Apparently, they’ve found out who Jack the Ripper was. Maybe. At least, so says the Daily Mail, and a bloke who’s written a book about the case, and who owns a business selling ‘Ripper’ tours. So, reliable and unbiased sources.
Turns out, Jack the Ripper was… some guy.
Who’d have thunk it?
So, will this put a stop to the lucrative Ripper industry? The books, movies, walks, etc?
No, of course not. Like all previous unmaskings, it’ll just fuel the fire, even if this unmasking turns out to rest on marginally better evidence that some hack’s ability to create anagrams, or an evidently untrue story told by a publicity hound, or the baseless hunch of a crime writer, or an obviously forged diary, or the manufactured bad reputation of a dead one-time heir to the throne.
Because, contrary to what everyone ever has always said about Jack the Ripper, interest in the case doesn’t stem from the fact that the murderer was never caught. It stems from the appeal of the degradation, humiliation, punishment and silencing of women… and from the way revelling in this (with whatever spurious self justification) can distract us from other stuff about the lives those women led, and the world they lived in.
Our misogynistic culture is obsessed with the murder of women. It is possibly the main subject of the present-day Western narrative culture industry, aside from the sexual/romantic conquest of women.
It could be objected that there are so many stories about the murder of women because so many women are murdered… but that doesn’t explain, say, the lack of a similar number of stories about the rape of women (as Alan Moore pointed out), or about the political and social subjugation of women, or about any number of other things that are more common.
The prevalence of the actual murder of women is intimately connected with the prevalence of depictions of the murder of women, but in ways that are far more complex than the merely causal (whichever way you want to imagine the causation runs). It’s all part and parcel of a cultural misogyny which stems from sexism and patriarchy, generated by class society all the way back to what Engels called “the world historic defeat of the female sex” with the start of social hierarchy. (None of which is to excuse our present cultural practice by appeal to the influence of older structures.)
The women murdered (as is supposed) by the man dubbed Jack the Ripper are objects of morbid fascination because they shared a fate which made them only slightly unusual for women of their class and time. Lots of these women were raped, abused, beaten and/or murdered (by men – let’s not efface that vital part of the story). It just so happens that some of these women were murdered in particularly vicious and gruesome ways, with their bodies mutilated and insultingly displayed afterwards. (It’s by no means clear how many women were the victim of the one escalating killer who ended up reaching a crescendo of perverse cruelty in the killing of Mary Kelley and then vanished, but it does seem likely that at least four were part of his distinct sequence.)…