Casey Anthony: Judged Guilty by Cultural Prejudice?

by Loretta Kemsley
Medea by Delacroix

Medea by Delacroix

Real crime TV shows are rapt with the Casey Anthony case and have been since the first 911 call was made. Crime show hosts and commentators, normally neutral, are actively prosecuting Anthony, ridiculing her every move in court. Did she wipe away tears? Fake. Fraud. Was she stoic? Heartless psychopath. Did she laugh along with everyone else? Monstrous.

Filicide — the murder of a child by the parent — is a horrid crime, but does this case merit relentless coverage? If so, why?

Because a mother is suspected of murdering her child. A mother would never harm her child, the myth goes, a mother automatically loves her child. Any woman who dares defy the myth is a demon, the most horrid of the horrid, worthy only of Dante’s worst level of hell.

Psychological studies on filicide are an interesting sociological microcosm of our larger society. The authors of A Review of Maternal and Paternal Filicide, wrote:

Despite findings that men commit filicide as often as or more often than women, paternal filicide has attracted limited research. Few of the studies investigating paternal filicide employed large samples of fathers…

Sara G. West, MD, her study, An Overview of Filicide, wrote:

Fathers are less often considered as the perpetrators in filicide cases, and consequently, there is much less focus on them in the literature. However, they are responsible for a large portion of child murder and worthy of independent investigation….It is important to recall that filicide can be committed by both men and women, though far less literature exists on paternal filicide than maternal filicide.

Men are “as often or more often“ “responsible for a large portion of child “murder.” Just how large?

Charles Montaldo, in his article, Women Who Kill Their Children, relates:

According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year. Three to five children a day are killed by their parents.

Three children every day is more than 1,000 a year. Five children every day is more than 1,800. If 200 women kill their children, then how many men kill their children? How many of those children are killed by their fathers? Unanswered questions.

So why do the researchers minimize paternal filicide? Why do so many more studies of filicide focus on maternal filicide? Because of the cultural prejudice against women which has been passed down from ancient times.

In her summary, West noted:

Filicide has existed since the dawn of mankind. In ancient Greco-Roman times, a father was allowed to kill his own child without legal repercussions.

Filicide has a presence in literature from all eras. Perhaps the most famous is also the oldest, and that is the story of Medea, a woman who killed her children to punish her husband for his affair.

So even though it was fathers murdering their children, the mythology focused on mothers murdering their children and characterized it as women usurping male rights.

This cultural heritage is part of the reason why mothers who kill headline the nightly news while fathers who kill rarely make it to the front page even once. When they do, it is usually because they’ve also murdered people outside of their family, like Mark O. Barton in the Atlanta Daytrading Murders. This story discussed his other victims in depth, including those who were wounded but survived. It did not mention Barton’s estranged wife and two children he murdered before he went on his rampage at his place of business.

West went on to state:

In 16th and 17th centuries, a drastic change in the opinion on child murder occurred in Europe. France and then England established laws that made filicide a crime punishable by death. Both countries also presumed that the mother who was on trial for the crime was guilty until proven innocent, meaning that she was responsible for proving to the court that her child was not the victim of murder.

Which brings us back to the Anthony trial. All discussions about her assume her guilt and she is left with only one option to clear her name: prove she is innocent by proving her child was not the victim of murder.

Her prosecutors admitted they do not know the cause of death, thus cannot prove murder. They are inferring it by claiming the masking tape over the child’s mouth is the murder weapon, but they cannot prove the tape was placed there before death. There is no physical evidence proving Anthony killed her daughter: no DNA, no fingerprints, no proof she was in the lot where the body was found.

Yet people have concluded she murdered her daughter based on her actions after the time when her daughter is supposed to have disappeared, which is also in doubt. No, she didn’t call the police. Yes, she went out with her friends and had a good time. Looks like an uncaring mother. Guilty, yes? Not necessarily. None of that is proof she murdered anyone. Except in the mind of those who believe the cultural myths that surround motherhood.

The prejudice against women goes further. Anthony is charged with the death penalty. The Anti-death Penalty site discusses what constitutes a death penalty crime:

65 per cent of DR prisoners have a prior felony record. 10 per cent were previously convicted of a murder.

Most states require additional aggravating circumstances to make a murder eligible for the DP. An aggravating circumstance could be a prior felony conviction, kidnapping the murder victim, raping the murder victim or premeditating the crime, depending on what state you are in.

