Friday, May 29, 2009

“Mild Mannered” Grandfather Stabs Cheating Wife

image That is the “gentle” face of an aggrieved man.  Seldom have I read about a more sympathetic person.   This poor sweet grandfather was happily looking forward to his golden years with his wife of  35 years, when he experienced a totally understandable “moment  of madness .”  Brian Gibbs has admitted to wounding with intent and was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

What could have driven this clearly “mild mannered mannered” man to such image extreme action?   Surely he must have perceived a threat to cause him to throw a woman down a flight of stairs and then stab her repeatedly in the neck with a pair of hairdressing scissors. This woman was none other than his wife of 35 years and her “crime,” was having an ongoing affair with his former best friend.  It seems Catherine Gibbs decided to end her 35 year marriage and this was more than the supposedly “mild mannered” grandfather could take.

Even the sentencing  Judge, Peter Thornton was full of empathy for the poor man.

"This attack, however inexplicable in its ferocity, did have an explanation.

"Your anger and your jealousy at her infidelity and your fear of losing her no doubt caused acute stress for you and led you to committing this offence. You are normally a quiet, non-violent, hard-working family man. This is a sad case and you acted completely out of character."

I’m amazed that he gave him such a long sentence considering the mitigating circumstances.  Everyone knows that sympathizing with the victim in Western society is unacceptable.  If said victim is a woman then surely she must always carry part of the burden for failing to be appropriately submissive, or sexually pure, or for having the unmitigated gall to believe in bodily integrity.  Surely we must acknowledge Ms. Gibbs responsibility, she did after all have an extra-marital affair in a patriarchal world that long ago determined that women are to submit to the authority of men.

Whether “out of character“ or not, what this man did was attempted murder and 4 years for this crime only emboldens those who believe it is their right to be violent against women.   Infidelity is certainly hurtful and morally wrong, however it should not cost someone their life.  In this case I tend to agree with Liss over at shakesville, that had this same crime been committed by a woman such leniency would not have offered. 

I further believe that the race of Gibbs also played a factor in his light sentencing.   Unlike MOC, when White men are violent it is usually seen as an aberration because of the understanding of whiteness as good and rationale.  Socially a violent identity has been attached to bodies of color and therefore when they commit acts that are violent is is ascribed to a “natural instinct”.  We are taught not to fear White men though they are wife beaters, pedophiles, rapists, and murderers; instead the image of danger is the unknown man of color hiding in the bushes, who is unable to control his baser instincts.  Such is the nature of white privilege that even in guilt it can still function as a mitigating factor. 

Imagine this same incident occurring except with Gibbs being a man of color and attempting to murder his white wife.  Little to no consideration would be given to her infidelity as society and the Judge would have deemed it in the best interests of all that he made to face the full weight of the law.  In this case the whiteness of Catherine Gibbs would work to ensure that she be properly ascribed victim status.   

This incident is troubling because it reveals an interaction between race and gender that affirms white privilege, while denying women freedom from violence.  It should not matter the race of the violent offender; attempting to murder anyone is wrong. 


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