What Casey Anthony Taught us about Motherhood
So Casey Anthony was acquitted.
Here’s the truth: we spent a lot of time on this case, but none of us sat in/watched the trial for 6-8 weeks straight. Instead, we saw the entire trial through the eyes of Nancy Grace, a sensationalist, muckraking “journalist” who effectively (er…ineffectively) hanged “tot mom” before the trial had even begun.
A lot of people think that Anthony’s acquittal suggests we’re racist; a black woman would NEVER have gotten off like this. I tend to agree – I think a black woman would have been in even deeper shit than Casey was in (completely notwithstanding the fact that Casey’s daughter was also white – can you imagine the media caring if this child had been black? that shit happens all the time, right? no big).
But I think the real problem – the one that actually existed in this trial and not just in our theoretical world where we speculate about “what ifs” – is that Casey Anthony was almost sentenced to death for being a slut and a bad mother. We gave her a nickname that reminded us how immature she is and then decided she should die for going to clubs and drinking.
Before you get concerned, I’m not trying to argue that child abuse and neglect aren’t very real, very prevalent, and absolutely terrible for the children who are forced to suffer these conditions. According to Childhelp, an organization that works to prevent child abuse, five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
Casey Anthony my have been a neglectful mother. She may have been an abusive mother. She may have killed her daughter. But from what I understand, that wasn’t the prosecution’s case, and it certainly wasn’t the case made to the American public by Nancy Grace. The case was that Casey wanted to be free to “live the good life.” Or something. But going to clubs – before or after disappearance or death – is not a crime. Drinking is not a crime. And if Casey Anthony had left her child with a babysitter or nanny (which appears not to be the case), the arguments used by the prosecution and certain elements of the media wouldn’t have had to change – that is, no one said, “Casey left her daughter home alone.” They said, “Casey went to clubs.”
This is pretty embarrassing for us, I think, and says a lot about how we view motherhood in this country. That we were willing to convict Casey for being a club-goer AND a mom suggests a lot more about us than the “it would have been different if Casey were a black woman” argument. We are simply not okay with certain types of mothers and certain types of motherhood. Going to clubs, assuming there is supervision (which her parents claimed to constantly provide, and which I would have severely contested if I were the defense given that the grandparents themselves went a month before calling police), is not okay with the American populace because we associate clubs with dancing and drinking and hooking up.
At what point is it necessary for a woman to stop being a woman and turn 100% into a mother? At what point does she have to give up everything for her child?
If Casey Anthony had truly left her daughter with a responsible babysitter, or her parents, to go to a club, do you really think this case would have looked any different?
I know, I know. There’s other elements at play here. For one, Casey was convicted of lying. A lot.
But I’m terrified about the assumptions we’ve made about Casey Anthony and what that means for future mothers who lose their children (and, frankly, for those who are lucky enough not to lose their children). What else should women, and in particular, single women, give up for their children? They’re clearly not supposed to have lives. What about careers? What about education?
Casey Anthony is obviously a very disturbed woman. She needs help. Her way of dealing with her missing daughter – whether or not Casey killed her – was to lie and go to clubs a lot. That’s not healthy. She was probably scared and incredibly upset. This does not, does not mean she killed that daughter. Might she have? Given the evidence and my own understand of the trial (thanks to Nancy Grace!), I’d say of course. Is this enough to convict her? Fuck no.
“Tot mom” was 22, 23? when her daughter was reported missing. Nancy Grace’s nickname constantly reminds us how young and immature Casey Anthony is, in effect pointing a finger at all young mothers. Not all young mothers are immature – many are competent, capable, and happy. And not all young mothers wanted their children – some were raped or abused. Some were left alone by partners who deserted them. Some just don’t know that they had, or have, other options and resources, and some just don’t have those resources.
Casey Anthony’s trial could have been the opportunity for a national discussion on the difficulties of motherhood and the unrealistic expectations we have for single twenty-somethings who don’t know how to raise children but are all but forced to do so anyway. We could have provided resources; we could have turned Caylee Anthony’s memory into programs to help women and their children instead of a gruesome debate about whether these women love their daughters enough.
If you all care about Caylee so much, do something about it. Stop whining about how this is a misappropriation of justice or whatever the hell everyone’s saying and help young mothers. Give women the resources to make the decisions about whether or not motherhood is right for them. We don’t know what happened – but if it’s really what you think it was, create the conditions so that it doesn’t ever happen again.