An outpouring of grief with considerable introspection versus an outpouring of anger and condemnation. A sober discussion of contributing factors versus angry dismissal in response to any mention of “excuses”. This is the stark difference in the nature of media coverage that filicide attracts depending on whether the murderer was their mother or their father, respectively. In the past week in Australia we have unfortunately witnessed examples of both.
On the 18th December Charles Mihayo was jailed for life with non-parole of 31 years for killing his two young daughters. He had experienced a bitter divorce and enjoyed only limited (and disputed) visitation rights in relation to his children.
On the following day eight children were found stabbed to death in a house in the Cairns suburb of Manoora. The victims were aged between 18 months and 15 years. A trial has yet to take place, but it is believed that they were killed by Mersane Warria, the mother of seven of the victims.
Media coverage of the Mihayo case
“A man who cold-bloodedly murdered his two young daughters in a “hideous crime” will spend more than 30 years in jail.
Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry described Charles Mihayo’s crimes as “hideous” and said that he was at a loss to understand why the children had had to pay with their lives so Mihayo could cause suffering to his former wife.
Justice Lasry said the 36-year-old’s actions were devoid of any justification or explanation.”
Much mileage was made from the suggestion that Charles’ crime was primarily motivated by a desire to “get back at” his wife, the accuracy of which remains uncertain. Yet, even if that were true, there are many examples of women committing similar crimes as revenge for real or imagined transgressions by their partners. The following are examples of media coverage of this man’s trial:
Media coverage of the Cairns massacre
Even before a suspect was announced, the calm and sympathetic language of the investigating police and civic leaders suggested that the killer was a woman and someone who was known to the victims …
“As it stands at the moment, there’s no need for the public to be concerned about this other than that it’s a tragic, tragic event. The situation is well controlled at the moment,” he told reporters.
“There shouldn’t be any concerns for anyone else out of this environment and as we progress further we’ll be sharing the results of our investigation …
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said he was “saddened and shocked” by the tragedy, and that his thoughts were with the family and friends of the victims …
“Indeed, the whole Cairns community and the people of Queensland will feel the effects of this tragedy, particularly at a time of year when families come together.” (Source)
Mother accused in Cairns massacre had dark, troubled past (22 December 2014) In contrast no-one appeared to express much interest about Charles’ past. This article has since been removed from the msn.com web site.
Addendum January 2017: Despite being the worst single incident of domestic violence in Australia, I understand that the perpetrator, Mersane Warria, has yet to be convicted of any crime. Naturally, nothing but silence from the feminist lobby. Here is a further article from May 2017.
The examples mentioned in this post represent such a small sample that many will argue that this is no basis upon which to draw any meaningful conclusions. Yet many other writers have made the same observations as have I, after looking at the reporting of other similar earlier incidents.
Australian statistics tell us that mothers are the most common perpetrators of child homicide, with women accounting for 52% of child homicide offenders between 2002 and 2012. This of course excludes the incidence of abortion.
And yet despite this it would seem that the media, and probably the community generally, just cannot or will not grasp the idea of women as killers or abusers. If a man behaves in this manner, well that’s almost to be expected. If a women kills or abuses then that is an aberration, and there must have been extenuating circumstances (quite possibly involving some degree of pressure or influence by a man/men).
Notably absent from media coverage of the Cairns tragedy (and most other incidents involving filicide or abuse by mothers) were:
- public generalisations about violent behaviour by women generally,
- suggestions that women in general shared a collective responsibility for ensuring that other women did not also kill or abuse
- judgemental commentary by feminist spokespersons/feminist lobby
- recognition being given to the fact that more mothers kill their children than do fathers
http://www.msn.com/en-au/news/other/mothers-who-murder/vi-BBh3gZe?ocid=TSHDHP(Today show interview with Xanthe Mallet)
With regards to the second last dot point, one example of the feminist drum being struck involved comments made by a staff member of ANROWS who sought to imply a nexus between the dreadful actions of Ms. Warria and the issue of male violence towards women. This suggestion was subsequently the object of scorn in a reddit discussion thread.
