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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Courting the Female Offender

April is here, and the news is not good for men in Canada. In two recent court decisions, female law-breakers have been exonerated by the courts in two provinces. In the second case, the woman was freed after arranging for the murder of her husband.
    The facts are these. In Ontario, on April 7, a woman named Ashley Kirilow was convicted of defrauding the public by collecting donations for her phony medical treatments. Claiming to be a cancer victim, Ashley staged an elaborate, high-profile scam, where she shaved her head and eyebrows and ran charity events for herself.
   The judge at sentencing relieved her of any worry that she was going to jail. Instead, she’s going to get psychiatric counseling, take medications for anxiety (sic!) and stay in her house for 10 months. Ashley had scammed the public of at least $12,000; since most of that was cash, there really is no record of how much she stole.
    This is the way the judge expressed his enthusiasm for Ashley: The sentence, he said, “is not an instrument for the acting of public vengeance and retribution.” The emphasis is on “rehabilitation of the offender which obviously benefits both the offender and society.”
    Ashley's crime is not as minor as it sounds. Ms Kirilow was facing a maximum of 14 years in prison. But it’s now official: depressed women with low self-esteem who commit fraud do not risk jail.
    The second case is far more troubling. This is the one involving a woman in Nova Scotia, Nicole Ryan, who put out a contract on her husband. Not knowing she was negotiating with an undercover cop, she arranged to have the officer kill her husband, alleging she was terrified of him and of his ongoing abuse. That constitutes first degree murder. What made this case truly savory was that Nicole was not living with the man. She was already separated and had instituted divorce proceedings. Nicole was better educated -- an employed public school teacher -- and probably more financially secure than her husband, a retired Canadian Army man.
   Nicole’s case was heard in Superior Court by three judges, two male, one female. Here is what the spokesperson for the court said: “I must say at first blush that it is easy to empathize with the Crown’s position on this issue. It is hard to imagine that, as a teacher with a steady income, support from family and friends, presumed police protection, a divorce in the works and with the last specific threat months before the ‘crime,’ she would not have other avenues of escape.”
   However, context is critical, said Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, and the evidence, he said, showed that Ms. Ryan had good reason to believe that her husband would explode into violence at any time, killing her and their daughter.
    There was lots of testimony (from Nicole) that the man had had a violent temper and made grossly threatening gestures; we might as well believe this, but it does not affect our view of justice. There does not seem to have been any recorded attempt by him to murder either Nicole or her daughter. Therefore, the contract for a hit man, engineered by Nicole, was the only attempted murder or conspiracy to murder heard in this case.
      In the past, clear evidence of guilt meant a conviction. That meant that the law -- the most serious law in the criminal code -- was upheld. That did not mean the perpetrator necessarily went to prison: mercy could be shown in sentencing. But you would not be acquitted by courts that knew you were guilty. Forget that precedent.
        From the standpoint of the Law, this dip into Female Exceptionalism is a challenge. Merciful on the surface, the judge's actions can only encourage lawlessness, rather than supporting the resolution of conflict and the protection of the weak. In the case of murder-for-hire, husbands in shaky marriages had better arm themselves; were they to have the slightest suspicion of a wife’s intention to kill, they'd better act now. 
      Unfortunately that might include killing a wife before she legally kills you. For that’s what this decision means: if she claims she was mortally afraid of you, she will get away with murder. And so, decisions like this shake our lawful society to its foundations.
     What is happening? First and foremost, the courts are now deeply politicized and are bowing to feminism at alarming rates. We see this in Family Law, where males are so vastly disfavored that equity is a token reference, and legal marriage, a risky venture.
    But the two April cases deepen this crisis. They seem to point to a new and critical mass of prejudice against men. So it is useful to ask where this comes from. Is it just social evolution? Does it represent public thinking? Is it an appropriate response, to compensate for prior injustices to women?
    Partly, it is the latter. It is true that females, and particularly wives, have been disadvantaged in the past by a Justice that was prejudiced and blind to obvious trauma, obvious helplessness. We had that situation up to the end of the 1960s.
     But that was yesterday, and today is today. Today we have to talk about the famous pendulum: so vigorously has it swung, in the opposite direction, that today it threatens mayhem. 

