FEMALE SERIAL KILLERS
Guest Post by Tim Ellis
Image of Asami Yamazaki from Gores Truly
Gender equality means that men and women should receive equal treatment, and should not be discriminated against based on gender, unless there is a sound biological reason for different treatment. Women are, however, under-represented in any list of serial killers. Why is that?
I’ve included a female serial killer in the novel I’m currently writing, but they’re as rare as rocking horse droppings. When we think of serial killers – we think of males such as Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Andrei Chikatilo, John Wayne Gacy and Henry Lee Lucas – not a female to be seen among them. Why is that?
Yes, there have been female serial killers throughout history – Beverly Allitt, Andrea Yates, Karla Homolka, Aileen Wuornos – to name a few of the more recent ones, but they represent a tiny percentage of the total, and to be honest, they’re not scary, and they don’t fire the imagination like a really evil male serial killer. Why is that?
Female serial killers are usually classified as black widows (Blanche Taylor Moore); angels of death (Beverly Allitt); sexual predators (Aileen Wuornos); or kill for revenge (Martha Wise), profit or in the commission of another crime (Dorothea Puente). A lot of the time, they act in partnership with a man (Fred & Rosemary West, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley).
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but women are different to men! No, I don’t mean on the outside, I mean on the inside.
Books have been written about these differences (Gray, 1992, Tannen, 1992), which is reinforced by societal stereotypes:
* Feminine Traits
Unintelligent and Incapable
Attractive because of physical appearance
* Masculine Traits
Intelligent and capable
Attractive because of achievement
And there’s the problem! Do you really see a scary female serial killer with those feminine traits? I don’t think you need to jump up and down to answer that question – the answer is obviously no.
If we look at the behaviours on Robert Hare’s (2003) psychopathy checklist (2nd Edition), we’re looking at masculine behaviours. As far as I recall, he didn’t interview any females as part of his research:
Glib and superficial charm
Need for stimulation
Cunning and manipulating
Lack of remorse
Poor behavioral controls
Early behavior problems
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Many short-term marital relationships
Revocation of conditional release
So, my advice – if you want to include a female serial killer (or murderer) in your novel – is to give the character masculine traits. They can look like Marilyn Monroe, but they need to kill like men.
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TIM ELLIS lives in Essex with his wife and five Shitzus and writes fiction full time. To date, he has written 25 novels (crime, historical, science fiction and fantasy), and sold over 400,000 copies of his books (as of March 2014). He was a participant in the London Book Fair 2014.