listening carefully to proponents of profoundly different positions can seem impossible. Kelly does not merely bring women’s voices into the record; she puts women’s often conflicting ideas and perspectives into conversation with each other in a way that makes this book the foundation for future dialogues.”
I spent several years researching and thinking about my book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns”. I traveled across the country, spoke to 104 men, women and teens from 29 states, of all races and income levels, including legislators, those working in law enforcement and the judiciary.
I also bring a personal empathy to the desperation that can lead to female violence. In 1998, I became a victim of psychological violence at the hands of a convicted felon, a man whose predatory behavior directed at me — involving at least six potential felonies — was deemed insufficiently interesting for local police or the district’s attorney’s office to investigate.
It is hard to overstate the rage, fury and impotence their contempt had upon me, as this indifference has had upon other women, here and elsewhere. A terrified, angry woman is not someone many people are eager to listen to.
Were I a different woman, my choice may well have echoed Bishop’s.
As a woman, a crime victim, and an author, then, I wanted to bear witness to some of this. I wanted to listen to women and tell their stories, unmediated by dogma, fantasy and myth.
I learned a great deal about when, where, how and why a woman decides to aim and fire a gun at someone she believes lethal to her. There is, still, for many of us, a longstanding and deeply comforting attachment to a Victorian ideal of women —“the angel in the house” — the civilizing, organizing, calming, soothing principle of every fine family.
How often flings for nought, and yokes
Her heart to an icicle or whim,
Whose each impatient word provokes
Another, not from her, but him;
While she, too gentle even to force
His penitence by kind replies,
Waits by, expecting his remorse,
With pardon in her pitying eyes;
And if he once, by shame oppress’d,
A comfortable word confers,
She leans and weeps against his breast,
And seems to think the sin was hers;
Women are as angry and fed up and worn out as men — by economic inequality, by sexism, by lack of access to decent health care, maternity policies, childcare, equitable divorce or property settlements. We are verbally, physically and emotionally attacked in the home and in the workplace, whether by “microinsults” (the “little” daily snipes we’re meant to laugh off) or by terrifying specifics, like a husband or live-in partner’s constant threat of removing or even killing of a child or pet.
Every single day in the U.S., three American women will die at the hands of an intimate, usually a husband, partner or ex. Some women will kill first to defend their own lives. France is now considering a new law to address the more subtle, and much more difficult issue, of verbal threat — which, as anyone expert in the sad field of domestic violence will tell you — is every bit as toxic as physical abuse, as it is impossible to prove and shows no bruises to police.
From The New York Times:
PARIS — France’s National Assembly approved Thursday night a proposal to add “psychological violence” to a law intended to help victims of physical violence and abuse, despite doubts that the law is specific enough to have much impact.
The proposed law says that to “act or repeatedly say things that could damage the victim’s life conditions, affect his/her rights and his/her dignity or damage his/her physical or mental health” is punishable by a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to 75,000 euros, or about $103,000. Carefully covering both genders, the law applies to behavior toward a wife, husband, partner or concubine.
Danielle Bousquet, a Socialist, and Guy Geoffroy, a member of the ruling center-right Union for a Popular Movement, wrote the draft law, supported by 30 other legislators. It received backing last November from the government and Prime Minister François Fillon, who called it “very significant progress.”
The new law, Mr. Fillon said, “will allow people to take into account the most insidious situations, which don’t leave a mark to the naked eye but can mutilate the victim’s inner self.” He called the issue “a great national cause,” and the government has started a series of commercials on television to sensitize viewers to conjugal violence, especially against women.
Ms. Bousquet, 64, said that psychological violence could be gradual. “In the beginning, there are only slight offenses, a husband who is a little too insistent and domineering with his wife, but then the husband’s ascendancy becomes more prominent and each time the victim strikes back, the tone changes and physical violence can set in,” she said in an interview together with Mr. Geoffroy.
That Amy Bishop could kill — a woman who clearly had a long violent history that went un-punished — should be surprising to anyone is in itself deeply naive.
However much it shocks or horrifies male observers (as it seems to), there are women as loaded and primed with latent violence as men, as fully ready to kill. And women know it.
New York — for millions, for centuries — has marked the spot where the ambitious, talented, driven best show up to compete for whatever they think they can win.
My mother was born in New York City and married there before moving to Canada, where I was born. I first visited the city, to see her grandmother, as a young teen, then in my early 20s, twice. Since high school, I dreamed of coming to New York to compete in journalism, and chose to move to the state in 1989, just in time for the worst recession ever in journalism (only the first of three, since then, this one far worse).
The state has become so ugly and dysfunctional, so embarrassingly stupid and risible, it begs the imagination, even as we pay more and more and more taxes to the fools sitting in Albany.
