Women commit significantly fewer murders than men and are perceived to be less violent. This belief about women’s non-violence reflects the discourses surrounding gender, all of which assume that women possess certain inherent essential characteristics such as passivity and gentleness. When women commit murder the fundamental social structures based on appropriate feminine gendered behaviour are contradicted and subsequently challenged. This article will explore the gendered constructions of women who kill within the criminal justice system. These women are labelled as either mad, bad or a victim, by both the criminal justice system and society, depending on the construction of their crime, their gender and their sexuality. Symbiotic to labelling women who kill in this way is the denial of their agency. That is to say that labelling these women denies the recognition of their ability to make a semi-autonomous decision to act in a particular way. It is submitted that denying the agency of these women raises a number of issues, including, but not limited to, maintaining the current gendered status quo within the criminal law and criminal justice system, and justice both being done, and being seen to be done, for these women and their victims.
Copyright: © 2013 Weare. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.