Too many women are dying in crime fiction

This guy makes a salient point, one we often talk about in this house–never mind fiction, how do we find a show to watch that doesn’t fridge the wife in episode one or be a gruesome murder-porn-of-the-week (like that Gillian Anderson show we wanted to watch but which seemed to revel in things a bit too much)–but misses a great opportunity to talk about how things got this way. Here he comes perilously close to blaming women for it, but he pulls his hand out of the fire further down. Like similar pieces of journalism written by authors, all this leads to him talking about his own work, blah blah, but it’s a topic worth talking about, and a call I support, largely.

Crime writing is dominated by female authors. Yet many rely on murdered women and girls as a story engine. Once dead, the victims’ corpses, or remains, are often fetishised. Joan Smith, the critic and crime writer, says: “There was a period when a lot of crime books looked like a competition to murder someone in the most gruesome way. One had someone tying a live woman to a dead woman. I just stopped reading instantly.”

Male authors, too, [ed note: ORLY?] are guilty of lingering on the moment of death, or the sight of a female dead body. In The Intrusions, by Stav Sherez, Detective Carrigan enters a blood-soaked room where a young woman lies dead. The killer, we learn, held the dead woman up “like a shower head” for maximum arterial spatter when he cut her throat. He watched her “bleed and flail and struggle”, her blood gushing like a fountain, before carefully arranging her corpse and smoothing out her dress. Despite this splatter-porn, or perhaps because of it, the book won the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

But, beyond the herd mentality of much of the genre is a more serious issue. This fictional femicide reflects — perhaps even feeds — a wider misogyny. Nowadays feminist activists on social media are deluged with misogynistic abuse and threats for simply defending womens’ rights and single-sex spaces. When Dr Jessica Taylor, a senior lecturer in forensics and criminal psychology, wrote Why Women Are Blamed for Everything, she was deluged with abuse, rape and death threats, and her computer was hacked.

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