366mc: Independent Practice: Exploration:Women, Murder and Femininity: Gender Representations of Women Who Kill, Lizzie Seal.
To progress with this project my knowledge on the subject of the representation of women in horror film must be well-informed. My interest in the representation of female killers in film has increased so the book ‘Women, Murder and Femininity: Gender Representations of Women who Kill’ by Lizzie Seal which applies real cases of women who kill and discusses their representation, has worked to back up my findings and further inform me on how violent women have been represented throughout time. The chapter ‘Five Gender Representations of Women Who Kill’ analyses representations of female murderers Seal categorises each case selectively, the first being the masculinised female, which presumes a female killer has masculine traits – it suggests some kinds of killers are more male that female because violence is not a feminine trait.‘The gendering of violent crime as masculine has led to a recurrent discursive construction of women who kill as masculinised. According to this representation, violent women are not really women at all, but share more characteristics with men…’ (Seal 2010).
From reading about the masculinised female, whilst I can understand that some female killers, for example Rose West, (in terms of behaviour) appear more stereotypically masculine, I found it difficult to agree that the mindset of a female killer is entirely down to her physicality. The idea of the masculinised female killer suggests that women who show signs of being gender fluid are more likely to kill. It is hard to believe that a woman who has a larger frame and does not conform to the submissive behaviour that women are supposed to embody are more likely to be killers. However, Seal has many studies to back up this theory as there are many cases of women who appear rebel against the stereotypes of femininity (in terms of behaviour and appearance) who are well-known killers (which she expands on further in the book). Seal also puts forward that the mindset that female killers have more male traits is flawed because it is largely based on gender stereotyped behaviours. In relation to the representation of female killers in film there is evidence of more ‘masculine’ female characters acting as killers, for example Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ (1990) where Annie Wilkes is seen to be physically stronger than other male and female characters. However in the horror genre it is more common to see an attractive and stereotypically feminine woman act as a killer, this is evident in films such as ‘Jennifer’s Body'(2009), ‘Audition’ (1999), Species (1995) and ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’ (2006) where female killers use their looks and femininity to lure unsuspecting victims.
Seal, L. (2010). Women, Murder and Femininity: Gender Representations of Women Who Kill. New York : Palgrave Macmillan . 24.