With this post I am certainly not suggesting that the gender of the parent that kills makes the tragedy any more or less grave, or more comprehensible to the average person. What I would say however is that both types of incidents should be reported in a similar and gender-neutral manner, for example:
- if a presumption of innocence until proven guilty is applied to female accused then so to should it applied to male accused
- if anonymity is maintained for a female accused then so too should it be maintained for a male accused
- if the personal background of a female perpetrator is recognised as being worthy of discussion (and an ameliorating factor) for female perpetrators, then that should also be the case for male perpetrators
- if the behaviour of males generally is relevant in considering the degree of guilt (and degree of punishment imposed) in the case of men, then so too should the behaviour of females generally be relevant for women
To do anything other than the above is to fail to recognise and act upon the merits of gender equality, and to deny natural justice.
I’ll finish this post with a well-stated reader’s comment in response to an article about violence towards women that singled out male sporting stars for special attention:
“I read your article, It’s Time the footy world took a stand, with weary resignation for it is an article I have read countless times before. They weren’t penned by you, but the hypocrisy and double standards presented in your piece were the same.
You speak of this “attitude to women” as though it is some collective dogma that a large percentage of the AFL community adhere to rather than a problem for a handful of individuals who happen to be footballers. This phenomenon only ever applies to the male population whenever an individual male commits a crime or any offense. We are all immediately asked to stand up, speak out , swear an oath, wear a ribbon or condemn our gender. It is an outrageous but now very common reaction to any incident involving a man. If the same articles were appearing when women behaved badly I would not be quite so outraged, but this has never been the case.
A mother butchered eight children late last year, another grandmother in Northern Queensland murdered two of her grandchildren and attempted to burn alive another two, a mother bashed her daughter to death and horrifically permanently maimed her other daughter, a woman shoved her new born baby down a drain-all in a period of four months… I saw no articles asking mothers of Australia to take a stand. I heard no-one on radio ask if there was a problem with mothers and their attitude to children. No, these incidents are very quickly hushed up and we move on remarkably quickly from even referring to them.
Ask yourself, Rita, when was the last article or reference in the media to the mother her sliced up eight children? It is as thought she has disappeared from the face of the earth. Yet when Arthur Freeman killed his daughter by throwing her off the West Gate Bridge, this “monster’s” name has remained in the headlines and on people’s lips for five years. There is another major article about him in today’s Herald Sun. You’d think there are enough male monsters floating about without having to dredge up Freeman yet again. Did you know that a woman by the name of Gabrielle Garcia killed her little boy on the same bridge only a couple of months earlier? Probably not.
You condemned the fact that friends of Nick Stevens said he was a “top bloke” or “good bloke” inferring that these men were cold monsters who thought there was nothing wrong with beating up your partner. Yet every time a mother murders her children you can be assured that countless female friends were label her a wonderful , caring mother and a good friend. Gabrielle Garcia is a perfect example of this reaction.
Garcia’s family was devastated by her suicide. Her sister Monica set up a shrine near the lonely spot where Garcia was found under the bridge, writing a letter saying “we will never forget you both. We will always love you. We understand your pain and hope you have found peace and happiness now.”
Such compassion for a woman who murdered her boy.
Gabriella Garcia adored her 22-month-old son Oliver. According to Pedro Soto, her close friend and the last person to see her alive, all the Melbourne mother wanted to do was to protect him.
Here’s another comment on a woman who hired a hitman to kill her husband
“If she did do what the police say she did, I don’t believe it was premeditated. I believe it was a spur-of-the moment act, something done on impulse in the heat of anger that resulted in something shocking.
“We’re not talking about some kind of evil diva here. We always thought of her as a fairly good person And I think, you know, that she’s probably very devastated right now.” No reference at all the poor dead husband. Are they brutes with no sensitivity or is it because they were asked what they thought of the accused and answered the question .
There have been countless occasions where such words have been spoken by people who know a different side of an alleged killer but I don’t recall articles of condemnation suggesting these people were insensitive or in some twisted fashion supporting or defending their violent behaviour.