None of those fit Anthony the day she was arrested. After arresting Anthony for the murder of her daughter, the DA’s office prosecuted her for forging a $600 check — a felony. Was their motive simply so they could charge her with the death penalty?

Charles Manson was charged with the death penalty. Jeffery Daumer and Ted Bundy drew the death penalty. But O.J. Simpson wasn’t charged with the death penalty. Is Anthony’s crime, if she did it, more horrendous than his?

Unfortunately, she fits another pattern perfectly. The Death Penalty Information site reveals:

Currently on death row are thirteen women who killed their husbands or boyfriends, and another eleven women who killed their children. Two other women killed both their husbands and their children. These twenty-six women account for almost half of the fifty-three women now on death row.

Women who challenge the authority of men and the cultural myth of mother love compromise almost half of the women on death row. While men are on death row in substantially larger numbers, the same ratio of wife killers and men who kill their children does not exist. Male family annihilators are more likely to receive a life sentence.

Some women escaped the death penalty. Both Susan Smith and Andrea Yates were charged with the death penalty, although their juries did not impose that sentence. Both of those women exhibited serious mental disorders. The important point about both of them is the juries showed mercy, not the state.

The myths of motherhood and apple pie, maternal instinct and unconditional mother love are deadly for women. Montaldo quoted two experts in his article:

Homicide is one of the leading causes of death of children under age four, yet we continue to “persist with the unrealistic view that this is rare behavior,” says Jill Korbin, expert on child abuse, who has studied mothers who killed their children.

We should detach from the idea of universal motherhood as natural and see it as a social response,” Nancy Scheper-Hughes, medical anthropologist says. Women in jail reported that no-one believed them when they said they wanted to kill their children. “There’s a collective denial even when mothers come right out and say, “I really shouldn’t be trusted with my kids.”

Anthony didn’t want her child. She wanted an abortion. Her mother blocked it. She wanted to adopt her child out. Her mother blocked it. Then her mother spent years railing she wasn’t a good enough mother (despite the fact others testified she was a splendid mother). Part of Anthony’s defense is the dysfunction and abuse by her parents, including incest by her father and brother. Studies show incest is one of the determiners of maternal filicide, especially as the child nears the age the incest began to occur. This is termed the “anniversary reaction.”

It’s time we stopped believing the cultural myths and begin believing women who hate the idea of motherhood. That’s the surest way to stop maternal filicide and stop the inequitable imposition of death upon women who were never heard.

18 Responses to “Casey Anthony: Judged Guilty by Cultural Prejudice?”

  1. Excellent read! Well written, very informative, and also enlightening.

    I especially liked the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” stance about her pregnancy decisions. It isn’t noted elsewhere that her mother’s dreams fell short when it came to family; perhaps KC’s goals were much lower after living in the “real world” too long before she started creating her “imaginary world.”

    People really have gotten overly bent out of shape over this one individual. I’ll bet it’s a bigger trend than others really know-what KC did or didn’t do that is.

    What;s so wrong with birth control?

    And, some people shouldn’t have children until they are ready and shouldn’t be forced to conform to peer pressure or family pressure.

  2. thanks loretta. i think the most chilling part (IMO) is the part about prosecutors choosing to charge her for the bounced check….if this really was a legal strategy employed specifically so that they could execute her for this, it chills me to the bone. i hadnt even heard about that before you mentioned it, although i am not following this story very closely.

    in case anyone isnt sure, this is very obviously meant to be a lesson for all women and all mothers, and a reminder of how much men want to punish us and will punish us up to and including killing us, for being bad mothers SPECIFICALLY. its not even about being bad *people* this is really sex-specific isnt it? (so if she bounced the check, shes as bad a person as ted bundy is…but if she hadnt bounced the check she wouldnt be? clearly NO!) and bad FATHERS arent witch-hunted like bad mothers are.

  3. Thank you Loretta.
    I remember reading about Andrea Yates who was painted as a monster for drowning her five children in the bath.

    It *turns* *out* that she and her husband were a member of some religion (can’t remember which) and part of their beliefs was that a woman should have as many children as she *possibly* *can* as that would represent God’s will. She suffered from serious depression after one of her children was born and her psychiatrist warned that having more children could possibly result in her having a psychotic break. Did that stop her husband having PIV with her? Nope.
    Add to that the fact that she was living in a trailer, which had been lent to them by the pastor of this religion, and that she was trying to raise all her FIVE kids in substandard housing conditions AND the fact that she was HOMESCHOOLING them all, meaning she never got a break from her kids. ever. means that she living under unberable pressure that no human being should be subjected to.
    Men wouldn’t put up with it. Women are expected to.

