Diana Russell : "My Definitions of Femicide
I first heard the word femicide in 1975 when an acquaintance told me that an American writer, Carol Orlock, was preparing an anthology on femicide. Although her book was never published, the term resonated with me powerfully as one that was needed to refer to sexist murders of females by males.
In 1976, I testified about femicide at the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women held in
in 1976 (Russell
& Van de Ven, 1976, pp. 144-146).
While I did not provide an explicit definition of femicide in this
testimony -- the meaning was clear from the examples of femicide mentioned
In my book, Rape in Marriage (1982), I reported my findings on wife rape, battery, and femicidal threats obtained from face-to-face interviews with a probability sample of 930 women residents in
aged 18 years and older. I defined
femicide as "the killing of women because they are women"
(1982, p. 286). Of the 87 victims of
wife rape, who constituted 14 percent of the women who had ever been married,
22 percent mentioned that their husbands had threatened to kill them --
although they had not been specifically asked.
Had they been specifically asked, the percentage would certainly
have been a lot higher. It is also
important to remember that it was only possible to interview the femicide
survivors. San Francisco
A careful reading of the data available on each of the raped wives, as well as data on those who had been beaten but not raped (162 women), indicated that at least 7% were in apparent danger of being killed by husbands or ex-husbands. For an additional 10% of these women, while there were indications of their being in danger, the evidence was not sufficient to draw any conclusion. These are shockingly high percentages. Given that 25 percent of the 644 women who had ever been married were victimized by either rape or beating or both, extrapolating from these figures to married women in the population at large, these findings suggest that out of every 1 million women, at least 17,500 are at risk of being killed by their husbands. (This figure was obtained as follows: 7% divided by 4 [because victims constitute 25% of women in sample] = 1.75. 1.75 out of 100 extrapolates to 17,500 out of one million.)
In 1990, together with feminist American cultural studies professor Jane Caputi, we defined femicide as "the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure, or a sense of ownership of women" (1990, p. 34) -- which is to say, sexism. Then in 2001, Harmes and I defined femicide as "the killing of females by males because they are female." This version of the definition covers all manifestations of male sexism, not just hatred. In addition, it replaces "women" with "females" in recognition of the fact that many girls and female babies are victims of femicide. Similarly, because many boys and male youth are perpetrators of femicide, Harmes and my definition refers to "males" instead of "men." This is the definition I continue to use today.
Although assessing motives is difficult and sometimes impossible, all hate crimes require the evaluation of the perpetrators' motives. However, it would be unacceptable to forgo the concept of racist murder, for example, because of the difficulty of establishing the murderer's racist motivation.
According to my definition, just as murders targeting African Americans can be differentiated into those that are racist and those that are not, and murders targeting gays can be differentiated into those that are homophobic or lesbiphobic and those that are not, so should we be able to figure out a way to differentiate murders targeting women into those that are femicides and those that are not. When the gender of the victim is immaterial to the perpetrator, we are dealing with a non-femicidal murder. For example, an armed male robber who shoots and kills the male and female owners of a grocery store in the course of his crime has not committed a femicide. The same applies to a man who accidently kills a female bystander when attempting to target a man.
When my research assistant, Roberta Harmes, was searching for articles on femicide for our book, Femicide in Global Perspective (2001), she stumbled across the third edition of a short book entitled, The Confessions of an Unexecuted Femicide published in 1827, and authored by William MacNish, who wrote about his seduction, impregnation, abandonment, and murder of a young woman. This led to the next surprising discovery that the term femicide was first used in the British publication, The Satirical Review of London at the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century in 1801 to signify "the killing of a woman." And, according to the 1989 edition of The Oxford English Dictionary, that defined femicide in the identical way (1), the term femicide appeared in Wharton's Law Lexicon in 1848, suggesting that it had become a prosecutable offense (p. 825).
Despite her discovery of this brief history of the term femicide, I was not tempted to substitute the dictionary definition for my own because I was, and still am, convinced that the sexist aspect of most murders of females by males needs to be incorporated into the definition of femicide.
While my definition of femicide is limited to murders of females by males because they are female, there is a significant minority of murders of females by females because they are female, such as the participation of some Indian (South Asian) mothers-in-law in murders of their daughters-in-law by setting fire to their sarees because they consider the dowries given to their families by their daughter-in-laws' fathers to be insufficient (dowry femicides). I decided to refer to these crimes as female-on-female murders.
In Femicide in Global Perspective, I distinguish between
1) Females Acting as Agents of Patriarchy;
2) Females Acting as Agents of Male Perpetrators; and
3) Females Acting on their Own Behalf.
