Confounding the Stereotypes
Paape, Val, Herizons
The arrest of a group of teenaged girls in connection with the death of Reena Virk last November in Victoria resulted in a few days of intense media coverage that raised the issue of female violence and its prevalence. A number of other recent acts of female violence and murder were mentioned and, according to the Globe and Mail, we, the public, were in shock over these events. Our shock stems from our assumptions about the nature of the female sex. Aggression isn't supposed to be a part of our genetic make-up.
The media suggests we believe women to be genetically loving, nurturing, relational, non-aggressive and non-violent. Thus, the Virk murder and similar incidents instill horror because they go against nature. They might be considered isolated incidents involving extenuating circumstances, or, the perpetrators of these crimes could be freaks. This is an interesting possibility.
On the other hand, women could have an innate capacity for aggression and violence, but social and cultural conditioning has been more successful in enabling them to sublimate and control their aggressive impulses. Further, because women's social role has been more involved with nurturing and relationship maintenance, they are less conditioned to violence. With this in mind, we could speculate that the current social climate allows more latitude for female violence without actually condoning it. And/or family violence and abuse coupled with economic difficulties result in fertile ground for the expression of female aggression.
In a social climate where the media hypes new genetic discoveries concerning our behaviour just about every day, and books such as Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus by pseudo-psychologist John Gray top bestseller lists for months, the popular reinforcement of genetic or innate behaviour patterns is continually reinforced. We are literally barraged by research findings and scientific statements that are construed to support the idea that nature prevails over nurture in the realm of social behaviour.
We are sucked in by guys like Dean Hamer, the gay scientist who, having supposedly discovered the gene for male homosexuality, is now saying that he's happier than most people because of his genes. We are hearing minority opinions as if they were scientific fact. But there is another side even if it doesn't get much play in the popular media.
Consider for example, the research of Meredith Small, a primate behaviourist and anthropologist who has examined the interaction of biology and culture in infant care and child-rearing patterns. …