In the wake of a double homicide, knee-jerk opinion blames mothers and completely erases fathers.
It is, in journalistic terms, a good story. Lucia and Leo Krim, ages six and two, stabbed to death, possibly by their nanny, their bodies discovered by their horrified, grief-stricken mother Marina. In human terms, it’s a horrible tragedy, but that’s a different metric. In journalistic terms, you’ve got a rich New York setting, the bloody stabbing deaths of two innocent children, and the prime suspect is their nanny, who appears to have tried to stab herself to death as well. That’s a Law & Order episode waiting to happen, it’s that juicy a story. It’s the kind of story that turns the real deaths of two real kids into a symbolic passion play that lets everyone act out their worst instincts.
There’s something about the deaths of children that turns people into jerks. Probably because it’s the worst tragedy a parent can imagine, so when they hear about it, the Just World fallacy goes into overdrive. Nobody wants to believe that pointless, arbitrary tragedy can just hit them for no reason, so when we hear of just such a tragedy, we start inventing reasons why that couldn’t happen to us, reasons that usually involve the victim of the tragedy somehow deserving it. There is no upper limit on how cruel these rationalizations can become; the more unpredictable the tragedy, the more appalling the reason must be why the victim had it coming. Thus we have SF Gate writer Amy Graff having to actually ask her readership not to do that:
Moms are often quick to judge one another and comments criticizing Krim’s decision to hire a nanny are already popping up in the online world. We all often want to think that we’re giving our kids the best situation and others aren’t making equally good decisions. “I found the best nanny after interviewing 20!” “I would never use a nanny and would only ever watch my children myself!” “I only allow my mom to watch my children!”
That’s bad enough, but of course we can count on Fox News to make it even worse:
The murder of two young children, allegedly at the hands of their beloved nanny, has sent a chill through working mothers already conflicted over the often agonizing decision to leave their children in the care of others while they work to put food on the family table.
In keeping with Fox’s hard-right social agenda, this piece pushes the idea of working mothers as somehow abdicating their natural role as full-time caregivers, and heavily implies that there may be dire consequences for this dereliction of duty, sidling up to the edge of saying that Marina Krim kinda sorta deserved to have her children brutally murdered.
Anyone notice what’s missing from all this hand-wringing and tongue-clucking so far? Kevin Krim. Yes, the two kids had a father, not that anyone seems to care. And somehow he’s not getting any shit for being away on a business trip when his children were murdered. Nobody’s writing concern-troll articles about the terrible choices of fathers who choose to work outside the home rather than spending all their time with their kids. Nobody’s asking about the wider implications of this story for working fathers, because “working father” isn’t even a phrase in public discourse. All the ugly, horrible, victim-blaming just-world bullshit going around is aimed squarely at Marina Krim, because the kind of lizard-brain thinking that justifies that behavior also doesn’t even consider fathers to be real parents.
Kevin and Marina Krim are going to have to rebuild their lives together, along with their surviving child. They’re going to have to find a way to cope with this tragedy, this inexcusable loss, and his pain and grief will be no less than hers. Let us, for our part, participate neither in the heartless cruelty of criticizing supposedly inadequate motherhood, nor the thoughtless and widespread cruelty of utterly devaluing fatherhood.