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Casey Anthony: Deviant Woman

July 7, 2011

This post is not about whether or not I think Casey Anthony is guilty. That’s a non-issue in this light. This post is about why we all tuned in for the verdict, why we all cared, why the barista at Starbucks went on a tirade while I was trying to study.

The reason this case became such a national sensation is because Casey Anthony deviated from traditional womanhood. We expect pretty, white, straight, middle-class mothers to behave a certain way. When they deviate from that expectation, we judge them harshly. What is troublesome is the fact that we not only think it’s okay to judge her, but that we believe it’s our duty to judge her as a woman. Pretty white women don’t kill their children because pretty white women are maternal by nature and don’t drink and dance when their children go missing. When a pretty white woman deviates from being the perfect mother, she is labeled tramp, slut, criminal, murderer. Pretty white women are either innocent or evil. There is little grey area for pretty white women to occupy.

Thought experiment: How do you think this case would have turned out if Casey Anthony were African American? Hispanic? Asian American? A lesbian? A man?
Perhaps the verdict would have been the same, perhaps not. But would the case have achieved the same amount of attention?

Those news networks have to make money somehow. Deviant pretty white women make excellent news stories.

(7/7/11) Edited to add: Erin sent me this article that pretty much nicely reiterates everything said here.

(7/8/11) Edited to add: I’m not saying it’s not sad that a child was murdered. Of course it is; I’m not heartless. But why are this child and this mother more important to the news media than other cases? This is the issue I’m unpacking, not the crime itself. Clearly, the relationship between gender, race, and crime is a feminist issue.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 11:56 am

    To be honest, my focus the entire time has been more on the life of an innocent child being taken so thoughtlessly. I could care less if she’s white or black, in her 20s or 40s, rich or poor, man or woman, etc. I think the fact that she felt the need to party and such after her daughter went “missing” only ads fuel to the fire of my anger towards her, but, again, that would be the case whether or not she was a white girl. I’m definitely judging her – not because she’s a pretty white girl, but because she was blessed with a sweet, beautiful little girl and (although the details will never be revealed, I’m sure) she basically threw that blessing away like trash.

    I do know what you mean about the publicity, though – it’s kind of like when a pretty, young, white teacher sleeps with a student. MEDIA EXPLOSION. Since it is a huge break from the “norm”, people just eat that stuff up. I’m sure this trial made such headlines due to the specific demographics we were dealing with, so I definitely agree with you on that. Especially because you’ve got to realize that things of this nature aren’t once in a blue moon. I’m sure if you talked to anyone on a special victims unit (STABLER!) they’d be like, “You want to know how many kids disappear every year? Do you?”

    It’s just a sad, sad thing from all angles. And even if they say there’s not a book deal/movie deal in the works, you know there is. And THAT is, without a doubt, due to who Casey is and what she looks like. It’s sickening.

  2. July 7, 2011 1:08 pm

    I’ve been saddened by how people have responded in general. The media has completely fed us this image, you are definitely right about that, and now people want Casey dead.

    They forget/don’t know that our legal system is all about evidence. Regardless of whether or not they “feel” she did it, without strong evidence to support their feelings, it means nothing.

    People seem to not realize that not guilty doesn’t mean innocent. I feel for the family and everyone else involved in the case. I also hope people might learn to not judge, but I know that’s not going to happen.

  3. July 7, 2011 6:44 pm

    Obviously, we’ve already talked a lot about this, but I’m thoroughly sickened by the whole thing. I’m sickened that a little girl is dead. I’m sickened at the media sensationalizing the whole case when there are children who are killed every single day. But what I’m really sickened by is the response to the verdict. People hoping that she’s raped and beaten. Calling the defense attorney’s children whores and retards. Calling the jurors idiots. It’s really messed up. It also shocks me how people seem to have NO IDEA how our legal system works. The burden of proof falls with the prosecution. They wanted the death penalty and to make an example of this woman, so they charged her with Murder in the First…without enough evidence to support that charge. Not convicting her of Murder 1 doesn’t mean she’s innocent…it means that there wasn’t enough evidence IN THE EYES OF THE LAW to convict her of murder 1. She may have easily been convicted on lesser charges and spent her entire life in prison. Haven’t we all been watching Law and Order for the past 20 years? This shouldn’t surprise people.

    There is a reason we don’t just let the media decide guilt of innocence either. People are calling for her head….and I guarantee they do not have all the facts. There are 12 people on a jury who have had their lives consumed by this case. They have the facts and the made a decision…and I think they made the right decision. We can’t all run around playing 13th juror and acting like we really know what we would do in that situation. It’s easy to sit here and say that we KNOW she is guilty, but it’s not so easy to do the right thing in a court of law. I’m sure that every single one of those jurors would have loved to lock her up for life, but they had to do what was right by the law. I’m impressed with them, and I’m proud to live in a country that has the justice system we do.

