Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Weeping women just as capable of evil as men"

Clockwise from top left:
Tooba Mohammad Yahya, Lorena Bobbitt, Melissa Lewis, Karla Homolka

Weeping women just as capable of evil as men 
By: Christie Blatchford
November 14, 2011
The National Post
It was during a break one day in court in Kingston this week, after accused killer Tooba Mohammad Yahya had been sobbing up a storm, that I grunted to a colleague that I was weary of weeping women. 

I grant you this is pretty rich, coming from someone whose eyes fill up at the drop of a hat — well, okay, perhaps at the dropping of a G — but you take my point.
It wasn’t precisely what I meant, anyway, rather that I’m tired of seeing women accused of ghastly crimes digging deep into their bag of feminine tricks – tears, fainting spells, being afraid of their cruel men – in order to explain their own conduct, and I’m really tired of seeing it work.
A few weeks ago, for instance, a jury in Toronto acquitted a young woman named Melissa Lewis of second-degree murder.
On the day in question, she’d been out in the family car with her father, little daughter and the great love of her life, one Jermaine (Mecca, or Mec) Gillespie. Ms. Lewis was sitting directly behind Mr. Gillespie in the car when, in the midst of a verbal quarrel and ostensibly afraid that he was going to pull out a gun (none was found on him or in the car), she stabbed him once fatally in the neck with a 12-inch knife.
Now, Mr. Gillespie by all the evidence was a nasty piece of work, though his family members testified, of course, that he was a loving gentle fellow deeply changed by having been shot and seriously wounded the year before, as Ms. Lewis’s duly testified that she was a loving gentle victim of his temper who nonetheless nursed him back to health.
I’d say, in fact, that in the end, the evidence of both these families was a wash: The two young people by my measure were a fine match, which is not to say Ms. Lewis (or any other woman) deserved to be assaulted, as she was several times by Mr. Gillespie, who had the criminal record to prove it.
They were just low-achieving, high-aspiring 20-somethings who appear to have used, one way or another, everyone they met, but particularly their relatives and each other.
Still and all, the day she stabbed him, and she admitted at trial that stab him she had, the only way he could have been more vulnerable was if he’d been sound asleep in bed, à la John Bobbitt, who had the misfortune years ago of dropping off one night in a boozy stupor only to have his penis cut off by his wife Lorena, who then jumped in the car and threw the offending organ out the window.
The Bobbitts being Americans, she was acquitted and got her constitutionally guaranteed 15 minutes, while he and his re-attached penis went onto a brief career in pornography.
I covered that trial too, incidentally.
I’ve been writing about women allegedly provoked to violence, always of course by their much-worse men, for many a year — notorious ones like Ms. Bobbitt and Karla Homolka, as well as a couple of handfuls of less well-known women.
Many of these women admitted the allegations against them but with what is now the usual caveat – that they were fighting back after years of abuse, or that they’d “snapped” and done something awful in a moment of terror or madness, or that they’d been frightened into inaction or silence, or in Ms. Homolka’s special case lip-licking participation in major crime, by their men.
Always, the men are held mostly to blame.
Ms. Lewis, for example, took the witness stand in her own defence, where she explained, as if this is an explanation, that she’d merely been trying to “distract” Mr. Gillespie when she stuck the knife in his neck, not hurt him or for heaven’s sake, kill him. She loved him still, she said. Actually, she used the present tense, as though at any moment, he might come ambling into the room, rapping, and make it right again.
She was not a girl without resources. She had a doting father she treated as an ATM, siblings who were ready and willing at her call to come and rescue her or drive her about, a mother in the suburbs with a nice safe house had she been inclined to run (not that it appeared that Mr. Gillespie would have noticed, at least not for a few days).
And despite her early courtroom demeanour of downcast eyes and lamblike meekness, during cross-examination Ms. Lewis proved herself feisty, if not outright combative. Her diaries, which became exhibits at trial, showed her as a self-pitying (she was so good to Mr. Gillespie, loved him so, gave him everything, and there he was, out whoring with other women, treating her badly and, the nerve, wanting out of their relationship) and jealous young woman who railed against his many failings.
In the days after her acquittal, she told a colleague, the Toronto Star writer Betsy Powell, that she still “loves” Mr. Gillespie, had never meant to kill him and that anyone who believed otherwise had not been in court to hear “the facts and the evidence.”
Well, I was there for every day but one, and I believed otherwise. It was one of the few verdicts which shook my faith in the jury system I regard so highly.
But I wasn’t bewildered by the verdict: There is, still, widespread reluctance to believe that women are capable of the evil that men do, or as capable. As for the crying, the lowered gaze, the trembling and deference (especially when it comes to carrying the can) to the big bad male of the species?
Well, that stuff works the same as it ever did, which is to say, well.

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