Feminism, crime and deviance
- Feminist criminologists accept that women commit less crime than men.
- There are six feminist explanations as to why females commit less crime than males.
This explanation focusses on differences in the socialization of males and females.
- Smart and Oakley suggested that males are socialized into aggressive, self-seeking and individualistic behaviour that may make them more disposed to taking risks and commiting criminal acts
- Females may be socialized into a less criminal set of norms and values that stress cooperation, tenderness and caring for others.
- Heidensohn argues that females are generally more conformist because patriarchal society imposes greater control over their behaviour.
- Smart notes that girls are more strictly supervised by their parents, especially outside the home. McRobbie and Garber concluded that teenage girls' lives revolve around a bedroom culture, so they are more likely that boys to socialize with friends in the home rather that on the streets or other public places.
- Lees notes that girls are more likely to be controlled, in that theymay fear acquiring a 'bad' reputation. She notes that boys in schools often used verbalised sexual labels such as '****' to control girls. Girls may therefore steer clear of deviant behaviour to avoid these labels.
- Heidensohn notes that women are more likely to be controlled by their family roles as wives and mothers - they consequently have little time or oppourtunity for illegal activity.
- Women are less likely to be in public places in which crime and deviance normally oocur especially at night, because of the threat or fear of male violence or the fear of acquiring a bad reputation.
- Carlen notes that working-class families may commit crimes because they lack the four controls that prevent most people from commiting crimes.
- Carlen argues that criminal women are often women who have failed to gain qualifications and find legitimate work. They often live in poverty and are dependent on benefits. Their attachment to family life may be weak because they have been abused by family members, run away from home and/or spent time in care. Many have run away from home and lived rough on the streets.
- Carlen argues that many of these criminal women come to the rational conclusion that crime is the only route to a decent standard of living.
- Getting a criminal record reinforces future criminal behaviour because it makes commitment to a conventional job and family life even less likely.
- However, critics of this theory suggest that Carlen fails to explain why many women in poverty choose not to commit crime
Feminization of poverty
- Some feminist sociologists suggest that poverty has become feminized in the last 20 years, as women have become increasingly more likely than men to experience low pay and benefits. Consequently, some types of crime dominated both females, notably shoplifting and benefit fraud, may be a reaction to poverty.
- Walklate notes that shoplifting and prostitution are often motivated by economic necessity, for example, to provide children with food, toys and clothes.
Adler argues that as society becomes less patriarchal, so womens crime rates will rise. In other words, womens liberation from patriarchy will lead to a new type of female criminal because they will have greater oppourtunity and confidence to commit crime.
- Between 1981 and 1997 the number of under 18 girls convicted of violent offences in England and Wales doubled - from 65 per 100 000 to 135 per 100 000.
- A Demos survey of 2000 UK women aged 18 to 24 found that one in eight responses believed it was acceptable to use physical violence to get something they really wanted.
- A questionnaire survey of teenage girls in Girls in Glasgow carried out by Burman et al found that 98.5% of girls had witnessed, first-hand, some form of interpersonal physical violence.
- 70% had witnessed, first-hand, five or more such incidents.
- Nearly two-thirds knew someone who had been physically hurt or injured by violence.
- 41% had experienced someone deliberatly hitting, punching or kicking them.
- 10% of the girls described themselves as 'violent'
- and 10% reported having committed 7 or more types of physically violent acts such as punching, kicking and hitting with an object.
- Other critics point out that economic chages have benefitted mainly middle-class women. There are few signs of these women being involved in white-collar or corporate crime. Most female offenders are working class and are probably motivated by many of the same factors that motivate working-class men, for example, poverty and the feelings of humiliation, powerlessness, envy and hostility that acompany a marginalized position in society.
- Croall looks at female crime from a postmodern persepctive and suggests that teenage girls are usually motivated to commit crime by three inter-related factors:
- A drug habit (which often leads to prostitution and shoplifting).
- The excitement that often accompanies the act of commiting crime.
- The conspicuous consumption of goods such as designer label clothing, which are often the target of shoplifting