When She Was Bad...: 1violent Women and the Myth of Innocence

Patricia Pearson, Author, Michael Finley, With Viking Books $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-670-85925-2
""Female violence is a rich and textured tableau,"" at least as idiosyncratic and complex as the male violence that dominates the news media, contends veteran crime reporter Pearson. For years, what Alan Dershowitz dubbed ""the abuse exuse"" has been, according to Pearson, the gold standard of sentencing violent female criminals, allowing abuse suffered to be seen as a mitigating or even exonerating factor. Pearson argues in this passionate if occasionally jargony polemic that by assuming that women have an excuse to kill, women are denied their agency, their ""will to power."" She backs up her contention with a torrent of statistics about the rising rate of violent crime by women, the high rate of violence among female inmates, the unexpected proportion of domestic abuse incidents in which a woman is the aggressor (in some studies, approaching 50%) and, most alarmingly, the consistent quashing of these statistics by social scientists whose work is driven, Pearson charges, more by a political agenda than by the facts at hand. It is this facet of Pearson's book that will likely attract the most attention, and the inevitable accusations of gender treason. But Pearson's work resists this sort of reductive reading. Her discussion of cases where women who have killed their children are as engaging and sympathetic as they are clinical. While the book will hold special fascination for the criminologically inclined, it will also magnetize those who question the boundaries of gender and class. Author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-14-024388-8
Hardcover - 294 pages - 978-1-86049-552-6
Open Ebook - 978-0-307-36383-1
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