Topic 5: Gender, Crime and Justice

Detailed Notes on A2 Sociology, Chapter 2-Crime and Deviance

Topic 5-Gender,crime and Justice

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  • Created on: 19-01-13 17:32

Gender Patterns in Crime

Heidensohn(1996) : Official Statistics show that

  • 4/5 Convicted offenders in ENGLAND + WALES are MALES
  • Age of 40 Criminal Convictions-  9% Females and 32% Males 
  • Higher Proportion ^ Female Offenders = Property Offences (expect Burglary)
  • Higher Proportion ^ Male Offenders = Violence or Sexual Offences
  • Males more likely to:

-> Repeat offenders (Recidivism);

-> Longer criminal careers;

-> Commit more serious crimes




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Do Women Commit More Crime?

Official Statistics Underestimate the Amount of female as against male offending

Two Arguments:

-> Female Crimes, e.g.

Shoplifiting-  Less Likely to be Reported.

Property Crimes-> less likely to be notices or reported COMPARED to

Sexual crimes (often committed by MEN)

Prostitution-Females more likely to ENGAGE in- unlikely to reported by either party.

->  Even when Female crimes are DETECTED or REPORTED

*Less likely to be prosecuted

*If prosecuted, more likely to be let off relatively lightly.

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The Chivalry Thesis

Police Officers, Magistrates and Judges- Are MEN.

Otto POLLAK (1950) - Men- Protective Attitude towards women

"Men hate to ACCUSE women and thus send them to their punishment, police officers DISLIKE to arrest them, district attorneys to PROSECUTE them, judges and juries to find them GUILITY, and so on."

Criminal Justice System- More LINIENT with women -their crimes Less Likely to end up in Official Statistics.-> Invalid picture that Exaggerates the extent of gender differences in rates of offending.

Self-Report Studies-Individuals are asked-crimes they have committed = Suggests that female offenders are treated more leniently.

Graham & Bowling's '95- Research on Sample of 1,721, 14-25 yr olds = males were more likely to offend, the difference was small than that recorded in the Official statistics.-> Males 2.33xs more likely to ADMIT having committed an Offence in previous 12 months- whereas, in Official stats = Males 4xs more likely to offend.

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The Chilvalry Thesis Continued...

Flood-PAGE AT AL (2000) found-

Self-reported offenders:

1/11 female have been CAUSTIONED or PROSECUTED.

Figures for Males = 1/7 reported offenders. Women more likely to CAUTIONED than Prosecuted, e.g. Ministry of Justice (2009) found:

49% females offending received a CAUTION in 2007, compared to

Males with 30% only Cautioned.

Roger HOOD'S (1992)- Study of over 3,000 Defendants found:

-> WOMEN one-third less likely to be Jailed in similar cases.

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CRITCICISMS: Chivalry Thesis

David Ferrington and Alison Morris (1983) Study: Sentencing of 408 offences of THEFT in Magistrates Court found that women-Not sentenced more leiniently for Comparable offences.

Abigail Buckle and David Ferrington (1984) Observational Study- of Shoplifting in a department store--> Witnessed TWICE as males shoplifting as females.

Despite the fact- number of males and female offenders in official stats are MORE or LESS EQUAL.

Small-case study-> suggests- women shoplifters-more likely to be PROSCEUTED than their male counterparts.

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Steven Box's (1981) - British + American SELF-REPORT STUDIES concludes that women who commit serious offences-> not treated more favourably than men.

Lower rate of Prosecution- of females as compared to self-reported offending-> crimes admitted = less serious + less likely to go to trail. In addition, Women show REMORSE (Regret)-this helps to explain why they are more likely to receive a CAUTION instead of going to court.

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Bias Against Women

FEMINIST argue-> criminal justice is Biased in favour of women, it is biased against them.

HEIDENSOHN '96 argues-> courts treat females more harshly than males when they DEVIATE from GENDER NORMS.

DOUBLE STANDARDS-Courts punish girls->premature or promiscuous sexual activity. 'Wayward' girls- end up in care- without having committed an offence.

Women who don't CONFORM to accepted standards of Monogamous heterosexuality and motherhood = punished more harshly.

STEWART (2006) - Magistrates Perceptions->female defendants characters based on Stereotypical gender roles.

PAT CARELEN (1997)-Argues women jailed-less for 'the seriousness of their crimes' and more according to court's assessment of them as Wives, Mothers and Daughters.

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Parents: Girls beyond control= more likely to receives Custodial Sentences (serious sentences), than females who live more 'CONVENTIONAL' (following accepted norms) lives.

CARLEN-found Scottish Judges- more likely to JAIL women-> whose children in care

FEMINIST-Argue Double Standards exist because of Criminal Justice System is PATRIARARCHAL.

*Evident in **** cases, judges making sexist, victim-blaming remarks, e.g. Carol SMART (1989) quotes Judge Wild 'Women who say no do not always mean no. It is not just a question of how she says it, how she shows and makes it clear. If she doesn't want it she only has to shut her legs'.

Sandra WALKLATE (1998)-argues **** case-> not defendant on trial but the victim-> prove her respectability-evidence accepted.

ADLER (1987) - women deemed lack respectability, e.g. Single parents, Punks and Peace Protestestors-> difficultly having testimony believed by courts.

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Explaining Female Crime

First explanations: BIOLOGICAL Lobroso and Ferrero (1893)-Argued criminality is innate (natural), but very few 'born female criminals'.

Recent Psychological explanations-argued that bio factors-Higher levels of testosterone in males.

