Slenderman and the Violence of Women
Inspired by the "Slenderman" stabbing, in which two 12-year-old girls allegedly tried to murder their friend as a tribute to a fictional character, today The New Republic has an interesting piece on female psychology. The author, Rebecca Traister, writes:
What's interesting about the case, or at least the little we know about it so far, is not that it's an example of a new and looming online threat. Rather, it appears to echo patterns of behavior -- belief in culturally-supported fantasies, tightly-cathected bonds between young women, an intensity of connection that has occasionally led to violence -- that have occurred repeatedly, in various forms, throughout history and around the world. And they happen outside the heterosexual framework we use to understand Rodgers' misogynistic rampage. This crime is one that reminds us of the central role that homosocial bonding plays in the lives of the many young women who spend their adolescent years battling, and occasionally "seeing," their own demons.
Traister does a terrific job of explaining this pattern and never denies that female killers are a small minority of all killers. But given the headline TNR ran with -- "The Slenderman Stabbing Shows Girls Will Be Girls, Too" -- I thought it would be helpful to pull some numbers together on age, gender, and violence.
In fact, the Slenderman incident is extremely unusual, thanks to both the age and the sex of those arrested for the crime. Here's a chart I made from FBI data on murder offenders whose age and sex were known:
Overall, women are only 11 percent of these offenders, and individuals 16 and under are only 4 percent (they're around 20 percent of the general population). There were only 20 known offenders age 12 and under in 2012, and 16 were boys. Here's a chart that zooms in -- even cutting off the age at 16, the 12-and-under categories are practically nonexistent:
This is how a single incident can become national news in a country with 300 million people and more than 1,000 homicides a month. It's fascinating because it's so unusual -- but also because it's so unusual, it doesn't serve as a very good starting point for debating how to reduce violence in general.
Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen