Did Amy Bishop Kill Because Women Are Screwed in the Workplace?
No, that's the wrong lens for this story.
Posted Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, at 1:44 PM
I take your point and am reconsidering my own position. I actually started this afternoon after reading about violent women in today's NYT. (I would really like to go 24 hours without seeing that picture of Amy Bishop being put in a police car!)
But for the moment, let's say that your original premise was correct, and that Bishop was driven in part by workplace frustration. I would argue that such an extreme example is so far beyond the norm that it has no particular relevance for society as a whole, and it thus loses its significance. Until more women start killing their co-workers out of frustration with gender inequality, it's difficult to connect the actions of one homicidal woman to the problems all women face in the workplace.
OK, after rereading that, I may have changed my mind. We happily allow Lorena Bobbit or Joe Stack to represent broader frustrations with domestic abuse or the IRS, even though few individuals go to the extreme that they did. Maybe you're right. It wouldn't be the first time.
Actually, you know, I'm starting to come over to your side (even as you potentially abandon it). Bishop's discrimination suit sounds like a red herring now, and she looks like the kind of outlier who doesn't symbolize much of anything. Women rarely kill, and it's even more rare for them to go on rampages like this. It's important not to lose sight of that—as I was verging toward—when an exception like this one rears up, overwhelming as it can seem.
Actually, after sending my last e-mail, I went to bed, and while going to sleep, I decided I might have been right in the first place.
Good, because you have the better of this argument. I'm struck by what Joyce Carol Oates said in the NYT story by Sam Tanenhaus you mentioned: "She is a sociopath and has been enabled through her life by individuals around her who shielded her from punishment."
Thanks for all of this,
Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and writes about law, family, and kids. Her forthcoming book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Empathy and Character. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter.
Sam Thomas is a historian of gender and medicine in early modern Europe at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
Photograph of Amy Bishop by Huntsville Police Department/AP Photo.