Bad mothers

Hmm. After having expressed blogged horror about the women who goaded toddlers to fight, I am a bit disturbed by the way this case is getting reported now.

The women are now getting demonised as representative sub-class trash across all the media. Photographs of them leaving court have all the visual cues that identify them as “scum” to middle England and to the respectable working class – the clothes, the smoking, the visible navel adornments, their facial expressions, the unconscious visual references to the gangs of binge-drinking raucous women that are supposed to be menacing our cities.

I now know much more about their relationships and intelligence and mental health and even suicide attempts than I know about the people who live in my street. Possibly more than I know about myself.

It seems clear that their crime was treated much less severely by the courts than would have been the case if they were men. However, at least men would never have been subject to this level of social condemnation. It may indeed feel better from the women’s point of view to have become evil celebs than to have gone to jail. Celebrity of any kind is supposed to be what most people will do anything to achieve.

However, the whole incident leaves an unpleasant taste. Do we always have to choose female scapegoats for our social shortcomings?

Jade Goody and the unpleasant Big Brother “celebs” carried the weight of responsibility for the racism in our society a couple of months back. Now these women are to relieve our guilt by carrying our social responsibility for mistreating our offspring.

I am sure we can all feel much better about ourselves now, knowing that we aren’t as rubbish as them. We’re cleverer, better-educated, less self-destructive. My god, we even have better taste in clothes. So, the rest of us can’t be messing up our own kids.

It’s a ludicrous sentence, obviously. Ironically, one reason for not jailing them was that they have kids. It’s very hard to know what the solution is, though. Sending the women to jail and putting their kids in care doesn’t offer the kids much hope. However, at least it has the merit of applying a penalty for their crime rather than turning them into publicly pilloried “bad mother” figures, which – if there’s any truth in the mental fragility attributed to these women by their defence – could lead to them falling off the last rung of the depression ladder.

Subjecting the families to heavy duty social intervention seems favourite but, so much for individual liberty… That sets a dangerous precedent for any people who don’t fit the current social models of normality or follow the latest fashions in child-rearing – which, given the new family and educational authoritarianism, could mean a huge number of us.

The law doesn’t let the media name children who are victims or perpetrators of crime. It wouldn’t take a degree in rocket science or brain surgery for anyone who recognises the mothers to piece together the identity of these children. So these kids and the other children of these women are about to be doubly damaged. They’ve already been brought up by the sort of parents who are both perpetual victims and victimisers. They are now going to be identified for the rest of their childhoods as the kids in this case.