“Saint or she-devil?” How about neither?

// 5 October 2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Pile of newspapers.jpg

The case surrounding the horrific murder of Meredith Kercher and subsequent reporting on the convicted (now acquitted) killers is well-trodden ground in terms of feminist critique. I’ve tended to avoid comment or speculation myself on the basis that I have personally found it very difficult to judge the complex details of the case itself when it has always been apparent that -guilty or not- Amanda Knox has been subject to an uncomfortably sexualised and irrelevant scrutiny by the media. It has often seemed as if some people would have had her thrown in jail for apparent crimes against female modesty. Of course, anger about this is no more justification for setting a convicted person free than anger about lack of closure for a murdered person’s family is for making sure someone is punished for it (at the possible expense of the truth and therefore genuine justice for the victim).

Needless to say, some of the language in the wake of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s acquittal has been as ridiculous as it ever was, with asinine statements about Knox, such as “saint or she devil?” appearing in much of the mainstream media alongside nothing more critical than a couple of quotation marks. Meanwhile, Raffaele Sollecito seems to have largely escaped such dichotomous caricaturing and Rudy Guede has “almost disappeared from media coverage” (raising questions about possible underlying racism).

Some of the comments on Yahoo have been equally frustrating. These have ranged from the usual implications that inappropriate behaviour is reason enough for punishment (“Where were the tears for the victim of this horrific crime? Tears for herself, but none, it would seem, for poor Meredith. – Just cartwheels in the police station where she was ‘helping the police with their investigation'”) to the frighteningly simplistic (“Her mobile phone was switched off at the same time of the murder along with her boyfriend’s. That alone is enough for her to rot in jail in my book”).

In the midst of all this, one particularly heartening bit of commentary I saw today came from Jane Moore’s column in The Sun. The piece doesn’t seem to be available online but the headline is Disgrace that Knox’s gender went on trial and Moore comments on the treatment of Knox on the basis of her “lack of emotion”, attractiveness and a trial seemingly conducted on “pejorative rhetoric”. It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with something in The Sun but, as with all the mainstream papers, feminist points do pop up from time to time and that surely deserves some credit:

Amanda Knox inadvertently became her own worst enemy by doing cartwheels at the police station and smooching with Raffaele while other friends openly sobbed. Yes “Foxy Knoxy” is an attractive middle class woman who came across as an emotionally detached cold fish but does that make her a murderer? No…

Women, you see, are the fairer sex. This means that, according to some, we must immediately crumble in the face of adversity… Anything less and we are a betrayal of our gender and not to be trusted…

…It was this hackneyed mindset that saw Amanda Knox vilified as a woman who was “obsessed with sex and alcohol” (like many 20 year olds) and branded a ‘diabolical, demonic, satanic she-devil’…

Moore continues by reiterating that “the character assassination of Amanda Knox is the same old anti-female rhetoric” seen in the Madeline McCann case. She also mentions Knox’s lawyer’s “Jessica Rabbit” comparison (“she’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way”), inferring that Knox’s gender and attractiveness were on trial and rightly saying the media must take its share of the blame for this.

I don’t know what else Jane Moore has said about the matter over the years but I’d like to give a resounding “Hear, hear!” to some of what she said today. I’d like to think such acknowledgement in a mainstream tabloid will lead to this kind of unhelpful reporting becoming a thing of the past but I somehow doubt it.

Picture of three piles of newspapers, with some still bound towards the bottom, by johnthurm, shared under a creative commons licence.

Edit: End-part of title changed.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 6 October 2011 at 10:28 am

Typical hypocrisy from that women-hating pornographic publication masquerading as a newspaper called ‘The Sun.’ The saying ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ is so true because tokenism is what male supremacy excels at, by claiming “look we’ve allowed a woman’s voice to be heard and this means we are promoting equality.’ But it is men’s version of equality being promoted and it is designed to ensure male centric views of how the world operates remain unchallenged and unchanging. Women must not express direct criticism or challenge men on their women-hating attitudes and that is why commonly we never ever read or hear who the real perpetrators are that commit so-called ‘gender violence against women!’ Men continue to remain invisible but their socio-economic power over all women is real.

The fact Sun graciously allowed this piece denouncing misogynistic mainstream media will not alter one jot how male dominated media continues to deliberately portray all women as either ‘good or bad.’ When women are portrayed as ‘bad’ they are always defined as ‘sexually voracious creatures’ who commit atrocities against men or sometimes against women. Remember Maxine Carr who was only guilty of perjury but yet women-hating male dominated media claimed Ms. Carr was a ‘devil in disguise’ whilst serial sexual predator and rapist Ian Huntley disappeared from male dominated media scrutiny entirely.

That is why those two men Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede (two males remember) are invisible. They are men and therefore mainstream misogynistic media believes that if a male/males has/have committed a crime no need to critique them as men or how male supremacy upholds and promotes male domination over all women. Male is the default human and therefore men cannot subject themselves to criticism otherwise male supremacy would fall. Instead men who commit crimes which male dominated media exploits always focuses on the male(s) public character; his job; his class; his ethnicity; his devotion to his family or even the lie that he is supposedly a deviant monster, rather than just another ordinary mundane male who has committed yet another supposedly ‘mundane crime against women.’

How many times does the male dominated media focus on men who have committed femicide and analyses how male supremacy proclaims man is the default human therefore when a man commits femicide (murders a female/females) his accountability is commonly excused/minimalised because he is either a deviant monster or is a psychopath. Both are excuses used to hide how male power over women operates.

sianandcrookedrib // Posted 6 October 2011 at 5:11 pm

V interesting! don’t think i have ever agreed with Jane Moore before (her dispatches doc on the HPV was HORRIFYING!).

Here’s my take on the language used around Amanda Knox http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com/2011/10/angels-whores-and-witches-media-and.html

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds