Amanda Knox: Victim of “Outlandish” MisogynyPosted: October 4, 2011
Thank goodness, Amanda Knox is finally free! Apparently the Prosecutors in Perugia still plan to appeal, but the U.S. should never allow her to be returned to Italy. Years ago, I read a long piece in the NYT about this case, and I was horrified at the accusations that were hurled at this young woman. I never thought she would be convicted in the first place, and that it took this long for the conviction to be reversed is an outrage.
Knox was a victim of anti-Americanism, as Joseph Cannon wrote, but most of all she was a victim of fear and hatred of the feminine. There’s a very good article in the LA Times today by Nina Burleigh that I think most women can identify with, although the misogyny and superstition behind the Knox conviction were extremely bizarre. Burleigh writes:
There was almost no material evidence linking Knox or her boyfriend to the murder, and no motive, while there was voluminous evidence — material and circumstantial — implicating a third person, a man, whose name one almost never read in accounts of the case. It became clear that it wasn’t facts but Knox — her femaleness, her Americaness, her beauty — that was driving the case.
In person, in prison and in the media, Knox was subjected to all manner of outlandish, misogynistic behavior. A prison “doctor” (he has never stepped forward publicly) tested a sample of Knox’s blood and then informed her she was HIV-positive, prompting Knox to list every man she’d had sex with. Authorities passed the names of seven men to reporters from the British tabloid pack, who printed it. Soon thereafter, Knox was told the doctor was mistaken and she didn’t have AIDS.
Outside prison walls, Italian criminologists were opining in the media and eventually on the witness stand that because the body had been covered with a blanket, the killer was surely female because such an act was evidence of feminine “pieta.”
Finally, there were the prosecution’s operatic closing arguments, repeated almost verbatim in the appeal that ended last week. Knox was a “luciferina” — a she-devil — capable of a special, female duplicity. She was “dirty on the inside.” Always, even from the defense lawyers, the closing arguments ended with appeals to God, in a medieval courtroom with a peeling fresco of the Madonna on the wall and a crucifix hanging above the judge.
Long story short: Knox returned from visiting her boyfriend on the night after Halloween in 2007 to find her roommate Meredith Kercher raped and murdered. Although, as Nina Burleigh points out in the LA Times article linked above, 1 in 5 women in Europe have been sexually assaulted and 98% of the perpetrators are men, Knox and her boyfriend were immediately suspected.
A local man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the crime in 2008. But that wasn’t good enough for the prosecutor. He made up a story out of whole cloth: the story of an American girl who was a “witch” and had masterminded the Satanic rape and murder of her roommate. Never mind that Knox was a naive young woman who hadn’t even had a boyfriend until she was 19. She had dreamed all her life of going to college in Italy, and had worked multiple jobs during high school to save up the money to go to Perugia. What possible motive could she have had to organize this horrible crime just a a couple of months after she had achieved her dream?
The story of Amanda Knox in Italy is of media, misogyny, mistranslation, misbehavior — but chiefly superstition. Kercher’s death was a terrible but simple act of sexual aggression against a young woman in her home. Yet while a prosecutor in the United States might see only the forensic evidence, the motives and the opportunity — the small-town Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini saw something more. It was a Halloween crime, and that was one of the first clues to register with Mignini, called to the crime scene fresh from celebrating All Souls’ Day, a day when proper Italian families visit their dead.
And on scene was a pale, light-eyed 20-year-old girl who, prosecutors said in their closing arguments last week, had the look of a “she-devil.”
Mignini always included witch fear in his murder theory, and only reluctantly relinquished it. As late as October 2008, a year after the murder, he told a court that the murder “was premeditated and was in addition a ‘rite’ celebrated on the occasion of the night of Halloween. A sexual and sacrificial rite [that] in the intention of the organizers … should have occurred 24 hours earlier” — on Halloween itself — “but on account of a dinner at the house of horrors, organized by Meredith and Amanda’s Italian flatmates, it was postponed for one day.”
Unbelievable! Read the entire article for some startling insights into the roots of Mignini’s fantasies. I guess we should be grateful that church and state are still somewhat separate in the U.S., but for how long?
Finally, yesterday Knox was freed. Here’s the scene in the courtroom:
Knox arrived in Seattle earlier today, where she spoke to supporters:
“I’m a little overwhelmed right now,” Knox said, adding that looking down from the airplane on her flight home was surreal.
“Thanks to everyone who believed in me, who has defended me, who supported my family,” Knox said before tearing up. “My family’s the most important thing right now and i just want to go be with them.”
Knox then appeared to be too overcome with emotions to continue.
I wish her well, and hope she’ll be able to recover from her nightmarish experience. Meanwhile, we have another example of the extreme misogyny that is still so powerful around the world. Dakinikat gave us another reminder in her post about earlier today. We know from what happened to Hillary in 2008 and the attacks on women’s reproductive freedom that have taken place over the past few years that fear and hatred of women is right below the surface here in the U.S. as well.