Philippa Willitts writes about the treatment of women in the legal system compared to men, in relation to the conviction of Amanda Knox in Meredith Kercher’s murder.
Amanda Knox has been convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, and if you weren’t paying attention, you might believe that she did it alone.
In fact, two men have also been convicted of the murder – one last night and one last year, but they are very much secondary to the story, even though, as far as I can tell, it has never been decided who did the actual killing.
Now, I have not studied the trial or the evidence, and I do not know whether Amanda Knox did or did not kill Meredith Kercher, but I do know that this is seeming to be another legal case where the woman involved is demonised to a degree rarely seen in male defendants.
And the fact that Amanda Knox appears to be a young woman with some confidence in her sexuality has certainly worked against her. That she had condoms and a vibrator in a see-through bag has been widely reported, as some kind of proof that she was deranged enough to kill her housemate in a sex game.
That her nickname is Foxy Knoxy has been repeatedly mentioned, though very few reports tell you that that nickname apparently came about due to her skills on a football field rather than anything more salacious. Because that wouldn’t fit the story quite so well.
With the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Maxine Carr has arguably been more slated by the press and public than Ian Huntley, who actually killed the girls. Maxine Carr’s crime was to lie to the police by giving Huntley an alibi, and there is no indication that she did so with any knowledge of what he had done.
Amanda Knox even got a longer sentence than Raffaele Sollecito, who was also convicted of Kercher’s murder. Issues which seem to have been used against Knox during the trial are so telling about what women are still up against compared to men in these situations.
1. There was a youtube video showing her drunk.
2. She sent an email to a friend saying she had had sex on a train.
3. She wrote a story about a woman being raped and a photo of herself with a machine gun entitled ‘the Nazi’.
4. She did cartwheels in the police station while waiting to be questioned.
Now, while the third of these is certainly questionable, and the fourth somewhat odd, the first two are unremarkable, and are in no way legal evidence for murder.
According to the Guardian,
Italians shrug off extramarital sex, yet they are prim in their attitudes to premarital sex, at least outside the stable context of fidanzamento (engagement). They use the same words for boyfriend and fiance.
So many were taken aback to learn that, by the time she was arrested at the age of 20, Knox had had sex with seven men. They were less outraged by how this information was obtained: Knox was told in prison she was HIV-positive and asked to write a list of her lovers. Before she was told that a mistake had been made, the list was passed to investigators, one of whom passed it to a journalist.
The ethics around that ‘mistake’ are appalling, particularly if it was a tactic to obtain information about her sexual history to use against her during the trial.
Amanda Knox may or may not have committed this murder, and I certainly do not know whether she did. However, two men have also been convicted and rarely even mentioned. That Knox is a woman, and a woman with some sexual history, appears to have damned her.