Like so many women, I find myself fascinated by the Amy Bishop case. When I first heard the news, I did a double take. A female neuroscientist charged with shooting up a bunch of her colleagues because she didn’t get tenure?? Huh?? It’s not that workplace rampages aren’t commonplace in the annals of multiple murder. There’s even an expression for them—"going postal." But they’re usually the province of disgruntled, male, loner types. I’d always assumed that kind of rage was driven by testosterone, that women simply didn’t get that angry–and when they did it was a result of abuse. Women killed, yes; they killed their children when they became overwhelmed with the difficulties of parenting, or when they had a psychotic break; they killed those who had abused them, including parents, husbands and boyfriends. They even committed murder during robberies and other criminal acts–and became serial killers, like Aileen Wuornos, who supposedly killed in response to her history of rape and abuse. Women just don’t go postal. It’s not female behavior…or is it?
Well, actually it is female behavior, just not toward bosses or colleagues – at least not so far. The expression "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" is frighteningly accurate if you’ve been one. As a "woman scorned," I know exactly what it feels like to want to murder someone–in this case, my ex who left me for another woman. As the author of a book about divorce, I heard many women express a variation of "If I’d had a gun when he told me he was leaving me for another woman, I would have used it." In fact, many women do use that gun, or other weapon. I wrote about the case of the Texas housewife who, it has been alleged, ran over her cheating orthodontist husband three times with her Mercedes when she caught him at a hotel with another woman. I was one of the many jilted wives all over the land secretly cheering, "You go, girl." I wouldn’t run over my own ex, but I wasn’t above cheering on someone else who did. There are countless cases of women who kill their cheating men, and the women they cheat with.
Amy Bishop fits neatly into that category. She was "a woman scorned," just not by a male lover, but by a group of men who had "cheated" her out of what she thought she was entitled to–tenure and the security and prestige that come with it. Unfortunately she was a woman scorned who happened to have a gun.
Women may start going postal more often now that they have gained power in the workplace, just proving that we women aren’t immune to the same hideously violent behavior as men once we are in the same position to be "scorned" by our bosses. Looked at from this vantage point, what Amy Bishop is charged with isn’t so surprising. Of course, it was still the act of a deranged person – killing out of rage is always, to some extent, inexplicable, no matter who does it or why. But as a "woman scorned," Amy Bishop’s act falls right on the spectrum of people who snap when their sense of entitlement is challenged by reality.