Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony & Violence by Women

The buzz these last few weeks, and especially today, has been all about Casey Anthony. The verdict of not guilty has clearly stunned many. As I read through Facebook, I saw responses of shock, disappointment and disgust toward the members of the jury, toward our criminal justice system as a whole, and toward Casey Anthony.

This case has made me question a number of things. First, why has Casey Anthony been given so much attention? Is it her status as a mother?  If this is the case, I question why more attention isn't paid to other stories of mothers performing violence against their children. Think, for example, about the story of the mother in Florida who killed her 2 teen children for "talking back."  Or, what about the mother (also in Florida) who shook her baby when he interrupted her gaming on Farmville? Did you hear about that one?

But, transitioning to a global scale and more gendered forms of violence, are you familiar with female circumcision? Breast ironing? Female infanticide? For today, we'll focus on breast ironing.  Check out the video below. WARNING: May be upsetting. Graphic images included.

So, do you feel equally upset with these women as you do with Casey Anthony? Andrea Yates? Alexandra Tobias? Should all of these women be held equally accountable?

Unlike Casey Anthony, these mothers are openly admitting to the process of breast ironing and standing behind their choices to take hot objects against their young female children.  But, breast ironing is largely done as a means of protection. It is believed that the breasts seduce men. So, if the breasts are made smaller and less attractive, these young girls can escape rape, teen pregnancy, HIV and STIs, and instead continue their educations.  Does this change the way you feel about the actions performed upon these 9-15 year old girls?

Now, let's complicate things a bit. How does cultural relativism play a role? You know, the idea that all cultures are of equal value and thus practices must be examined from a framework of the particular culture in which it occurs.  We know Casey falls under our criminal justice system in the U.S.  So, I'm asking now, is it our right, as Americans, to take our beliefs, values, and laws to other countries?

Finally, the question must be asked, why are women performing violence against their children? For some the answer may be in the patriarchal culture. For others, perhaps we need to more closely look at mental health. And, in yet others, perhaps education is the key. I don't have the answer.

So, while we continue to think about Casey Anthony and question our criminal justice system, let's not forget she's not the only one. And she has been found not guilty by a jury of her peers. The burden of proof was not met. So where does this leave us?

Well, it is my belief that what we do about cases of violence is really up to each of us. While it is easy to focus on Casey Anthony, let's not use her as a scapegoat. We must take responsibility.  We must educate ourselves, educate others,  and then take a stand one way or the other. And, while we are at it, it is also my belief that whether you agree or disagree with cultural relativism, it is a perspective that should be considered before making a judgment.

To read more about breast ironing, check out this link.

As for the other forms of violence against young girls mentioned above that are largely performed by mothers or other female family members (female circumcision & female infanticide)? Well, that is for another day. Stay tuned!

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