  4. July 7, 2011 6:45 pm

    Sorry for the most rambling comment ever. 🙂

  5. July 7, 2011 7:17 pm

    Wishcake summed it up pretty well for me.

    Casey Anthony could have three heads and six eyes for all I care; I’m more concerned with the fact that a child is dead and no one is being held responsible. I don’t blame the jury – I remember thinking the burden of proof hadn’t been met and no one would be willing to convict on what was presented. I’m upset that a child is dead and whoever is responsible is walking free—and, as previously noted, that one child dies and gets the whole world’s attention, when I-don’t-know-how-many others are killed by their families every day and no one even skips a beat. I don’t know whether or not it was just a terrible accident and someone panicked, or if someone killed the child deliberately. To me, that’s not the point.

    That said, it is a disturbing reflection of our society. If the world is so sure Casey killed her daughter, why is this case the one that turns heads? The death of any child at the hands of an adult should be a tragedy, regardless of race, socio-economic status, or how attractive the adults in their life are.

  6. Mom permalink
    July 7, 2011 7:57 pm

    Yes, I was sucked into the trial. Circumstantial evidence. Am I surprised at the verdict? No. Am I sad? Yes. A child is dead, put in a trash bag and thrown in a swamp. I wouldn’t dispose of a pet in that manner. Who gets a “Bella Vita” (Good Life) tattoo when your child is missing? Who in their right mind wouldn’t report your child missing for 31 days? It makes any mother’s heart ache. She knows the truth and God will be her final judge. And we must pray for ALL victims of ALL horrendous crimes no matter their race, sexual orientation or social status.

  7. Erin permalink
    July 7, 2011 8:27 pm

    I don’t think Renee…or anyone really…is arguing that it’s not sad that a child died. It’s a tragedy that occurs on a regular basis. That it’s sad should go without saying.

    I really think that Renee was trying to point out why this particular case was so sensationalized when so many other children die and we are none the wiser. It seems like people see the name Casey Anthony and just start going off about how sad it is and what an awful person she is. To me, that wasn’t the point of this post.

  8. July 8, 2011 10:09 am

    As much as I would like to think that it doesn’t have much to do with race/gender/physical attractiveness, I’m CERTAIN it does.

    But, this case was also VERY bizarre, and we as the observing public are unfortunately engrossed by that sort of mystery and drama.

    Her behavior was strange, and I think it got so much attention because no one understood it and nothing was clear cut. Waiting 31 days to report it. The smell of death in the car. The weird story about the nanny. The lies about working at Universal. Two COMPLETELY different stories as to how she died. Casey’s behavior while she was missing. Drowning? Chloroform? Duct tape? It was one of those terrible things that no one could look away from.

    Honestly, I have no idea how many cases like that go unwatched by the media. But can there be THAT many? With so many weird twists? Regardless of the demographic of the mom?? (I’m genuinely asking.)
    The case was as strange as if it was written by a crime show screenwriter.

    I feel like I have to add a disclaimer that I took no pleasure in knowing that beautiful child lost her life, but I DID follow bits and pieces of the case.

  9. July 8, 2011 10:13 am

    Look at Jonbenet.
    Look at Andrea Yates.
    Look at Susan Smith.

    I’m sure they have minority counter parts that have been accused of similar crimes, but those women have never been household names.

    • July 8, 2011 10:17 am

      Totally true. I WOULDN’T know about similar crimes committed by men/minorities/lower incomes because the media doesn’t care…

      • July 8, 2011 10:35 am

        Right. Unless they’re related to a celebrity. See: Jennifer Hudson.

  10. July 8, 2011 12:26 pm

    If this case would have occurred 20, 25, 30 years ago- pre-Internet- when photographs of her partying would not have been as widely circulated, do you think this case would have achieved the level of interest that it did? Obviously, there would have been interest in this case (see: Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, as someone mentioned above), but the partying photographs- and the public’s ability to see them whenever they wished- are what really did her in as far their feelings toward her.

  11. July 11, 2011 12:56 pm

    I absolutely agree. I’ve had the same thoughts and when CNN asks people to email in about why people thought the case had captured so much media attention, I got annoyed because it’s just so damn obvious: White & pretty. Little Caylee was incredibly photogenic, and her mother is pretty and young. Where it a pug-nosed little boy and a middle-aged, overweight mother, we wouldn’t care so much.

    And the partying – sure, it’s pretty damning, but I’ve got a hard time labeling someone’s behavior post-child disappearance as good or bad. For me, it sounds an awful lot like assuming a woman wasn’t raped because she didn’t cry enough when she told the story to the police. Maybe that’s her way of grieving – pretending nothing is wrong and like nothing bad happened.

    Either way, it’s a good study in how society labels women and what it expects from them as well.

  12. July 16, 2011 6:43 pm

    I like this post. Too many people aren’t thinking it all the way through and don’t understand how the legal system works before they start their Facebook tirade!

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