But the real zinger in your article is this line:
In the warped moral code of professional football, cheating on your wife with hundreds of eager groupies is ok but betraying a teammate is a dog act. Wow.
You openly acknowledge that there are hundreds of females willing to sleep with a man they know is married but this is no cause for concern or moral outrage or a demand that our schools start educating our young women to change their disgraceful belief that because a man is a sports celebrity he is a target, a notch on your belt so to speak. These girls will do anything to bed these young men just so they can boast about it to their friends. Talk about sexual objectification! Where is the article pleading for the education of women so they understand that men are not their property simply because they are famous. Yet you attack the young male individual who has these girls throwing themselves at him or infer that the young men alone are responsible for the sex that takes place. It is simply sickening to see the finger of condemnation only ever pointed in one direction.
Are you suggesting that these girls (groupies) would not have more of a problem with a girlfriend who slept with their husband/partner whilst happily turning a blind eye to their shenanigans with other married footballers?
It’s called human behaviour but you, like all female journalists only ever choose to focus on one gender.”
Postscript: The January 2016 Port Lincoln tragedy
Reddit discussion thread on this topic (9 January 2016) Read the thread and feel the anger – far in excess of any similar thread concerning a mother murdering her child. My post was down-voted into oblivion within an hour of being posted. Typical. People were still down-voting it hours after it was removed (?) Last time I checked there were 12 down votes with 3 comments. I have cut and pasted the most substantive of the comments below (‘Karismatic’), and to which I will reply shortly.
OPINION: Why are we sympathetic to men who kill their kids? by Caroline Overington (8 January 2016) Australia. Only a feminist could reach this conclusion, and guess what?
Media coverage of the murder of Luke Batty was addressed in this blog post
Infanticide law in Victoria: How is this not murder? (21 March 2017) Australia. This – making gender-specific laws – is definitely the wrong path to take.
“she was a really great mum” and “she was a loving mother and a very good and caring person”
Mother to be charged with murder, attempted murder of sons in Moama (3 March 2017) Australia. No anger for the killer, but media lashes out at absentee dad (see related reddit discussion thread here and a rebuttal here)
Michelle Leask pleads guilty to manslaughter over death of seven-week-old baby Lili (9 February 2017) Australia
Akon Guode pleads guilty to murdering three children she drove into lake (16 January 2017) Further report regarding trial testimony here and here
“He said no Victorian mother had ever been imprisoned for infanticide, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
“Often people who kill their children are cases that are meted out with life sentences. This is not a case of that kind,” he said.”
Cairns woman, 43, charged over 1996 mutilation death of baby boy (9 January 2017)
Mother kills 12-month-old son, then dies in apparent suicide: Police (27 December 2016)
Mother admits to killing her baby before dumping it in a cooler bag (7 December 2016)
Court docs: Mom killed her 2 young children so that husband couldn’t have custody in divorce (18 November 2016) USA
Family of four found dead inside Sydney northern beaches home (18 October 2016) Australia
Maggie Watson’s mum not guilty by reason of insanity (13 October 2016) NZ
330 child homicides (3 October 2016) UK. Recommended reading
Mum jailed over ‘violent’ death of abused baby who had meth in system (3 October 2016) Australia
Girl, 2, found dead in Miller, in Sydney’s south west (14 September 2016)
How fiction helps us understand the reality of a mother abandoning her newborn baby (29 July 2016) Let’s retreat into a discussion of fantasy in order to mitigate the culpability of women who kill defenceless children. But no such softly-softly approach in response to men who offend in a similar manner. More an ’empthy chasm’ than ’empathy gap’. See similar article in The Conversation here and here.
Port Denison murder-suicide inquest: Coroner says court stress weighed on homicidal mother (29 July 2016) And yet the authors of this other article assert that women rarely perpetrate muder/suicide. They add:
“Murder-suicide is most often perpetrated by men – but this is hardly surprising. Men are generally the perpetrators of murder, and men make up the majority of suicides in Australia, too.” Heartless much? That many men kill themselves is held up as proof that men are violent.