  4. Thank you for this excellent coverage of the event and its context, Loretta. It is absolutely chilling how this woman is being held to a completely different standard and treated differently by the legal machine than all the men who do this on a daily basis. Of course, many of those cowards kill their children and then themselves. It seems that every single day I read of some guy who has killed his kid(s) and of course, their mother. And every time I read about one of those events I wonder whether average people get how common it is for men to do that. It’s just so telling that research isn’t being done on it — it’s just assumed that some men kill their kids. Sickening.

  5. Geraldo Rivera, in his supposedly neutral role as Fox News “journalist,” said this about Anthony:

    “I think it will end the prosecution case, Brian, with a bang, so to speak, to show that this was a selfish, narcissistic, self-involved slut who wanted to kill her child to have ‘la bella vita.’” (“The Beautiful Life”)

    Got it, ladies? If you go out on the town, if you decide to control your own sexual choices, you’re “selfish, narcissistic and self-involved,” which proves you are a “child-killing slut” who deserves to die.

    Gotta love dispassionate, objective journalism.

    I covered this on my Newsvine column about twenty minutes ago and already have quite a few comments, one of which said slut “seems quite innocuous to me.” Not sure what world he’s living in.

    http://an-uncommon-scold.newsvine.com/_news/2011/06/23/6926104-geraldo-rivera-casey-anthony-slut-casey-anthony-tattoo-video-mediaite

  6. Anyone who has ever had a loved one die, when that loved one was very ill for a long time and very dependant, knows that there is a feeling of relief when the end finally comes. The grief is crushing and lingering, but the relief is immediate, and involuntary.

    What must a mother feel upon losing a dependant child if that’s the case with dependant others, including friends, lovers and relatives? What if having the child in the first place was the worst thing that ever happened to her, or if the circumstances surrounding the child’s conception were the worst experiences of the mothers life?

    Women are human beings, and people are known to feel relief when dependants die, even desperately loved ones. We must acknowledge this, and allow this information into our consciousness when evaluating and observing (and judging and prosecuting) these cases.

  7. If she did it, perhaps she did it because she was in agony knowing her daughter was going to become the victim of incest.

    I’m appalled by all the TV hosts and commentators who hail Cindy’s tears as proof she’s a suffering grandmother and rail at Casey’s tears as proof she’s trying to manipulate the jury.

    I’m also sickened by Cindy and George’s attorney publicly announcing this morning that Casey is guilty, per them. Talk about throwing the scapegoat under the bus. It sickens me even further to realize they’re doing this to protect George from the allegations of incest.

  8. This is the patriarchy at its very best for men and its very worst for all womon. We know that the double standard exists but even colluding womon refuse to see the the ‘baying of the warlocks’, for the atonement of the womon seen as deviant and who in their misogyny prefer that such womon are eradicated as a lesson to us all.

    We Rad-fems say NO NO NO..if I lived near the court I would be there with my plack-card saying so in a loud amazon voice…..

    Fox news is the new ‘Warlock chasing all non conforming womon’………

  9. Male supremacy always excuses violent men/fathers who deliberately and callously murder the mother’s children because men must never ever be held accountable for their crimes against women and children. The rare cases wherein men are held responsible malestream media always ensures such men are ‘deviants’ or ‘monsters’ never normal males. But women of course are not even allowed to be human instead we are either ‘madonnas or demons in disguise.’ But even when such men are portrayed as ‘deviant’ malestream media always seeks to minimalise male accountability because if they can suggest the man ‘s mother was possessive/neglected the male/or that the man was insecure/had a drug problem/was alcohol dependent – then all of these factors supposedly mitigate the man’s decision and choice to commit femicide/fillicide. Women are either ‘good or bad’ there is no in between for women and all too often women fail to be ‘good’ because like men we are human but unlike men we are not accorded the right to commit violence and then have our actions excused/justified/minimalised. Instead we are portrayed as ‘evil incarnate’ whereas men are portrayed as human or else the male perpetrator’s crimes against women was just an ‘isolated incident’ and not remotely related to how our male supremacist operates.

    Crimes women commit are always supposedly far worse than men’s violence against women because it is essential women are constantly reminded they must never, ever deviate from being subservient to men.

