"Murder: A New Feminist View of Motherhood,"
by Wendy McElroy, from foxnews.com , July 3, 2001
Andrea Pia Yates -- the Houston woman who drowned her five children -- has
prompted stunned and public discussion of how a mother could possibly kill
her own offspring. It has also inspired a particularly vicious new feminist
line of reasoning.
It has been well documented for years that mothers are responsible for
much, if not most, fatal child abuse in North America. A Bureau of Justice
report entitled Murder in Families (NCJ 143498) surveyed murder cases tried
in 1988 and discovered that 55% of defendants charged with killing their own
children were women. The Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and
Neglect (NIS-3, 1996) from the Department of Health and Human Services
reported that mothers perpetrate 78% of fatal child abuse.
Even granting that women are usually the primary caregivers, these
figures are high. So high that alarm bells should be ringing. Instead
there is silence or worse. The "worse" is political correctness, which
views women as victims, never as victimizers.
The mainstream media has accepted this feminist myth so completely that it
is scrambling to somehow soften the unmitigated evil of a mother murdering
her five young children. Evil is not too strong a word. Yates' videotaped
confession to the police described drowning Mary, the 6-month-old in the
bathtub. As Yates was doing so, Noah, the eldest child at 7-years-old,
wandered into the bathroom and asked, "What's wrong with Mary?" Yates ran
after the fleeing boy and drowned him next.
Yet, in newsprint and on airwaves, there are compassionate discussions of
Yates' mental state. Already blame is shifting onto the shoulders of her
husband and society for not recognizing the depth of her psychosis. There
are calls for greater funding of women's health issues. Yates is fast
becoming a poster woman for postpartum depression.
Consider how a popular feminist news site, Women's Enews, is handling the
story. On June 27th, the site featured an article by Cheryl Meyer,
co-author of the upcoming book, "Mothers Who Kill Their Children:
Understanding the Acts of Mothers From Susan Smith to the Prom Mom" (August
2001, New York University Press).
Meyer begins by inferring that society is responsible for the murders.
Meyer writes, "people . . . didn't pay attention when Andrea repeatedly
voiced her symptoms of depression." She concludes that, if Yates were in
England instead of "relatively barbaric" America, she would be in a
hospital receiving medical treatment instead of in jail.
In what seems to be the "moral message" section, Meyer discusses having
researched several thousand cases of mothers killing their children in '90s,
with approximately 10% of the cases involving the death of more than one
child. She has made a startling discovery. These murderous moms are a sort
of Every Woman because many mothers "almost snap."
Meyer appeals to us not to distance ourselves from Yates. "It
frightens us that Andrea Yates' could be any mother," she explains, so we
focus on "making her different from us or . . . on the legal technicalities
of her case." Instead we should be focusing on the culpability of the
medical community for not sufficiently recognizing postpartum syndromes.
"Like many women's health issues and particularly women's mental health
issues, they are discounted."
So goes the new PC feminist line. Even a woman who viciously murders
babies is the true victim, a casualty of white male culture's indifference
to the plight of women. Yates deserves our understanding, not distance.
The new feminist wrinkle in the myth that women are somehow superior to
men and yet, strangely, not responsible for their own actions. Instead,
Meyer asks us to consider "the responsibility we have toward our fellow
human beings." A responsibility not to kill the weak and innocent doesn't
seem to rank high.
There is one sense in which the Yates case is a step in the right
direction. At least, PC feminists are acknowledging that women in the home
are as violent as men.
They are being forced to admit what studies and governmental statistics
have made obvious for years. But a unique spin is being applied to the
information: women's violence is the fault of men and male culture; the AMA
doesn't listen; motherhood is conducted in a social isolation that makes
women snap; the average mother empathizes with infanticide.
Yates must not be used to construct a psychological model of American
motherhood. Statements such as Meyer's must be challenged. She writes,
"Most mothers just seem to understand how a woman could kill her child."
She concludes, "When we target certain cases and try to ascertain how this
particular mother could have killed her child, we mask the more important
question, why don't more mothers do this?"
Feminist sites are fond of reprinting a speech by the ex-slave Sojourner
Truth's famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman." There, Sojourner cried from a
mother's heart, "I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off
to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus
heard me! And ain't I a woman?"
Where is the voice within PC feminism that cries out, "Wasn't baby Mary a
female?" Where are the non-political tears over Noah, John, Paul, and Luke?
* * *
Sources of Stats
Murder in Families, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/mif.htm