Bad, Mad or Sad? Legal Language, Narratives, and Identity Constructions of Women Who Kill their Children in England and Wales
AbstractIn this article I explore the ways in which legal language, discourses, and narratives construct new dominant identities for women who kill their children. These identities are those of the ‘bad’, ‘mad’, or ‘sad’ woman. Drawing upon and critiquing statutes, case law, and sentencing remarks from England and Wales, I explore how singular narrative identities emerge for the female defendants concerned. Using examples from selected cases, I highlight how the judiciary interpret legislation, use evidence, and draw upon gender stereotypes in carefully constructing macro-narratives which produce gendered identities for filicidal women, thus nullifying the challenge these women pose to appropriate femininity and the motherhood mandate. Each of the narrative identities discussed deny the agency of the female defendants that they are attached to, albeit in subtly different ways, by denying their ability to make any degree of choice in relation to their filicidal actions. Although such identity construction and agency denial may not always be damaging to these filicidal women per se, its pervasiveness within legal discourse reinforces and reproduces damaging gender stereotypes surrounding women and femininity.
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Citations of this work
Concealment of Birth: Time to Repeal a 200-Year-Old “Convenient Stop-Gap”?Emma Milne - 2019 - Feminist Legal Studies 27 (2):139-162.
Mother, Monster, Mrs, I: A Critical Evaluation of Gendered Naming Strategies in English Sentencing Remarks of Women Who Kill.Amanda Potts & Siobhan Weare - 2018 - International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique 31 (1):21-52.
Infanticides: The Unspoken Side of Infantologies.Marek Tesar, Michael A. Peters, E. Jayne White, Sonja Arndt, Jennifer Charteris, Aleryk Fricker, Viktor Johansson, Sean Sturm, Nina Hood & Andrew Madjar - forthcoming - Educational Philosophy and Theory:1-15.
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