Jack The Ripper is famous - everyone in the Western world has heard of the unsolved case of the Whitechapel serial killer who preyed on prostitutes for a few months in 1888.
There were only five (or six) of those murders almost 130 years ago yet today there are 17 different grisly tours in London's East End about them.
University of Huddersfield scholar Charlotte Mallinson is looking at the Ripper story from the other side; instead of speculating about who or why the killer was, she focuses on the victims - most people would be hard pressed to name one, even though Jack is part of the cultural lexicon. She believes that is because of British dehumanization of the women, due to gender discrimination, their ‘overt sexuality’ and their socio-economic status.
The final victim, Mary Kelly. See the entire list at Jack-the-ripper.org
Her Ph.D. thesis on the women will include an exhibition that will be a mixture of oral and photographic material, and include testimonies from current Whitechapel prostitutes who work alongside alongside Ripper tourism.
“You will be walking down Whitechapel and its tiny alleyways and have to wait in one spot while another group passes you by. The area is saturated with tourists. But there is a difference of tone,” she said. “There are some tours that emphasize the poverty of the area and that the women were forced into prostitution. But the worst tour I went on, I had to leave early because I was grossly offended. They projected huge images of the murder victims on to the spot where they died and they ridiculed the appearance of these women - the fact that they were toothless or fat or had bad skin.
“However, the starkest tension for me - and the reason I went down the PhD route - is that tourists would sigh at the plight of the victims and poverty in the 1880s and then go round the corner and step over a group of homeless women.”
Of course, there is some sexism about Jack also. Naming him Jack, for one thing - there is no evidence the killer was even a man. Why assume Victorian Britain had sociopathic men but not women?
Source: University of Huddersfield
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