[From Robert Franklin]
Los Angeles, CA–In my recent blog post ‘When women behave badly, we seek to understand; when men behave badly, we condemn them’ I wrote:
Here”s another case of a mother apparently killing her children. Although we don”t know exactly what happened, we do know it”s a terrible tragedy. The story is here.
From where I stand, there are two issues about the way this is reported. First the article says nothing about the boys” father. Is he alive? Where is he? Did he play any part in these children”s lives? If not, why not? It”s a powerful condemnation of the society we live in that fathers seem to be so marginalized that they don”t even bare mentioning in stories like these.
Second, note the way the mother is referred to. Her behavior, according to the story was “a cry for help.’ If a father had murdered his toddlers, would we say he was crying out for help? I”ve never seen it and I frankly don”t expect to.
So this story falls into the familiar pattern – when women behave badly, we seek to understand why; when men behave badly, we judge and condemn them. One approach is love and understanding; the other is condemnation. The difference is based on the sex of the bad actor.
Read my full post here.
Now feminist blogger Barry Deutsch has posted on his blog to explain to us that it”s OK to treat male and female child killers differently because “mothers and fathers murder for very different reasons.’ Not only that, but “all the research agrees’ that this is true. The link to the post is here.
That got my attention, so I checked on the sources he cited. And guess what; it turns out to be not quite so simple.
It turns out that, according to Deutsch”s own citations, while men and women”s motivations for killing their children TEND to differ, there is a great deal of overlap too. For example, “retaliating’ against the child or the other parent was the primary motivation of fathers in six cases of filicide (child killing by a parent), and mothers in three cases. Parental psychosis was the primary motivation of three men and five women.
On the other hand, “unwanted child’ was the primary motivation for nine women but no men in the filicides studied. Therefore, sometimes men and women act similarly and sometimes differently, which is kind of what you”d expect. That is, you”d expect that unless you”re bent on condemning men and excusing women, which my original post complained about and which Deutsch does.
So Deutsch is just flat wrong and his own citations show it. But he”s not content with that. In a remarkable bit of literary sleight-of-hand, he moves from claiming that men and women are motivated differently to claiming that women who kill their children are in the throes of “postpartum madness’ when they do so. And of course men aren”t.
Again, his own data directly contradict that claim. As stated earlier, in only five cases were women motivated by psychosis as opposed to nine different cases of neonaticide (killing of a newborn).
As I”ve said before, this type of argument is both anti-male and anti-female. By claiming that women”s filicide is excusable (due to diminished capacity) while men”s is not, Deutsch promotes the idea that women are more qualified to raise children than are men. That not only tends to deprive men of their children, it tends to deprive women of equality in the workplace. After all, if men can”t be trusted with children, women will end up doing more childcare and less paid work.
There was a time when feminists opposed that.
As always, we ask that if you decide to post on others’ blogs–in this case Deutsch’s–that you be polite and respectful–GS]