Jewish World Review July 2, 2001 / 11 Tamuz, 5761
Is Yates on the road to feminist stardom?
PREDICTABLY, Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who confessed to
killing her five young children, is becoming an icon in liberal feminist
ideology, which contends that women are hounded by oppressive and
overwhelming forces - forces that can lead to murder. Not yet a heroine
of the Lorena Bobbitt variety - although her husband is already being
described as "demanding" - Yates has quickly gone from being viewed as
the author of an incomprehensible atrocity to a casualty in the
psychological war of modern motherhood.
Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen finds resonance in the
story: "Every mother I've asked about the Yates case has the same
reaction. She's appalled; she's aghast. And then she gets this look. And
the look says that at some forbidden level, she understands. Just
because you love people doesn't mean that taking care of them day in and
day out isn't often hard, and sometimes even horrible."
Quindlen dismisses the sympathy and respect implied in the
adage, "G-d could not be everywhere, so he made mothers," as a cosmic
joke designed to obscure the "dark side of being a surrogate deity."
Let's be clear: According to Yates' husband, parents,
siblings, in-laws and doctors, she is mentally ill. Some family members
suggest that her illness began before her first child was born. By her
own comments, Yates had been planning the murders "for months" - long
before she was taken off the anti-psychotic drug, Haldol. She was not
"isolated" as some suggest, but surrounded by close relatives. Indeed,
the day of the killings, Yates' mother-in-law was supposed to babysit.
What has not surfaced is any explanation of why Yates hid her irrational
fantasies from her husband and doctor. That she was in ongoing
psychiatric care deepens rather than illuminates the mystery of her
A jury will decide Yates' legal culpability, whether at any
point her rational mind was capable of averting disaster. A judge will
decide whether she is allowed conjugal visits. In the meantime, the
circumstances of her crime are incomplete and merely descriptive. Yates
is no more symbolic of modern motherhood than a deranged postal worker
or domestic terrorist.
Pity her, perhaps. Understand her,
JWR contributor Amy Holmes is a Washington-based writer. To comment, click here.
05/07/01: Now they're 'profiling' presidents' daughters?
© 2001, Amy Holmes