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Evil or insane? The female serial killer and her doubly deviant femininity

Gavin, Helen (2013) Evil or insane? The female serial killer and her doubly deviant femininity. In: Fifth Global Conference on Evil, Women and the Feminine, 18th - 20th May 2013, Prague, Czech Republic. (Unpublished)

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It is 16th century Hungary, and young peasant girls are going missing. They have been offered well paid work in the Castle Czejte, Transylvania and then never seen again. The king sends an army to the castle where they report finding mayhem and bloodshed. There are witnesses aplenty to testify against the Countess Elizabeta Bathory; the villagers certainly thought she was evil. Describing atrocities over a twenty-five year period, it sounds like the peasants were happy to get their own back on a woman who was probably medically and legally insane, and just possibly the nobles were happy to accept this testimony as fact, because she was the heir to the throne.
Leap forward a few hundred years, and the late 20th /early 21st century sees us depicting Elizabeta and her modern day sisters in blood as truly evil. They may even be seen as monstrous, as Aileen Wuornos is depicted in Monster (DEJ Productions, 2003) or sexually ambivalent and voracious as Elizabeta is seen in Countess Dracula (Hammer films,1971) or as irrevocably evil as Myra Hindley, dubbed “the most hated woman in Britain” (BBC News, 2002).
These women are not monsters of course, but simply human beings who have done monstrous things. The evil epithet is the result of being members of a very rare class, one of history’s least understood but perpetually fascinating creatures, the female serial killer. Women who kill multiple times are guilty not just of serial murder, but of being women who step outside of the persona that society creates for them. This doubly deviant position makes exploring the minds of these women important, not just because they have killed, but also in order to understand the ways in which aberrant femininity is constructed as evil. This paper examines the psychological and social perspectives on women who kill, then kill again.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
School of Human and Health Sciences > Centre for Applied Psychological Research
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Depositing User: Helen Gavin
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2013 11:10
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2013 09:21


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