Several examples of each category of female-on-female murders are provided in this typology (see Russell & Harmes, 2001, Table 2.1, p. 17. The title of this typology should be corrected to read "Typology of Female-on-Female Murders").
Distinctions Between Femicides
The following distinctions between femicides are made based on the relationships between killers and their victims (this is a slightly adapted version of Desmond Ellis & Walter DeKeserdy's typology [1996, p. 71]):
1) intimate partner femicides, for example: husbands/ex-husbands; lovers/sex partners; ex-lovers/sex partners; boyfriends/ex-boyfriends
2) familial femicides, for example: fathers/stepfathers; brothers/stepbrothers/half-brothers; uncles/stepuncles; grandfathers/stepgrandfathers; fathers-in-law; brothers-in-law
3) femicides by other known perpetrators, for example: male friends of family; male authority figures (teachers, priests, employers); male co-workers
4) stranger femicides, male strangers. (See Russell & Harmes, 2001, Table 2.2, p. 21).
Most of the research to date in the
has been done on intimate partner femicide (e.g., husbands, lovers, boyfriends, and
ex-husbands, ex-lovers, and ex-boyfriends). Other kinds
of femicides include mass femicides, serial femicides, rape femicides, racist
femicides, wife femicides, acquaintance femicides, lover femicides, date
femicides, femicide of prostituted females, drug-related femicides,
"honor" femicides, lesbiphobic femicides, incest-related femicides,
and extrafamilial child sex-abuse-related femicides. These are not discrete categories since a
particular case of femicide may fall into two or even three categories, for
example, a racist, drug-related rape femicide.
The concept of femicide includes covert forms of woman killing such as women being permitted to die because of misogynistic attitudes and/or social institutions. For example, wherever women's right to choose to be mothers is not recognized, thousands of women die every year from botched abortions. Hence, these deaths qualify as femicides.
Other examples of covert femicides include: deaths from unnecessary surgeries such as hysterectomies, genital mutilation (particularly excision and infibulation), experimentation on women's bodies including the use of insufficiently tested methods of birth control, some of which have turned out to be carcinogenic; dangerous marriage practices such as those in which extremely young females are married to much older men, some of whom die as a result of forced sexual intercourse; and the deliberate preference given to boy children in many cultures resulting in countless female deaths from neglect, illness and starvation in numerous impoverished nations, such as China and India.
The Impact of My Definition of Femicide
It was my intention in resurrecting the term femicide to refer to killings of females by males because they are females, that this politicization of this widespread and most extreme form of male violence against women and girls would mobilize feminists to initiate organizations to campaign to raise public awareness about these misogynist crimes, and to try to combat them. Among other things, I hoped that anti-femicide organizations would struggle to pressure the government to pass laws that would sentence femicide perpetrators to more severe prison terms than perpetrators of non-femicidal murders.
Although there is as yet only minimal awareness of femicide in the
and most other
countries, the term is now widely used in many Latin American countries, and
others that I hope to hear about at this meeting. United States
Another potential impact of the term femicide is that it will result in the reconceptualization of women's deaths as a result of AIDS and abortion -- to name but two examples. In chapter 9 of my book, Femicide in Global Perspective, I have argued that AIDS is a form of mass femicide because male sexism is the major cause of women contracting this fatal disease. My analysis focuses on
Southern Africa, where AIDS is particularly prevalent.
For example, because of male promiscuity and male domination of their families, combined with their feelings of entitlement to insist on unprotected sex with their wives and other female partners, these females become infected with AIDS when their husbands and non-marital partners are infected with this disease.
Reconceptualizing AIDS as a form of mass femicide reveals the inadequacy of exclusively pharmaceutical approaches to this lethal infection. To combat AIDS, male sexism must also be combatted. And males who negligently or deliberately infect women and children with AIDS must be tried for murderous femicide.
Priorities For Addressing Femicide
I would like to suggest four major priorities for femicide researchers to focus on:
1) Research to ascertain the ratios of femicidal to non-femicidal murders. If the ratio of all types of murders (in contrast to a particular type of murder, such as intimate partner murders) were found to be approximately 75 femicides for every 100 murders, then this could be helpful in using the official statistics on murder to estimate the prevalence of femicide -- as I have defined it.
2) Compiling testimonies about, or accounts of femicides about which friends, parents, other family members, and/or others have considerable knowledge, as well as testimonies by the victims of attempted femicides. I consider this a priority topic because I believe that publicizing personal "stories" of violence against women and girls is the most effective way to touch peoples' hearts and motivate them to act to combat these crimes.
3) Research that would be useful to activists organized to combat femicide.
