Exploring gender and fear retrospectively: stories of women’s fear during the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ murders

Tanya Wattis

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    The murder of 13 women in the North of England between 1975 and 1979 by Peter Sutcliffe who became known as the Yorkshire Ripper can be viewed as a significant criminal event due to the level of fear generated and the impact on local communities more generally. Drawing upon oral history interviews carried out with individuals living in Leeds at the time of the murders, this article explores women’s accounts of their fears from the time. This offers the opportunity to explore the gender/fear nexus from the unique perspective of a clearly defined object of fear situated within a specific spatial and historical setting. Findings revealed a range of anticipated fear-related emotions and practices which confirm popular ‘high-fear’ motifs; however, narrative analysis of interviews also highlighted more nuanced articulations of resistance and fearlessness based upon class, place and biographies of violence, as well as the way in which women drew upon fear/fearlessness in their overall construction of self. It is argued that using narrative approaches is a valuable means of uncovering the complexity of fear of crime and more specifically provides renewed insight onto women’s fear.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1071-1089
    JournalGender, Place & Culture
    Issue number8
    Early online date3 Sept 2017
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Sept 2017


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