ALMOST one in 10 American bank robbers is a woman. I’m not suggesting anything, per se, ye underpaid wipers of bottoms and writers of columns of the world. I’m just stating a fresh fact that makes all kinds of sense in trying economic times.
At the very least, you’ve got to admire their nerve. Among these Y-chromosome crooks, a Daily Beast reporter wrote recently, are the Barbie Bandits, a couple of strippers who held up a bank in Atlanta in 2006. Sadly, these young blondes seem to have lived down to their nickname, demonstrating Barbie-quality brainpower when they mistakenly hit the bank branch where they didn’t have an “inside man,” and, rather than lying low afterward, zipped off to a hair salon for highlights.
Equally indiscreet, the Cell Phone Bandit struck four banks in Northern Virginia in 2005 while babbling with her boyfriend on her cell-phone. CBS News reported that this quartet of robberies netted the 19-year-old community college student a mere $49,000 -- hardly the stuff of movie heist screenplays -- and financed such humble acquisitions as a 1997 Acura Integra.
Older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser, either, when it comes to female bank robbers. A 47-year-old former prison nurse, who was branded the Bad Hair Bandit, allegedly knocked over more than 20 financial institutions in four states while wearing an assortment of unbecoming wigs.
Male thugs aren’t publicly chastised for their fashion sense, but a female spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department of Placer County, where the Bad Hair Bandit was arrested, was clearly offended that in her final heist, the accused went wig-free. In fact, this time she showed up at the bank in notably casual style -- wearing a white shirt with a brown canvas hat.
“If she’d known it was her last one, maybe she would have dressed better,” said the sheriff’s spokeswoman. Who knew catty comments were a hazard of the job?
Frankly, I can see why this option would appeal to the mothers among us -- bankers’ hours coincide with school hours, so you don’t need a babysitter to rob a bank. The Daily Beast claims that a parent of five, dubbed the Mama Bandit, was able to accomplish her robbery en route to picking up a couple of her kids after school. That’s multi-tasking of the highest order -- we should at least give her that.
Experts blame a tough economy and women’s increased independence for the surge of female interest in this particular get-rich-quick-scheme. (We can’t all have our own reality TV show!) They also note that women tend not to rob banks for thrills, but for practical reasons, like needing to buy diapers. What a virtuous breed we are.
Besides the refreshing lack of actual work involved, evidently there are fashion advantages to this career choice. As is the case with many pursuits that women love, the opportunities to dress up are endless. We all know that Bonnie Parker (of the legendary gang led by Clyde Barrow) was a chic little number, but not all dress-up efforts are aimed at self-aggrandizement. Ohio’s Church Lady Bandit, for instance, seems to have outfitted herself nicely for many of her 12 stick-ups, sometimes even wearing a proper hat. The judge was not impressed, however, sentencing her to 51 years.
Of course, women encounter the same sorts of resistance and disrespect when they enter the arena of bank robbery as they’ve experienced in the past in other male-dominated fields. Boston’s Johanna Quish, 45, had a frustrating day earlier this year, incurring several obstacles when she allegedly tried to rob three banks in the space of a few hours. One teller simply refused to give her any money. Maybe Quish should have pretended her husband had written the demand note.
Once you set aside moral considerations and the risk of discovery, a life of crime’s got a lot of things going for it: freedom, self-employment, little actual toil. Of course, you might have the misfortune of a disloyal group of friends or a turncoat romantic interest.
I don’t think my family would turn me in, though I can think of a few friends who might. But I wouldn’t be productive enough in this job. It seems that female bank robbers rarely follow the gun-waving, “Freeze, #$%^&!” route employed by their hairier colleagues. Instead, they try to look threatening while shoving a demand note over the counter. For me, that last bit’s the obstacle. I’d spend so much time deliberating over my note’s stationery, ink colour, and calligraphic stylings, I’d never get around to pulling the heist.
This sort of message has to be delivered properly. I once read about a male robber whose note got pushed back across the counter by the clerk because she couldn’t read his handwriting. If I wanted to be humiliated like that in my work, I‘d continue to be a freelance writer. So I guess that’s what I’ll do.