War Against the Enlightenment
One of the facilitators of this slide, rarely discussed in print, is the soft penetration of hard-core feminist animus towards our civilization. Here, we depart from what is called “equity” feminism, the notion that women deserve an equal break in an equitable world, only to wander into Identity or “gender feminism,” the movement for Female Exceptionalism in all aspects of life.
     Academic feminists have labored for decades to harden and codify this, and to have it applied in the active world. In preparation for that, millions of young people, particularly women, were made to absorb it in their university training. The net result is a slow death of a civic tradition we've nurtured for 3,000 years. 
     Those 3,000 years culminated in the 18th century movement known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was the platform for modern Canada. It held that humans were all endowed with equal capabilities; created equal and entitled to equality under the Law. If you held all to the same standards -- for work, compensation, and civic behavior -- society could progress. 
      Also, if you held society to the same methods of discourse-- the examining of ideas and arguments, for example, before resorting to censure -- civilization would prosper. This foundational insight helped dissolve superstitions, foster science, and disinherit the power of aristocracies; it freed the slaves; and it eventually gave women an equal footing in society. 
     Indeed, this is the movement that now inspires masses of people in the Arab world.
     Oh, but really and truly, the Enlightenment does stick in the craw of gender feminism. Gender feminism is not keen for the idea of responsible individuals in a commonwealth of rights. On the contrary, feminism is a collectivist, exceptionalist, and utopian system (see this earlier blog); it dreamily posits that women “understand” the universe differently than men. Men may not even pretend they understand femalehood, a sort of hormonal cult.
      What are men to do? Simply acquiesce; they have no say in the matter. Therefore, you never hold a woman to the standards of Enlightenment justice, which was historically devised by males, not females -- in a male-dominated Europe. In the final analysis, shorn of the pitiful context, it is this contempt for Enlightenment principles that has led to the Nova Scotia decision.

The Myth of “Female Rage”
Gender-identity feminism is an elaborate system, lavishly subscribed by public subsidies; fawningly tolerated by academic males; ideologically self-referential; and unexamined scientifically. It has been around for about 40 years and took root in academic writings of the 1970s.
   One of the founding notions of gender feminism is the idea that violent women are not like violent men. Violent men are always wrong and evil; punish and condemn them no matter what (unless they’re gay, of course).
    Violent women can and do commit evil acts; but some of those acts are not only excusable, they are both excusable and desirable!
     This was the theme of one of the first writers of gender feminism, Teresa Bernardez-Bonesatti, who focused on one active factor in crime: Anger. Many people break the law because they are angry, and what’s our opinion of that? Are they justified? Do women get angry? Why? Is female anger different from male anger?
   We can follow that thematic in Bernardez-Bonesatti’s early article “Women and Anger,” (Sciences, Nov. 1, 1978). In the latter, she tends to excuse and even justify female anger. Women are socialized not to “upset” the household, she argues, by avoiding conflict and not being disagreeable in public. Ladies of the 1970s, and prior, did not get angry, it just wasn't womanly.
     Bernardez-Bonesatti tells us that this is not a healthy attitude; today, psychologists would agree: people should acknowledge their frustrations, rather than suppressing them. However, that’s not what this author was suggesting. Far from recommending simple “acknowledgement,” she suggested women vent their anger by being angry. This was not only proper, she said, it was therapeutic: “To legitimate angry feelings in women is a therapeutic move….Anger is the voice of [female] self-respect.” 
     Today, 40 years later, this posture is supported by psychological counsellors influenced by feminism: get angry! In fact, at certain universities, they actively counsel their female clients that way. They call it "embrace your anger by getting angry." However, they counsel even more than anger. I have witnessed cases where feminist counsellors urged their patients to file angry charges against male teachers. Not just angry charges, but false ones. And they openly justified it; they argued in public that the laying of charges, no matter how unfounded, was therapeutic to the women, even if evil and destructive to their victims.
     So: lie and press charges and get angry, it’s great for the female mood, and who cares about the consequences for men.
     Next on the scene came a new sophistication. This involved separating out “ordinary female anger,” from what was termed “female rage.” Anger was the stuff you felt every day; you more or less controlled it. But rage, oh that was a different matter. Female rage was uncontrollable, suggested the feminist psychologists.  Females who raged did so in a sort of autonomic trance.
    Rage, however, for defence lawyers, would be the ultimate blank cheque: claim you are operating in a trance and you no longer can be called to account!
    In fact, among hard-core feminists, there is no such thing as “female violence.” They outlaw the term; there is only female anger, often justified; and, at the end of the spectrum, there is female “rage,” uncontrollable and therefore not blameworthy.
     And so the picture is complete: not a single woman who “rages,” for a feminist, nor kills in rage, is guilty -- certainly not if it's against any man! No woman is ever engaged in what we uninitiated call criminal violence. Only men who kill are criminals. Here’s how today’s feminists put it (from Flemke and Allen, “Women’s Experience of Rage: A Critical Feminist Analysis,” in the Journal of Marriage and the Family – first published online, January, 2008):  

