by Paul Goetz
It’s interesting to think of a nation’s history in terms of some of
the images portrayed by various methods, both overt and subliminal. I guess
one could call that a form of “art history.” With the advent
of mass media, art history will undoubtedly take on a new twist. I don’t
envy future art history teachers. All cultures have their own myriad of
dichotomies. The macabre and brutal side by side with the beautiful and
innocent. Images of finely prepared meals in restaurants alongside those
of bloody slaughter houses. Images of the rich and famous alongside
those of festering ghettos or the homeless.
The United States hasn’t been around all that long. Many of the more
idyllic images from the past are those Norman Rockwell paintings that
seem deeply ingrained on the American psyche.
After Norman Rockwell came images of the American family with television
shows like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It To Beaver. They set a kind
of standard and established a goal for many Americans. Especially the white
middle class folks and hopefuls. And, of course, who can forget all those
wonderful fairy tales? Fairy tales make a strong impression on children.
Here they start to see and learn gender roles – who does what. Snow White,
Cinderella, and Prince Charming. What lovely stories and powerful images.
Nowadays, thanks to technology, mainstream American women routinely
remove most of the hair from their bodies, not only for their own erotic
pleasures, but so that society still thinks of them in terms of childhood
innocence, and those fairy tale images. Smooth and innocent as a baby.
Panty hose are perhaps the most readily available commodity in the United
States today. You can get them at any grocery store, most gas stations,
and all drug stores.
In America images of women and body hair don’t mix. Body hair suggests
the sort of stuff we don’t like to talk about. When’s the last time you
can remember seeing a picture in mainstream media of a woman with underarm
or leg hair? That’s as taboo as seeing a picture of a man with any hint
of genitalia. America doesn’t like to admit that women have body hair and
that men have genitals. Look at all the women on the covers of all the
magazines strategically located next to the check out aisle in your grocery
store. See any hairy ones? And people with no hair are sweet and innocent.
On the June 19, 1996, police in Rowlett, Texas charged Darlie Routier
with brutally killing her two young sons. She had concocted a false story,
blaming some fictitious man, similar to Susan Smith a year earlier. It
seems most ironic that on the same day President Clinton and the US Department
of Justice announced $46 million in grants to fight domestic violence,
mostly for battered women’s shelters. “Domestic violence fills our
emergency rooms with injured and our shelters with families,” said
HHS Secretary Donna Shalala after an earlier release of grant money. “These
grants will help provide the lifeline to safety for domestic violence victims
and their children.” Also about the same day, a grand jury in Rochester,
MN indicted Janet Olson, age 29, on two counts of first degree murder and
two counts of second degree murder in the June first suffocation deaths of
her 7- and 22-month old daughters.
The grants won’t do much for the Routier boys, however, or the Olson
girls, or the Smith boys, or future kids that will die at the hands of
their mothers. And die they do. I recall reading several cases recently
about kids being thrown off a bridge by their mother. They were tiny briefs,
easily overlooked. Most tidbits of such information appear as tiny briefs,
or perhaps a small article, usually on a back page. Sometimes there is
a larger article in the local paper, but it is rarely carried on any national
level. And, after the initial notice of the incident, there is frequently
no coverage of the legal procedure, trial, plea bargain, etc. even at the
local level. Maybe, a year or two later, there will again be a tiny brief
on a back page something like, “Mom gets two year sentence and five
years probation in death of infants.”
Smash gurgle gurgle go the kids as the nation’s leaders continue in
fairy tale denial. I used to think it was sad that the President of the
United States and other high ranking officials, along with most of the
mainstream media, refuse to tell the public the truth about numbers of
mothers killing and abusing children and other statistics about violence
by women. They refuse to even use terms such as “domestic violence” in
articles that do report on acts of violence by women. Now I think it’s
just plain criminal.
It’s been over 20 years since widely respected researchers such as Murray
Straus and Richard Gelles started to show that women are just as prone
to violence as men, and 18 years since Suzanne Steinmetz published The
Battered Husband Syndrome, for which she was rewarded with threats, by
women. However, only with rare exception will any media source tell all
the facts or the truth. John Leo, in US News and World Report (ON SOCIETY
5-13-96), states, “…feminists made domestic violence a political
issue… the modern newsroom is supportive of feminism, news stories on
domestic violence are carefully crafted, consistently unreliable, and often
Of all children killed by a parent, 89.7% were killed by their mother.
