By Sumit Sarkar
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Extra resources for Writing Social History
To this extent, they were still performing a feminine role in searching for a mate. These sociological studies established a powerful connection between criminal behaviour as a means of acting out or achieving masculinity, which has remained inﬂuential in criminology (see Whitehead, 2005; Byrne and Trew, 2008). The implicit conclusion to be drawn from Parsons and Cohen is that women who are involved in masculine crimes, such as murder, are identiﬁed with the masculine gender role. Some criminological research with imprisoned women examined their value systems in order to discover whether they held masculine, rather than feminine values (Widom, 1979).
Instead of killing within a domestic setting, she crossed into the masculine space of the open road and open air. This made her particularly terrifying. She not only subverted the culturally 34 Women, Murder and Femininity understood use of violence in paid for sexual encounters, but appropriated as her own a ‘masculine’ method of ﬁnding and killing victims, leading to the ‘ﬁrst female serial killer’ label (Warf and Waddell, 2002; Pearson, 2007). The intersection between Aileen’s gender and sexuality is the most obvious example of how aspects of her identity were constructed through the masculine woman discourse.
Although Karla was abused by Paul, her middle-class, two-parent family background made these experiences appear inexplicable. Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo raised the frightening possibility that violent, dangerous criminals could be indistinguishable from ‘normal’ people. Their crimes suggested a subterranean darkness lurking in quiet small town Canada. This was experienced as culturally troubling because Canadians often favourably contrast relatively peaceful Canada with the more violent 46 Women, Murder and Femininity United States, emphasising its ‘careful gun laws’ and the ‘stability and safety’ of its cities (Gilbert, 2006, p.
Writing Social History by Sumit Sarkar