It would be an understatement to say that American audiences love the idea of vigilante justice. From the obsidian-cloaked Bruce Wayne to Frank Underwood’s signature House of Cards sneer, contemporary pop culture and media landscapes are inundated with the image of an individual using his own hands to effect his vision of justice.
And that’s just the problem: fiction or not, the protagonists of popular vigilante justice stories are usually men.
When it comes to recent film and television, only The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Kill Bill feature female vigilantes as their justice-seeking protagonists. Several other lists of vigilante-themed stories mention women less than five percent of the time.
Those figures don’t exactly reflect reality, though. For better or worse, women have acted as vigilantes throughout history–and in many cases out of necessity.
Around the world, many countries lack adequate laws to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence, which disproportionately affects women. Four out of five victims of sex trafficking are women, one in four women experiences some sort of sexual assault in her lifetime, and forty percent of women who are murdered experience it at the hand of their partners. Often times these acts go unpunished. In some circumstances, women will do the punishing themselves.
For the most part, the stories of women enacting punishment on others have been whispered—not adapted for the silver screen like their male counterparts. Below, we explore some of the women who, moral issues aside, have lived and breathed vigilantism:
Diana the Bus Driver Hunter, Mexico
Since 2013, Mexico has seen an increase in grassroots movements led by women, sparked by a decades long battle with gruesome femicide, increased presence of drug cartels, and ineffective law enforcement. Many of these women-led vigilante gangs have been successful in removing leaders of drug cartels from their cities, and creating all-female citizen police forces. One vigilante stands out, though: Diana, the Bus Driver Hunter.
Angered by the violence that women had been subjected to on public transit for over two decades, one woman in Ciudad Juárez, otherwise known as the “City of femicide,” decided to take action.
A little over two years ago, a woman who called herself Diana, the Hunter of Bus Drivers donned a blonde wig and avenged the 800 girls and women who had been killed or went missing at the hands of the city’s’ bus drivers. Diana killed two bus drivers and, just after doing so, emailed her reasoning for the murders to a local news source, stating:
Oscar Maynez, a criminologist who worked on many of these cases explained that local authorities couldn’t be trusted to handle them, stating that the police have done nothing to stop the daily murders occurring in Juárez, whose female homicides are double the rate of the rest of the country. Said Maynez, “First [the police] denied the problem…then they played it down, and finally, they blamed the victims’ lifestyle and their families.”
In 2013, reporter Yuri Herrera, who published Diana’s story on This American Life, attempted to speak to female public transit users in Juárez about the armed vigilante. While many were hesitant to talk to him, insisting they knew nothing about the incident, one young mother remarked, “How great that someone’s doing what many of us should have done.”
The bus driver killer’s identity remains unknown, but her nickname was chosen well. According to Roman mythology, Diana the Hunter is the goddess of women and childbirth, who is known to act out the basic human emotions of rage and revenge.