4) Research on how to mobilize feminist movements to fight femicide -- the most extreme form of femicide, currently neglected by feminist anti-violence activists in the
United States, the , and many other countries. UK
5) Research on the forms of femicide of most concern to the activists, government, other policy makers and researchers in the societies where researchers are located, for example, "honor femicides" in many Moslem countries, "dowry femicides" in
rape/torture/mutilation femicides in Juarez, Mexico, and . Guatemala
6) Research on femicidal pornography and other mass media that condones or promotes femicide.
While I consider these six research priorities of vital importance, I believe that raising public awareness and concern about femicide is a greater priority -- given how relatively few feminists in most countries have embraced this concept. Consequently few feminists have recognized the importance of politicizing the widespread killing of females by males because they are female, and setting up organizations to combat this form of terrorizing women and girls.
I believe that the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women that occurred in
from March 4-8
in 1976 provides an excellent example of how effective this method of
consciousness-raising can be. More
specifically, I recommend that local, national and international Tribunals on
Femicide should be organized in those countries where there is already
considerable awareness about femicide, as in several Latin American countries,
and where there are feminists who can take on this important task. Brussels
1. The following dictionaries define femicide in the same way as the Oxford English Dictionary, (2nd edition) 1989, i.e., as "the killing of a woman:" A New English Dictionary on Historical Principle, 1901; Black's Law Dictionary (6th edition), 1990; Bouvier's Law Dictionary and Concise Encyclopedia (3rd edition), 1914; The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (2nd edition), 1987; Satirical View London, 1801; and Wharton Law Lexicon (the London edition), 1848.
When the terms femicide and female homicide are used synonymously, this obliterates any information about whether the gender of the victim is salient to the crime. This is the equivalent of equating racist homicides with all black homicides. Therefore it necessitates the invention of another new word or phrase to differentiate sexist homicides from non-sexist homicides. However, the researchers who have defined femicide in this apolitical way have not attempted to do. Indeed, they show no awareness of this problem.
Caputi, Jane. (l987). The Age of Sex Crime.
IN: Popular Press. Bowling
Green State University
Caputi, Jane & Russell, Diana E. H. (1990, September/October). Femicide: Speaking the unspeakable. Ms., 1(2), 34-37.
Corry, John. (1801). The Satirical Review of
Commencement of the Nineteenth Century. London : G. Kearsley. London
Ellis, Desmond & DeKeseredy, Walter. (1996). Homicide and femicide. In Desmond Ellis & Walter DeKeseredy, The Wrong Stuff: An Introduction to the Sociological Study of Deviance.
Ontario: . Allyn
MacNish, William. (1827). The confessions of an unexecuted femicide. (3rd ed., pp. 1-24) Glasgow: W. R. M=Phun, Trongate.
Russell, Diana E. H. & Van de Ven, Nicole. (Eds.). (1976). Crimes Against Women: The Proceedings of the International Tribunal.
: Frog in the Well. East Palo Alto, CA
Russell, D.E.H. Femicide: The murder of wives. Chapter 21 in D.E.H. Russell, Rape in Marriage. Revised/expanded edition.
Press, 1990. pp. 286-299. Indiana University
Russell, D.E.H. AIDS as mass femicide: focus on
. In Diana
E. H. Russell & Roberta A.Harmes (Eds.), Femicide in Global Perspective. South Africa :
Teacher's College Press, 2001, pp
100-114. New York, NY
The American heritage dictionary (3rd Ed.). (1992).
Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston
English Dictionary (2nd ed., vol. 5, p.
825). (1989). Oxford :
Clarendon Press. Oxford
Wharton, John Jane Smith. (1987). The law lexicon, or, dictionary of jurisprudence: Explaining all the technical words and phrases employed in the several departments of English law, including also the various legal terms used in commercial transactions, together with an explanatory as well as literal translation of the Latin maxims contained in the writings of the ancient and modern commentators. (The London Edition, p. 382).
F. B. Rothman. (Reprint Originally published: Harrisburg, Pa.: I.G. M'Kinley
& J.M.G. Lescure, 1848). Littleton, CO
Russell's Publications on Femicide
Russell, D.E.H. and R. Harmes. Eds. Femicide in Global Perspective.
: Teachers College Press, 2001. New
Feminicidio: Una Perspective Global. Introduction to the Spanish edition by Marcela Lagarde y de los Rios. Translated into Spanish by Guillermo Vega Saragoza. Mexico, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, 2006.
Radford, J., and Russell, D.E.H. (Eds.). Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing.
Twayne Publishers, 1992, and : Open
University Press, 1992. Out of
Print. Reprinted by UMI, Books on
England 300 North Zeeb Road, PO
Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-9937,
Russell, D.E.H., and Radford, J. (Eds.). Feminicidio: La Politica del Asesinato de las Mujeres. Introduction to the Spanish edition by Marcela Lagarde y de los Rios. Translated into Spanish by Tlatolli Ollin. Mexico, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, 2006.
