22nd 2009
Daddy knows best!

Posted under: American history, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history

Yet another family “was found dead!”  (H/t Ann Bartow.)  And you know perfectly well who’s to blame, don’t you?  The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the father murdered his wife and two daughters, and then killed himself.  The local police are holding a press conference at 11 a.m. EDT (about 15 minutes from now.)  But they were such a happy family!

Je repete:  “Where are the articles about this disturbing epidemic of violent husbands and unnatural fathers?  (Just imagine if one or two women in this country every week gunned down their husbands and children.  Just imagine the headlines, the non-stop media coverage, and the endless analysis if it happened even once!)  Why isn’t this considered a national public health emergency?”

Just curious:  how many women and children (especially girl children, as in this case–2 women and one girl were the victims here) have to die before someone notices?  One woman is accused of a child murder out in California, and that’s all we hear about all day long.  But husbands apparently have carte blanche when it comes to murdering the women and girls who lived in their homes?

What’s your guess, friends?  (Are you holding your breath?)  If 2,100 women and children are killed simultaneously on live television by their male partners and fathers, even if it’s not by jetliners crashing into buildings, do you think anyone will notice then?


29 Responses to “Daddy knows best!”

  1. Sterling Fluharty on 22 Apr 2009 at 9:21 am #

    I agree with you that the reporting is biased. And this is an issue that deserves more attention. Maybe some statistical findings will shed light on this issue:



    The consensus seems to be that mothers are the culprit in child offspring murders between 45 and 55 percent of the time. In the case of infant deaths, mothers are more likely than fathers to commit this kind of murder.

  2. Emma on 22 Apr 2009 at 10:17 am #

    The studies are interesting in that most victims in “family” murders are spouses, 40%. 21% of “family” murders are of parents murdering children. 45% of the victims in “family” murders are female. 66% of the “family” murder defendants are male. In the murders of parents, 82% of the defendants were sons.

    Reasons for the murders of children include:

    - Unspecified forms of child abuse (18)
    — Victim’s behavior, such as crying
    or misbehavior (15)
    — Parent’s emotional instability
    or retardation (9)
    — Unwanted newborn baby (8)
    — Unintended consequence of the
    commission of another crime (lethal
    conflict between the parents) (6)
    — Neglect (5)
    — Difficulty handling the responsibility
    of child rearing (3)
    — Child held hostage (1)

    Ways in which children were killed include: neglect, disposal of a newborn in a trashcan, and shaken baby syndrome.

    Hmmmmm….. Gee, I wonder if there are any gender differences in these statistics??

  3. Historiann on 22 Apr 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Emma–thanks for looking into this. My impression is that while women may kill more of their own children than men, 1) the victims are much younger (infancy to age 3 or 4 perhaps, 2) women don’t choose violent means (shooting, stabbing), drugs or neglect are more likely their “weapons,” and 3) mental illness and postpartum depression are major factors in infanticides by women.

    Has a woman ever picked up a gun and assassinated her whole family, husband/partner and all children? Maybe–but that’s not who’s committing these dramatically repulsive crimes now.

  4. Emma on 22 Apr 2009 at 10:22 am #

    And from the second study, done in 2004, in six countries including the US, Canada, England, and Wales:

    Male parents are responsible for about two thirds of family child homicides and female parents about one third.

    Biological fathers are responsible for about 55% of murders of their own offspring and biological mothers about 45%.

    A substantial number of filicides [murder of one's biological children] occur following parental separation, primarily by fathers: of these, a substantial proportion then commit suicide and a further significant proportion require psychiatric services.

  5. Emma on 22 Apr 2009 at 10:26 am #

    “Emma–thanks for looking into this.”

    I don’t like cherrypicking statistics to make false rhetorical points. Lies, damn lies, and [lies about] statistics.

  6. Knitting Clio on 22 Apr 2009 at 11:02 am #

    To answer Historiann’s question, the best known case of a woman killing her spouse was Brynn Hartman, who shot and killed her husband actor Phil Hartman and then herself. As I recall, depression was a factor in that murder/suicide.

  7. Historiann on 22 Apr 2009 at 11:57 am #

    KC–thanks for that. (That was horrible–he was such a talented person.) But my question was whether in recent history a wife and mother has ever murdered not just her husband, but also her children at the same time.

  8. Historiann on 22 Apr 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    Here’s an answer to my own question, via the Google: one woman has done this recently in the U.S. Most of the other sites that pop up when you google “wife kills husband and children” turn out to be stories of men who killed their wives and children.

  9. Knitting Clio on 22 Apr 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    I found a couple of cases searching Lexis Nexis (none from U.S — one was from Canada, one from the U.K.), but they are far outnumbered by the cases of men murdering wives and children.

  10. Historiann on 22 Apr 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    Thanks, KC. I don’t remember hearing about the case in Texas in 2007 that I found above. So, clearly men feel more entitled to take their family members with them.