“Once an episode of rage was triggered, many women felt at the mercy of something greater than their control…This out-of-control feeling about rage was contrasted with common experiences of anger, which was repeatedly described as a basic emotion that can be managed. More than two thirds of the sample, 26 women, differentiated rage as an internal force wanting them to attack another person:
Annabeth: Anger is when you are mad. Rage is when you can’t control your anger and you try to hurt somebody.
Honey: Rage is unstoppable.”
Here, these women say they are incapable of not pulling the trigger, or drowning their kids, or strangling them, or knifing the mother of a rival cheer-leader. That’s what they say. But how will the psychologist respond? What kind of analytical approach do professionals take? On that matter, these authors are clear: they are not JUST psychologists; rather, they clearly see themselves as “feminist psychologists”; and thus do they participate in this self-referential construct of women’s minds:
A feminist approach in social science has a decidedly emancipatory aim, designed to critique dominant discourses and ameliorate oppressive conditions, not only for women but for all who remain at risk in a society that privileges wealth and other forms of power (Allen, 2000).
    Applying a critical feminist perspective to IPV research, we deconstructed male-defined standards of violence (Renzetti, 1999). We deliberately confronted prevailing stereotypes and biases regarding women’s feelings of anger, experiences of rage, and usage of violence (McHugh et al., 2005; Richardson, 2005). We unpacked the double standard that women should not experience anger, let alone rage, nor act upon such culturally taboo nonfeminine emotions and behavior (Lamb, 1999; Ring, 1997).
     Therefore, our primary purpose in this feminist analysis was to first and foremost portray women’s dynamic understanding of their experience of rage toward their intimate partners. Our empirical goal was to capture and depict what the experience of rage is like for the participants. By using a feminist lens, we challenge and reevaluate the assumptions pertaining to women’s experiences of IPV. Having a deeper understanding of such an experience provides valuable insights for future analysis and practice.” [boldface added]

A unionized school teacher in the Maritimes, 39 years of age, goes and hires a killer to murder her husband, gets trapped before the deed, and the law exonerates her. Court declines to recommend a legal way of ensuring her safety:  just let the crime stand. Over in Ontario, a low-life, female, pretends to have cancer, collects money, basks in publicity, and steals the proceeds. All of this is excused by the courts, and all excuse-making is in the name of women. Can anyone suggest a way to uh, arrest this development?    
                                         [Is "feminist psychology" a recognized discipline? Read this blog]