Russell, D.E.H. Femicide: The murder of wives. Chapter 21 in D.E.H. Russell, Rape in Marriage. Revised/expanded edition.
Press, 1990. pp. 286-299. Indiana University
Russell, D.E.H. Femicide. In H. Tierney (Ed.), Women's Studies Encyclopedia. Second revised and expanded edition.
Press, 1998. Greenwood
Caputi, J. & D.E.H. Russell. Femicide: Speaking the unspeakable. Ms.: The World of Women, Vol. 1, No. 2, September/October 1990, pp. 34-37.
Caputi, J. & D.E.H. Russell. Femicide: Sexist terrorism against women. In Jill Radford and D.E.H. Russell (Eds.), Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing.
Publishers, 1992, pp.13-24. New
Russell, D.E.H. Femicide in
increasing prevalence of a devastating crime.
La Nacion (National Newspaper in Chile ), October 3, 2007. Chile
Russell, D.E.H. Femicidio: La politica
del asesinato de mujeres (Femicide: The politics of killing
females), La Nacion (National Newspaper in ), November 24, 2006 http://www.lanacion.cl/prontus_noticias/site/artic/20061123/pags/20061123220239.htm Chile
Russell, D.E.H. Femicidio: La politica
Voir Diana E. H. Russell, Ph.D. http://www.dianarussell.com/index.html
for Meeting on Strengthening Understanding of Femicide
Washington D.C. Revised May 5, 2008
A noter ouvrage collectif Femicide- The politics of woman killing, Jill Radford and Diana E. H. Russel, 1992 http://www.dianarussell.com/f/femicde(small).pdf
"How much of this truth can I bear to see and still live unblinded?" -- Audre Lorde, 1981. http://www.univers-l.com/personnalite_audre_lorde.html
"All women are at risk of femicide ... " -- Jacqueline Campbell, 1992, p. 11 https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/jr000250e.pdf
"All instances of sexual terror serve as lessons for all women." -- Jane Caputi, 1987, 47. http://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/interv/caputi.html
Eléments de biographie en espagnol - http://www.feminicidio.net/articulos-informes-estadisticas-sobre-violencia-de-genero/2-feminicidio/80-DIANA%20RUSSELL,%20AUTORA%20DEL%20T%C3%89RMINO.html
- Fondamentaux de ce journal ethnographique
Cartographie katogynique http://susaufeminicides.blogspot.fr/p/cest-de-la-carte-tentative-darticle.html
Chiffres, estimations et recensement. http://susaufeminicides.blogspot.fr/2012/01/combien.html
Reproduction autorisée à condition de citer les liens © Copyright- Toute citation de cet article doit être de contexte, précise, avec date de version, blog "Thémis - Haro sur les fémincides et androcides dans le monde" http://susaufeminicides.blogspot.fr " le lien exact du document & id. en cas d'usage du logotype montage photographique "Eradication des féminicides - Larmes de sang" CGMD © Christine Gamita Tous droits réservés illimités international - Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to " Thémis - Haro sur les fémincides et androcides dans le monde http://susaufeminicides.blogspot.fr " with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. However, no link is to be reproduced on slanderous motives and/or miscategorization. Therefore, before any use of network Tools such as scoop-it or pinterest, the author’s permission is required. Il est essentiel lors de toute utilisation de cette production ou partie de cette production de préciser la source : le lien et l’auteure de l’article, ponctuation adéquate encadrant la citation -entre guillemets- et dans son contexte, sans distorsion ni manipulation ( article L122-5, du code de la propriété intellectuelle) . La permission formulée et explicite de l’auteure est également exigée. De la même manière, concepts, termes et approches empruntés à l’auteure du blog doivent être mentionnés comme tels- références adéquates. En vertu du code de la propriété intellectuelle stipulant à l’article L121-1,‘ L’auteur jouit du droit au respect de son nom, de sa qualité et de son oeuvre. Ce droit est attaché à sa personne. Il est perpétuel, inaliénable et imprescriptible.’ Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to "Thémis - Haro sur les fémincides et androcides dans le monde" http://susaufeminicides.blogspot.fr with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. However, no link is to be reproduced on slanderous motives and/or miscategorization. Therefore, before any use of network Tools such as scoop-it or pinterest & so, the author’s permission is required.Castellano Castellano(España) Català Dansk Deutsch English Esperanto français Galego hrvatski Indonesia Italiano Lietuvių Magyar Melayu Nederlands Norsk polski Português Português (BR) Suomeksi svenska Türkçeíslenska česky Ελληνικά русский українська العربية 日本語 華語 (台灣)