The state, and our moronic, lying, directionless lame-duck governor, David Paterson, who decided he won’t (thank God) run for re-election after all, has become a joke. So has, even more so, Senator Charles Rangel for his ethical lapses.
Mr. Paterson’s troubles have been catnip for “Saturday Night Live,” but the state’s voters are laughing to keep from crying. New York’s budget deficit is an estimated $8.2 billion, due in no small part to state spending that has risen by nearly 70%, or $35 billion, over the past decade. The recent financial crisis has exposed the state’s overreliance on tax revenue from Wall Street.
Mr. Paterson has promised several times to stop this, only to give in to the legislature and tax and spend again. He’ll now be the lamest of lame ducks, and if he wanted to do the public at least one good turn he’d resign early and let the state be run through next year by his Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch, who is at least competent.
This mess is all part of the culture of Albany, arguably the most corrupt legislature on Earth. Last June, the state government was paralyzed for more than a month when Democratic Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate joined the Republican caucus, making it unclear which party was in control. Eventually, both men returned to the Democratic side of the aisle.
Mr. Espada would later be investigated for not living in his district and funneling state money to health clinics that he operates. Mr. Monserrate was later convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Two weeks ago the Senate voted 53-8 to expel Mr. Monserrate over his conviction, which reminds us in reverse of Groucho Marx’s famous line about not wanting to belong to a club that would have him. You know you’re special when even the Albany legislature won’t have you, though Mr. Espada did vote to keep Mr. Monserrate around, perhaps to deflect investigator attention.
Meanwhile, this sense of entitlement also seems to extend to New York’s Congressional delegation. Democrat Charles Rangel of Manhattan was admonished yesterday by the House ethics committee for taking junkets to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 that his staff knew were financed by corporations. The committee said staff aides tried to tell him three times about the corporate sponsors.
As New Yorker writer E.B. White once said:
“On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill them, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”
There isn’t enough luck in the world right now for many New Yorkers.
The luckiest thing many of us might now picture is a moving truck in our driveway. But heading to where?
Writes CHE columnist William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College, in Holland, Mich:
Most undergraduates don’t realize that there is a shrinking percentage of positions in the humanities that offer job security, benefits, and a livable salary (though it is generally much lower than salaries in other fields requiring as many years of training). They don’t know that you probably will have to accept living almost anywhere, and that you must also go through a six-year probationary period at the end of which you may be fired for any number of reasons and find yourself exiled from the profession. They seem to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect…and, as a result, they don’t make any fallback plans until it is too late…The completion of graduate school seems impossibly far away, so their concerns are mostly focused on the present….
Meanwhile, more and more students are flattered to find themselves admitted to graduate programs; many are taking on considerable debt to do so. According to the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, about 23 percent of humanities students end up owing more than $30,000, and more than 14 percent owe more than $50,000.
As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:
You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.
You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.
You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.
You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold — such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.
Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not listen to people who try to tell them.
What do you think? Given this brutal recession, does getting an advanced degree seem attractive?
Are you in, or considering, grad school? Do you think it’s worth it?
The trial of Anthony Marshall, only son of philanthropist Brooke Astor, who died in August 2007, is under question after a juror on the case has said she was frightened into her decision.
The 19-week trial, which produced 18,000 pages of documents and pulled into the courtroom such social luminaries as Annette de la Renta, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger, left Marshall, age 85, convicted of defrauding his mother and sentenced in December 2009 to up to three years in prison.
That evil pours forth in “Mrs. Astor Regrets,” Meryl Gordon’s painstakingly detailed narrative of the events leading to the indictment of Anthony Marshall. Gordon seems to have left no diary unread, no servant unsolicited, no socialite unturned. Her stamina is remarkable. Within the first few pages, she quotes Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters, both Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Louis Auchincloss, Philippe de Montebello, Vartan Gregorian and Annette de la Renta. If the tabloids are your morning cup of tea, this is your book. Gordon takes us into a world of refined sensibilities: “We had a rule that on walks you could not talk about any subject, only people,” Henry Kissinger says, describing the fun of Christmas holidays at the de la Rentas’ luxurious home in the Dominican Republic. “You could not say a good word about anybody. Brooke lived up to it.”
Astor’s country estate, a 10-bedroom stone mansion built in 1927, remains on the market, priced at $10.5 million, but not an easy property to show in a down market as all her belongings have been removed for sale at auction.
The 64-acre property is considered one of the best parcels left in Westchester county, 25 miles north of Manhattan. It is not, by far, the most expensive on our local market these days — with competing properties priced at $$20,000,000 or more.
The new vertical, HuffPost College, will rely on that sexy, growing and emerging new class of journo’s — “citizens” (aka free labor) — to contribute/donate their time, skills and talent for exposure. Exposure won’t pay Visa or Mastercard or put gas in your car or groceries in your fridge. It’s BS, plain and simple, and it’s sucking in entire legions of the desperate in the race to fill the web with free or low-paid content.