Woman charged in Boscobel infant’s death first blamed father (28 July 2016)
Major differences between women and men who commit deadly violence (14 June 2016) Reddit discussion thread with linked paper
The degree of delusion demonstrated by feminists can be astounding. In this article the author asserts the reverse position to that proposed in this blog post. In other words, that male perpetrators are let off the hook (with regards to media coverage) compared to the critical scrutiny faced by violent women.
Liam Fee: Mother and partner guilty of murdering two-year-old boy (31 May 2016) UK. The partner was another woman btw
Mum jailed for 24 years after horrific murders of her two young daughters (18 May 2016) UK. Jane Caro, please note the “she was a wonderful mother” comment – I’m sure you’ll rail against that, right? Oh, and Jane, this child rapist is said to be “a very engaging and charming young lady” – I’m sure you’ll savage all those involved, right?
Saskatchewan mother gets 5 1/2 years in prison for slitting six-year-old son’s throat during custody fight (19 April 2016) Canada, with more here
Mother of Sanaya Sahib confesses to toddler’s murder (12 April 2016) Australia. See screensave – can you imagine this message being posted in the case of a male offender? Dream on
Dead toddler grew up in ‘dysfunctional environment’ (12 April 2016) Oh, and look, now the media is busily trying to link this toddlers to death to a man/men (any man/men), and now it appears the authorities are doing likewise.
Pianist’s estranged wife charged with killing 2 daughters (21 March 2016) USA
The Melbourne suburbs where a parent is most likely to murder their child (12 March 2016) Australia
Melbourne woman Anitha Mathew burnt sons alive in revenge plot, coroner finds (8 March 2016) Australia. See related Reddit discussion thread here.
1 child killed every 2 weeks by family member: time to free children’s lives from violence (28 February 2016) Australia. Note again how in situations where there are as many or more female perpetrators, the topic of gender is not mentioned. Yet when there are more male perpetrators – or it can be falsely claimed that there are – then perpetrator gender is absolutely central to the discussion. Just another example of the entrenched hypocrisy of feminists and feminism.
NSW mum charged with son’s murder (23 January 2016) Australia
Croton mom pleads guilty, to serve probation in daughter’s death (19 January 2016) USA with related reddit discussion thread here
Mother suspect in death of girl, 11, at Auchenflower (9 December 2015)
Mom Fatally Attacks 2-Year-Old Daughter Who Won’t Eat Noodles: Prosecutors (2 December 2015) USA
German police arrest woman after discovery of eight dead babies (14 November 2015)
Just Say Goodbye – ‘Devoted’ Mothers Kill? (11 November 2015)
Mom accused of tossing newborn girl had baby son die in 2008 (1 October 2015)
Teenage mother avoids jail after killing daughter and dumping body under tree (24 September 2015) Australia
Campsie ‘murder suicide’: First photo of Nguyen family (22 September 2015)
Girl, 7, was shot dead by dad for ‘revenge’ (5 September 2015)
Women who kill (28 August 2015)
Prosecutor: Mom says she killed young sons to help daughter (18 August 2015) USA and related reddit discussion thread
Mother charged with murder after baby’s death (24 July 2015) Australia
Granted this July 2015 case involves an aunt rather than a mother, but as with the Cairns massacre, note the ‘kid gloves’ treatment by the police/media:
“He said the aunt wasn’t under police guard and was assisting police but had not been formally interviewed”
Australia’s most horrific case of child abuse: Boy, 7, died after being starved, fed his own waste and beaten by his siblings as God fearing step-father filmed them… but mother said he fell off a pogo stick (31 March 2015)
Records: Mom forced daughter to put dead sister in freezer (27 March 2015)
An open letter to Rosie Batty, by Mark Dent (15 March 2015)
Female annihilation (female perpetrated) (17 February 2015)
Children most often killed by their mothers (25 September 2012) NZ
Seeking to understand the inexplicable (Mothers are just as likely to kill their children as are fathers) (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February 2012)
‘Mentally ill’ mother who killed child found guilty (8 June 2011)
Women: The forgotten child murderers (3 February 2001)