'Een verbijsterend menselijk falen'. De invloed van gender in de beeldvorming van kindermoordenaars in de rechtszaal en in misdaadverslaggeving in Nederland, 1960-1989.
Plas, M.S. van der
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Child-murder is deemed a grievous crime by society, but reactions are even more so shocked when the perpetrator turns out to be one of the parents of the victim. In this thesis, I research the way in which murdering mothers and fathers are perceived by society, through the medium of crime news. An analysis of 296 newspaper articles - corresponding to 71 cases of neonaticide, infanticide and filicide, that were committed between 1960-1989 in The Netherlands - aims to show how gender influenced how these parents got depicted in courtrooms and newspaper coverage. Theories on gender by Joan Scott and Judith Butler have been used as a guiding framework throughout this thesis. Especially the work of criminologist Ania Wilczynski on the legal reactions to murdering parents, has been employed to guide the analysis of the newspaper articles. In courtroom narratives Wilczynski observed three different, gendered images of the child-murderer; women were seen as reacting in a feminine, irrational manner, which prompted courts to treat them leniently as 'sad' or 'mad'. Men, however, were depicted as acting rational and calculated, which branded them as 'bad'. Does this apply to the imaging of murdering fathers and mothers in the 71 Dutch cases? Particularly during a time period in which second wave feminism advocated equal rights and opportunities for men and women, and views on femininity and motherhood shifted. To research the question of how gender influences narratives around child-murderers in the courtroom and in newspaper coverage of cases in The Netherlands between 1960-1989, this thesis looks as various aspects. Such as the historically different treatment of men and women in the prosecution of crime and the influence of gender on legislation, the way gendered views work through crime news, and the influence of changing views of femininity in child-murder cases.