I have been writing for a living, earning four-figure checks for my ideas and skills, since my sophomore year of college, (no, not J-school). It meant, from an early, unconfident, less-experienced position — which is where many of us start out from –learning how to negotiate with editors many decades my senior. Not fun, not easy, not always successfully.
I once overheard an editor pleading with a fellow columnist, whose work filled the same weekly Toronto newspaper section I was writing for as well, to stay — “You’ll lose $200 a week!” she said. I was making $125. Hm. I went into her boss that day and asked for a raise. I was 19. (Didn’t get it, but learned how totally random “value” appears to those who buy your copy.)
Whatever your age, writing is a job, not a hobby!
The endless ugly secret of who gets to write for “free” and wh0 doesn’t boils down to who can afford to do it. Very few students can afford to give away their time — and those who can continue to form a media elite of the middle-class and up whose parents pick up the costs for them while media mavens pocket profits.
I have written without pay, in 30 years, maybe 10 times, as a pro bono choice to support a cause I believe in or to promote my books. Riley Waggaman, a full-time student at Wheaton College, is a T/S contributor, is getting paid to write here, as are we all.
I wonder how many sobbing Rhode Islanders would feel if they knew their kids were stuck with crap teachers — and stuck with their already insanely high taxes paying their full salaries for sitting in “detention” as it were year after year thanks to union protections.
In New York City, these splendid exemplars of pedagogy are banished to what’s called the “rubber room”, where they spend a workday collecting full pay, accumulated sick days (and since they are never absent, that’s a lot of sick days and vacation) and growing their tax-payer paid pensions for not teaching, for staying as far away from students as possible.
They are being handsomely rewarded for not doing their jobs!
The Bloomberg administration has made getting rid of inadequate teachers a linchpin of its efforts to improve city schools. But in the two years since the Education Department began an intensive effort to root out such teachers from the more than 55,000 who have tenure, officials have managed to fire only three for incompetence.
Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor, above, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg say cumbersome state laws hamper their efforts….
Ridding schools of subpar teachers has become one of the signature issues of national education reformers, but the results in New York City show that, as is true in many school systems around the country, the process is not easy.
The city’s effort includes eight full-time lawyers, known as the Teacher Performance Unit, and eight retired principals and administrators who serve as part-time consultants to help principals build cases against teachers. Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor, said that the team, whose annual budget is $1 million, had been “successful at a far too modest level” but that it was “an attempt to work around a broken system.”
Mr. Klein and his boss, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said they were hampered by cumbersome state laws that had been heavily influenced by the teachers’ union here, although many of the rules that govern the cases were agreed to by the city.
“The process makes it virtually impossible to remove a teacher within a reasonable amount of time,” Mr. Klein said in an interview. “Nobody thinks that the number of cases is reflective of the teachers who should be removed.”
Ten others whom the department charged with incompetence settled their cases by resigning or retiring, and nine agreed to pay fines of a few thousand dollars or take classes, or both, so they could keep their jobs.
As ABC News today announces the layoffs of 300 to 400 members of their news staff, the question — begged almost daily these days — is who’s bringing us/you the news and information you value and trust?
In the latter half of the last century, journalism mutated from a relatively prestige-free trade into a hoity-toity profession that, like medicine and law, involves graduate degrees and six-figure salaries. But journalism is not a profession, or even a trade, really. It’s an act. And anyone who performs that act is, at that moment, a journalist.
This recognition comes as the journalistic establishment slides beneath the water line, taking with it the six-figure jobs necessary to pay off all those J-school loans.
As fellow True/Slant contributor Paul Smalera recently told The New York Times, it’s pretty unclear who’s going to be able to make a living producing journalism without the back-up of a major media organization like ABC News, no matter how cool or edgy or interesting readers find information from less-traditional outlets:
Dozens of Web sites have correspondingly sprouted up, posting articles written for free or for a fraction of what a traditional magazine would have paid. Into this gaping maw have rushed enough authors to fill a hundred Roman Colosseums, all eager to write in exchange for “exposure.” Paul Smalera, a 29-year-old who was laid off from a magazine job in November 2008, is now competing with every one of them. And after months of furious blogging, tweeting and writing for Web sites, Paul has made a career of Internet journalism, sort of.
In the process, he’s had to redefine success. While he is doing work that he finds satisfying, he is earning around half of the $63,000 he made as a full-time employee, and he doesn’t have health insurance — or prospects for getting any. He has very little in savings and a mountain of credit-card and student-loan debt. “I think the economics are bleak right now, but in the long run, the opportunities are going to be online, and that’s why I’m willing to make the investment,” he told me over coffee.
