The XX Factor

The Annie Le Murder Defies Preconceptions

If the police are right, and Ray Clark killed Annie Le over a power struggle in their shared lab , then that means that the narrative that the media initially plugged this story into doesn’t quite fit the circumstances. A pretty, petite woman about to be married who disappears? We’re all conditioned to think of sex crimes, instead of workplace violence. If you’ve ever been the victim of a violent crime, or supported someone who has, there’s a bit of comfort to be had in the belief that it could have happened to anyone. Let’s hope Le’s friends and family are taking comfort in that now.

That said, it’s not completely accurate to assume that because this act of violence began as a power struggle at work doesn’t mean that gender doesn’t play a role in it. According to statistics kept by the Department of Labor (that are sadly out of date), women are more likely to suffer injuries from workplace violence than men . Violence is the second leading cause of death for women at work , after auto accidents. Perhaps with all the attention that Le’s death is getting from the mainstream media, workplace violence against women will start to rate attention in the same way sexual assault and domestic violence do.

The one kink in all this is that before the police released the power struggle theory, the standard sexualized narrative about violence against women had set in, which caused some digging that resulted in reasons to believe that suspect Ray Clark may have a history of the more famous kind of violence against women. Gawker collected stories about Clark’s high school girlfriend reporting him to the police because she was afraid to break up with him, and excerpts from his girlfriend’s MySpace blog that indicates that their relationship is probably stormy and potentially violent. None of this is especially surprising. Our society continues to inculcate violence as a masculine trait, and men who live up to that rarely keep their violent tendencies bucketed in one part of their lives. It’s all too easy to see how a man who reacted with violence when he saw defiance from romantic partners would have a similar reaction when defied by a woman he merely had a working relationship with.