  11. squadratomagico on 22 Apr 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    I agree with your analysis except on one point: this isn’t an “epidemic,” it’s the long-term status quo. There may be a slight statistical spike right now because of the economy (stress of job loss = loss of male identity as provider = kill self & take the family with you, as a twisted form of “protection”), but the predominance of male perpetrators among domestic-mass-murder scenarios is, sadly, old news.

  12. Historiann on 22 Apr 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    Point taken. My quoted comment was in reference to this recent spike in familicide that I’ve written about here over the past few weeks. (And, societies can still suffer from diseases even if they’re not “epidemic,” right?)

    I forget who pointed it out–maybe JJO?–this kind of violence (or threat or possibility of violence) is probably central to the ways in which the “patriarchal equilibrium” is preserved.

  13. Ann Bartow on 22 Apr 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    I wish I could find a good study evaluating disparities in media coverage of women killing spouses, partners and kids v. man doing same. Their are certainly studies showing that women get punished more harshly by the criminal justice system.

  14. Ann Bartow on 22 Apr 2009 at 6:34 pm #

    Jeebus, I just read the linked article and save this sentence: “An analysis by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., found an average of nine or 10 murder-suicides a week.”

  15. Historiann on 22 Apr 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    Yeah–that’s normal! And my guess is that the vast majority are done by men to a woman they are or have been involved with in the past.

    They never warned us that heterosexuality would be so dangerous? Somehow, those stats never make it into the anti-gay propaganda…

  16. tinfoil hattie on 23 Apr 2009 at 5:09 am #

    Aaah, I don’t know why we ladies are getting so upset! This is just “domestic” violence. You know – nice, tame violence. Like cooking-and-hanging-curtains violence.


  17. tinfoil hattie on 23 Apr 2009 at 5:10 am #

    Excellent post, by the way. A friend directed me here.

  18. Another Damned Medievalist on 23 Apr 2009 at 6:04 am #

    I blame Euripides.

  19. Mama Liberty on 23 Apr 2009 at 6:33 am #

    I blame the Y chromosome

  20. Cold North Wind on 23 Apr 2009 at 7:16 pm #

    Interesting. In all the comments above, it is the word ENTITLEMENT that stands out the most. Mama- I have my grave suspicions about the Y chromosone, also- but more, I think- our “cultures” suffer from cognitive dissonance- .Yes- entitled- to control,manipulate,beat and when those abuses don’t work- kill everything standing. Including self. Scorched earth war tactic.At what point can one label a segment of society- criminally insane ????

  21. Cold North Wind on 23 Apr 2009 at 7:26 pm #

    En passant- I want to say- I really like this site- thanks to a U.S. friend who told me about it ! Salut !

  22. Bavardess on 23 Apr 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    I’ve also noticed that the cases of women killing family members generate shock-horror headlines and anguished analysis for days, whereas a man killing his family might rate a paragraph on page 3.

    To my mind, the press coverage often reflects an insidious essentialism that still constructs women as ‘natural’ wives/mothers. So women killing people is shockingly ‘unnatural’ whereas men killing people is just an extreme expression of normal masculinity. In some recent local cases, I have also noticed the very disturbing sub-text that women are somehow the cause of the problem (emphasis on the fact that they’ve had affairs/left their husbands/been arguing etc. etc.) is still there, even if it may be a bit less overtly expressed than 20, 50 or 100 years ago.

  23. Bavardess on 23 Apr 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    I was also going to say – I would be interested to see more research examining the connection between access to guns and men murdering their families. I live in a country with strict gun control (hand guns are illegal except for target pistols on shooting ranges, carrying a shotgun/rifle in a public place is illegal, most automatic/semi-automatic weapons are illegal). However, we still have an extremely high rate of men injuring and killing their wives/partners and children. Rifles/shotguns get used (usually on farms or in rural areas) but stabbing and bludgeoning are also sickeningly common. Although I’m an advocate of strict gun control, I don’t know how much restricting access to guns would achieve.

  24. Ann Bartow on 25 Apr 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    And on and on…


  25. Update: Morgan Caught « Like a Whisper on 08 May 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    [...] stalking) cases in the U.S.  The cases that receive national level attention are rising but the way they are discussed and/or dealt with fails to deal with the oppression of women in general or, often, in the specific [...]

  26. Vladimir on 01 Feb 2010 at 6:15 pm #


  27. Vladimir2 on 03 Feb 2010 at 7:48 pm #


  28. Zenith Campus Lockdown: Watching, Waiting and Meditating on Violence Against Women - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education on 21 Jun 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    [...] or intelligent to say on the topic, but if this short rant feeds your feminist outrage too, go to this post by Historiann about the Loyola University tragedy, where Daddy decided that his life wasn’t worth living [...]

  29. We’re Sick, Sick, Sick Of Violence & Hatred Towards Women on 26 May 2014 at 1:58 am #

    […] or intelligent to say on the topic, but if this short rant feeds your feminist outrage too, go to this post by Historiann about the Loyola University tragedy, where Daddy decided that his life wasn’t worth living […]

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