Girls in Gangland

Why Gangs?

Gang mentality has often fascinated me. Not in the fascination of interest but the fascination of confusion. Why on earth would someone do that? And for what? To simply prove loyalty?

Well of course, there is so much more behind it. The need for family, belonging and security are profound human needs and everyone in this world craves them. No one likes to be alone. To many, bad company is better than none. Many people (many do, not all) who go into gangs come from poor economic backgrounds with a dysfunctional household. For women, it works the same way as it does for men who join gangs — they want security, a sense of familial belonging, and some source of excitement that breaks the rules. Something that proves their “hardness”. The “Gangs Or Us” features some very interesting information on why women go in, what they sometimes have to do to “jump in” or “jump out”, and features a documentary on the subject as well.

The Violent Woman

What many people, to this day, still have trouble swallowing is that women are capable of destruction to the same point as men are. Violence is not gender-specific. For a long time, and also to this day, people have a hard time understanding that women can also rape. An interesting article from South Africa here, about a group of women going around randomly raping men.

Briefly on the Duality of Self and the Violent Woman

First, a song for Thelma. The Misfits – “London Dungeon”

That’s better.

In “A Drop in the Mercury“, Thelma has a deep, emotional issue with the existence of society’s rules. Many people take comfort in them, others see them as a veil of stability that’s all bullshit. And how many of us actually follow the rules of society because we understand them? How many of us do what we do to be “normal” and “acceptible” because we don’t want the consequences?

Are We Naturally Good or Bad or Just Inbetween?

“You’re answering to some kind of mommy and daddy your whole damn life. Why’s it so bad to be bad if you’re born that way?” Thelma says. 

It’s a point that came up during a discussion with a friend about human nature: what happens if someone’s just inherently bad? Often people attribute such a thing to mental illness or demonic possession, or a shitty job on behalf of someone’s early caretakers for their lack of understanding of how things “should” be. I’ve always thought that maybe it’s just based off of the way things feel; that demonstrations of kindness are naturally attractive rather than punching someone for the fuck of it. But then there’s that word again — naturally. It’s been seen in children that have been abused with no correction later in life, that if you learn violence is “okay” or “normal”, you’re quite capable of carrying that through to your adult life. So then is it a nurture thing instead. 

Personally I feel we are inherently both. The ying yang is present in all things, why not that? We’re certainly capable of good and terrible things as humans. In the opening line of the essay, “Are Human Beings Inherently Good or Evil?”, “EAM” writes:

“The nature of humankind has been explored endlessly, with no definitive answers.”

Well of course — we’re too close! We’re in it. And God knows, it’s often impossible to come to clear conclusions about anything when you’re in the mix.  

In Durkheim’s “The Dualism of Human Nature and Its Social Conditions”, (PDF link), the conclusion points to further understanding of human nature coinciding with growth of the population. And as the world filled with more people … what happened? Seems to me we’ve gotten angry since Emile wrote that one.  

Violence and Woman

While perusing the internet for material for this entry, I found how often many articles and personal reactions included the word “we”, yet rarely really talked about the lives of women. The fact of the matter is, people find it much more “cool” or even “amusing” and “sexy” to see a woman fight, or for her to rob a bank, or to be a serial killer. Why? Is it because she’s standing up for herself in some way? Controling something? Being unruly, unpredictable, plain weird? Or because she’s adopting qualities that are seemingly more inherent in a man — violence?

“There are as many violent women as men, but there’s a lot of money in hating men, particularly in the United States — millions of dollars. It isn’t a politically good idea to threaten the huge budgets for women’s refuges by saying that some of the women who go into them aren’t total victims.”

That compelling little statement was made by David Thomas in the book Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men. The talk show, magazine, publishing and “woman industry” indeed has as much to do with perpetuating the woman = victim, man = BAD! scenario. But why? Is it something so simple as wanting to “get back” at men? Is it that women’s roles in gender violence are more subtle — more mental than outright and physical? Or is it that the capability of retaliation and plain innate, violent motivation, is just simply ignored?

In When She Was Bad … Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, the issue of women not being inherently violent is tackled primarily through the child-murder angle, but still discusses the fact that women can be just as violent — if not moreso — than men. What makes us sweep the violent woman under the rug? I don’t even think it’s a preservation of “innocence”, so much as it is an instinctual preservation of “mother” — protection, continuation of life, foundation of comfort and/or family. If that symbol begins to look like the things we weild it against, like violence, war, anger, hatred, etc., then that has to be dealt with, even if that symbol’s imperfections are simply inhere to her humanity. 


Tomorrow: Women criminals and life in women’s prisons — the psychology, and the hierarchy that Thelma imagined.