There are many reports and statistics that are not openly presented
to the public. I’ve yet to hear either the Clinton Gang or the Dole Gang
mention reports such as one from Child Protection Services in Louisiana
which shows that from 1989 through and including 1992, of all children
killed by a parent, 89.7% were killed by their mother. Or, a 1994 report
from the US Department of Justice which shows that mothers kill their
own children six times more often than the biological fathers do: 55% to 9%.
The Department of Justice estimated that 2,475 children were murdered in
I can’t recall one speech or press release, ever, by any public official
or agency head addressing the issues of violence by women. This denial
takes form both in partial truths and misrepresentation of known facts.
Where are the grants to combat violence by women?
One of the reporters covering the Routier murders talked with Peter
Smerick of the FBI, a specialist in profiling criminals, who was quoted
as saying, “All of us are like diamonds; we have different facets.”
One mark of maturity is admitting and accepting both dark and light
and the many facets of humanity. Until we begin to allocate the resources
necessary to address the issues related to violence by women, children like
the Routier boys and the Smith boys will continue to die at the hands of
their own mothers. It’s about time we got past the Gomer Pyle “GOLLY
GEE” mentality. Denial and failure to allocate resources for a significant
problem only leads to more suffering.
This is a society in which men and women alike glamorize and objectify
the female by artifice, by dressing them in dainty shoes, fragile clothes
and cosmetics, by creating cleavage with push up bras, by making them alluring
and touchable with panty hose and shiny fabrics, and by covering their genitals
with doilies. This is a society which clings desperately to fairy tale images. It is high time both men and women faced the truth: Women may be less muscular, but they can be just as brutal and just as much creatures of violence as men.
On February 1, 1997, about six months after this article was written, a jury
found Darlie Routier guilty by of capital murder for the death
of her youngest son, five year old Damon. It took the jury of seven women
and five men about ten hours to reach the verdict. It took the jury only
about four hours to then agree to recommend the death penalty, and on February
4, 1997, she became the seventh woman on death row in Texas.
The trial was covered extensively by The Houston Chronicle and other
Texas newspapers, as well as by Associated Press. Most other newspapers
around the nation, however, chose not to print most of what Associated
Press reported, saying very little, if anything, about the incident, the trial, and the outcome. After the death sentence some papers carried a tiny brief of about 70 words or a small article, somewhere around page 13. There
are rumors of two true-crime books in the making.
On February 7, 1997, Ms. Routier’s family members used the Maury Povich
Show to assail prosecution evidence and launch their national campaign
in which they hope to defend Ms. Routier’s reputation while she is locked
A few weeks after being sentenced to death row, Ms. Routier was featured
on Prime Time Live, who seemed to present a fairly unbiased report on the
matter, giving relatively equal time to Ms. Routier and the prosecution,
and making no judgment themselves. No one on the show mentioned any of
the specific testimony from the trial.
After the show I thought for awhile, and I cannot recall ever seeing
a man who had just recently been sent to death row, featured on Prime Time Live. I can’t imagine such a man, a convicted child murderer, getting a personal interview done in the way the interview with this woman was. She was approached in a quite sympathetic manner, pointing out that she was in the process of appealing, and claiming to be innocent.
Testimony at the trial from acquaintances, friends, and a maid, included
the following (as reported by The Houston Chronicle and Associated Press):
- Ms. Routier “celebrated Mother’s Day with male strippers, publicly humiliated her children and supplied a 16-year-old baby sitter with marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes….” and “laughed it off” when the propriety of the matter was brought to her attention.
- Ms. Routier “harshly disciplined her boys in public.”
- Ms. Routier made comments prior to the boys deaths about needing $10,000 to get out of debt, and when offered condolence about the cost of the funerals said she wasn’t worried because she would collect $5000 each on the boys’ insurance policies. That testimony elicited gasps in the courtroom.
- At her son’s fifth birthday party, when he squirted her with a water pistol she grabbed it away from him and smashed it with a piece of the birthday cake. And, when he appeared angry, in front of the other parents, who had suddenly stopped laughing, she told him he “got what he deserved.”
On about the 13th of May, 1997 Janet Olson of Rochester, MN pleaded
guilty to second degree murder in the deaths of her 7- and 22-month old
daughters. She reached a plea bargain, avoided a jury trial, and, technically,
did not admit guilt. How someone can plead guilty to second degree murder
without admitting guilt is perhaps another story for another day. On May
17, 1996, The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the plea in a small article
on page 12, the back page of section A.
Copyright 1996-1997 Paul F. Goetz
View other articles by Paul Goetz .