Bercovici has it half-right. Very few well-paid J-jobs remain available and the pool of veterans competing for them is becoming even more Darwinian than ever, and it was crazy to begin with.
But this notion that anyone with a cellphone or Twitter account is offering “journalism” doesn’t work for me — any more than a lumberjack who cuts down a tree has created a dining room table or set of chairs. Beginning the chain of news production with a tweet or cellphone image snapped and sent within seconds by someone who gets what’s happening in front of them and feels the urgency to share it is inarguably potentially valuable — but not without subsequent checks, balances, fact-checking, analysis and the primary tool of anyone with experience — skepticism.
Remember, please, the names Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair — rising young stars initially sheltered and lionized within serious newsrooms producing thoughtful, reliable material.
As the saying goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
Amateurs, civilians, citizen journalists — whatever you want to call them — have a place, and a growing one, at our shrinking table. They are not, and must not become the only place to which we gravitate for the information we use to make important decisions about our lives. Publishers thrived for years on profits of 15 percent or more — orders of magnitude higher than those of many other industries. Now everyone’s scrambling to get the cheapest work possible out of the journalists still hoping to do the work they/we love and value.
Our challenge, as those trying to do good work and pay bills and pay off student loans and save for retirement — call that an annual income of $45,000+ in most parts of the United States — is becoming a tough(er) row to hoe with every passing day. It’s not just random whining about losing a profession we love(d) or incomes that allowed us a life, not a scrabble for survival.
Driving costs into the ground means driving many smart, talented veterans out of the business. This affects the quality of information available to readers, listeners and viewers.
Powerful and terrifying testimony from Rhonda Smith, an American woman whose Lexus, at 100 mph, would not slow down while driving on the highway. Reports Injuryboardcom:
She just told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that on October 12, she was driving in Severville on Hwy 66 entering I-40.
“I was entering the interstate and accelerated and merged into second lane. I lost all control of the acceleration. The cruise light goes on. I thought maybe the cruise control caused the car to accelerate as my foot was not on the gas pedal. I take my foot off cruise control but it continues to accelerate. I put the car in reverse but it speeds at 100 mph with both feet on the brake and nothing slows the car, not even the emergency brake.
“I thought I’d have to put it into the guard rail before I hurt anyone else. I called my husband with the blue tooth. I knew (she cries) he could not help me but I wanted to hear his voice. After 6 miles God intervened. As the car came very slowly to a stop I pulled it to the left median with the car stopped and both feet on the brake the motor still reved up and down at 35 mph and would not shut off. Finally at 33 mph I was able to turn the engine off.
“After my husband arrived there was nothing unusual with the floormats, the dash lights and radio were still on. the wrecker driver asked my hsubnd to put my car in neutral so he could use the winch. My husband was able to shift into neutral, but when he did that, the car tried to start itself. The wrecker driver attested to this. After ten days Toyota did not contact us. We received an analysis stating “if properly maintained the brakes will always override the accelerator.” Well that’s a lie!
The ship’s captain, William Curry, has said although the Concordia’s crew had prepared the day before for what they anticipated would be rough weather, the ship suddenly keeled.
When it keeled again the ship’s sails were exposed to the powerful wind and within 15 seconds the boat was lying on its side and began to sink. The captain said it slipped beneath the waves 30 minutes later.
Tattered and torn from a frantic escape, the inflatable remnants of the S.V. Concordia were salt baths, filled with vomit, human excrement, and people.
“You do what you can. We were together, and alive,” 16-year-old Sam Palonek said of the 40 hours she floated in the Atlantic. “We just sang to keep our spirits up, keep us laughing. It was the most important thing.”
Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” Disney medleys. Even “Happy Birthday” was trotted out for a boy celebrating the occasion in a nearby raft.
“We started singing “American Pie,” but we got to the line, ‘That’ll be the day that I die,’” she said. “We axed that.”
It was, for most of them, the trip of a lifetime, sailing around the world, keeping up with their math and biology in between. The Concordia is a sturdy, steel-hulled tall ship, stretching 188 feet with three masts and 15 sails. It was built in 1992, specifically to become a floating high school. It had set sail on Feb. 8 from Recife on Brazil’s northwest coast bound for Montevideo, Uruguay, with a mix of mostly Canadian students continuing on from September and about a dozen who were just starting out on a trip with the Class Afloat program.
Tuition wasn’t cheap – about $40,000 for the year – but this was no five-star voyage, as one parent explained Friday. The students attended classes during the day, slept in close quarters and were expected to swab decks and share night-watch duty, and the fire checks and sail manoeuvres that this entails.
“This is the life of a sailor,” one student recounted earlier this month in a post to the web. “It is tiresome, stressful, difficult and unconventional, but it is fulfilling beyond belief.” And certainly an adventure, travelling to ports like Singapore and Egypt and Malta, no sailing experience required.