    This particular case is a gift to malestream media since they can legitimately (sic) engage in women-hating and demonistation of women by claiming to be objectively reporting the news!

    Here in the UK I regularly read of yet another male who has murdered his female/ ex female partner’s children because ‘poor man’ was so devastated by the woman daring to end relationship with the violent controlling man. Malestream media always portrays the man as ‘the victim’ and the femicide/fillicide(s) as a ‘tragedy.’ Yet whenever women are charged and prosecuted for committing murder/violence against their children the women are always inevitably demonised. That is the reality of our male supremacist and women-hating society.

    Below is link to yet another malestream media sensationalised case and note how malestream media once again depicts serial femicide murderer Bellfield as a deviant and focuses on his working class occupations. Missing is fact Bellfield is male and like so many males hates/holds women in contempt. Did Bellfield commit ‘hate crimes’ against women – certainly not – rather he is an abnormality and doubtless malestream media will attempt to cast blame on women – perhaps his mother neglected him – or he was jilted by a woman – or even perhaps women laughed at him. All good reasons (sic) as to why Bellfield engaged in serial femicides.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-13416331“>uk-england-13416331

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13455748

  10. Cindy caused an uproar today when she revealed she’d been the one to do the google search for chloroform, one of the primary lynchpins of the prosecutor’s case. Also revealed the stain in the trunk had been there since they bought the car. I’ve got HLN on and they were championing her as the poor, grieving grandmother yesterday and prior, as well as her being an excellent witness.. Now she’s lying to protect her daughter.

    Then she was followed on the stand by the cop who made the computer logs entered into evidence. Apparently there were two — and they don’t match each other. One of them shows a search on this hour on this day and the other shows it on a different day at a different time. Since they claimed only Casey could do it because everyone else was at work at those specific times, that’s a big deal.

    Also, screwy stuff like listing logins at Myspace.com 82 times within just a couple of minutes. In other words, their computer science (another lynchpin) is junk. Of course, they only entered one into evidence, the one with the times they liked.

  11. There’s a pingback for ya loretta. 🙂 you inspired me. So thanks!

  12. Thanks for covering this, it’s been making me crazy. They’ve already convicted this woman of a huge list of major “crimes,” none of which yet involve murder. In fact, I’m getting the impression that murder isn’t a big deal to the media and the patriarchy at all, what we really care about is that she may have usurped a male’s authority, she may have put her needs before others, she didn’t properly sacrifice herself to motherhood, etc etc.

    I’ve been a bit concerned that they might succeed in convicting her just based on her sheer “evilness” without even bothering to connect her to the actual crime. It reminds me of witch hunts, where a woman simply looked at your field and the crops died and everybody nodded their head in agreement of her guilt because “that’s just how women are.”

  13. the thing about the Casey Anthony trial is this: I do believe she was at least complicit in her daughter’s death and I do not believe it was accidental. However, the cultural pressures in patriarchy are such that she wasn’t able to admit to herself that she didn’t want her daughter, because that would mean being a “bad person.” not wanting a kid, whether you have said kid or not, doesn’t make you a bad person. but because she thought it did, she wound up doing something that genuinely is bad, in order to avoid judgment.

    in that way, patriarchy is partially responsible for this crime. If women don’t want kids, they fuckin don’t want them. and some women will go to shitty and horrific lengths to get (what they think is) free because they don’t want to be restrained by that life. women have kids too young and for the wrong reasons, and then they do shit like this. not very often, but it happens.

    these types of crimes will happen while compulsory pregnancy and childrearing are enforced via social pressure. I in no way sympathize with killing a child, but this case has a mind blowingly simple cause, which will never be addressed in court.

  14. I THINK THAT THE MEDIA HAVE HER CONVICTED.WHAT HAPPENED TO INNOCENT UNTILL PROVEN GUILTY.THIS IS AMERICA! I DON’T KNOW IF SHE IS GUILTY OR NOT.SHOULD’NT WE WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE HAS SPOKEN?I KNOW THAT THIS IS A AWFUL THING.SDOMEONE HAS TO PAY!LET’S MAKE SURE THAT IT IS THE RIGHT PERSON.REPORTERS HAVE WAY TO MUCH SAY SO IN MATTERS LIKE THESE.MY PRAYERS ARE WITH THE FAMILY.YES, EVEN CASEY.

  15. the rest of the women on death row are lesbians who did anything.

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