However, Sociologist have put forward three main explanations:

-> Functionalist Sex Role Theory

-> Two Main Feminist Approaches:

* Heidensohn; Patriarchal Control

* The Liberation Thesis

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Funtionalist Sex Role Theory

Focused on Differences in Socialisation of Males and Females, e.g. Boys encouraged to be tough, aggressive and risk taking + more disposed (willing) to commit Acts of Violence.

+ Talcott Parsons (1955): finds differences in crime & deviance between gender roles in the Conventional Nuclear Family.

Women-Expressive role, housewives, socialising & nurturing of children.-->This gives girls an adult role model to look up to as mum's are always at home, but boys means boys will REJECT the feminine models of behaviour that express Tenderness, Gentleness and Emotion.

Men- Instrumental role, breadwinner, outside of home = Boys distance themselves-> engaging in 'COMPENSATORY COMPLUSORY MASCULINTY' through aggression and Anti-social behaviour-> slips into acts of Delinquency.

+ Albert K Cohen (1955) - Lack of Male role models = boys likely to turn to All-male street gangs as a source of Masculine Identity. ALSO, New right Theorist argue- Absence of male model in Matrifocal Lone parent families = boys turning to criminal street gangs as source of status & identity.

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Criticisms of Funtionalist Sex Role Theory

Sandra Walklate (2003) - Sex role theory->Biological assumptions. Parsons Assume-due to women have biological capacity to bear children-> they are best suited to expressive role.

Although, theory tries to explain gender differences in crime through Behaviour learned through Socialisation- focuses more on Biological Assumptions about sex differences.

Feminist-> Alternative explanations- Women's lower rates of crime and deviance. Locate their explanations-> PATRIARCHAL (male-dominated) nature of Society and Women's Subordinate (Low in rank) Position in it.

Two Main Feminist Approaches:

* Heidenson: Patriarchal Control;

* The Liberation Thesis

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Feminist: Patriarchal Control

Frances Heidensohn (1985) - Argues Women's behaviour and how Conformist it is-> commit fewer crimes-> Patriarchal society imposes greater control over women-> thus reducing their opportunities to offend.

* Patriarchal control operates at Home, in Public places and at Work.

Control at Home: Domestic role-> constant housework, childcare-> imposes severe restrictions on their time and movements which confines them to house for Long Periods = reducing opportunities to offend. Women who REJECT DOMECTIC ROLE->may find partners impose it by force, through Domestic Violence.

Dobash & Dobash (1979) - Attacks result-> men's dissatisfaction - wives performance on domestic duties. Also, Men exercise control through Financial Power-> e.g. denying sufficient funds for leisure activities-> thereby restricting time outside the home.

Daughters: Subject to Patriarchal Control. Less likely to be allowed to come and go as they please or allowed to stay out late.--> Develop 'Bedroom Culture'-> Socialising at home with friends rather than in public places. Also, are required to do more housework compared to boys. = Less opportunity to engage in Deviant behaviour.

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Control in Public: Controlled in public places, by threat or fear of Male Violence, esp. Sexual Violence.

Islington Crime Survey- found that 54% women avoid going out after dark for fear of being victims of crime as against 14% of men.

-> Heidensohn- Notes Sensationalist Media-Reporting of **** adds to women's fears. Distorted Media Portrayals- typical ******, stranger, carries out random attacks = frightens women into staying indoors.

-> Fear of being Labelled- Dress, make-up, demeanour (beh attributes) and ways of speaking and acting defined as inappropriate-> gain a female a 'Reputation'. E.g. Women avoid going to pubs alone, due to being labelled as 'loose' or even as prostitutes.

Sue Lees (1993) - Boys in school maintain control-Sexualised Verbal Abuse-> e.g. labelling girls as 'Slags’ -> if they fail to conform to gender role expectations.

* Also as 'Macho' if they behave in a masculine way by displaying acts of delinquency, such as smoking, or theft.

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Control at Work: Controlled by Male mangers and supervisors. Sexual Harassment- widespread-helps keep women 'in their place'.

* 'Glass-Ceiling'- This effect prevents women rising to senior positions-> where there is greater opportunity to commit FRAUD. Women's subordinate position reduces opportunities to engage in major criminal activity.

Patriarchal Restrictions on women’s lives = Fewer opportunities for crime.

- Heidensohn- recognises patriarchy-> push women to crime- e.g. poverty may lead to theft or prostitution as a gain to a decent standard of living.

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Carlen: Class and Gender Deals

Pat Carlen(1988)- Unstructured tape-recorded interviews, conducted a study of 39,15-46 year old Working-class women- convicted for a range of crimes, e.g. including theft, fraud, handling stolen goods, burglary, drugs, prostitution, violence and arson (setting fire to property).

* 20 were in Prison or Youth Custody-During the time of the interview.

Uses Travis Hirschi's (1969)-control theory to explain female crime. Hirschi argues that human act rationally and are controlled by being offered a 'deal' rewards in return for conforming to social norms. People turn to crime if they do not believe the rewards will be forthcoming-> rewards of crime appear greater than risks.

Two types of rewards:

*The Class Deal: Women who work- offered material rewards, with a decent standard of living and leisure opportunities.

*The Gender Deal: Patriarchal ideology-promises->women material + emotional rewards from family life and conforming to norms of conventional domestic gender role.

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- Rewards not available or worth the effort = crime becomes more likely. Carlen Argues-> was the case with these women in the study.

Class-deal: women had failed to find a legitimate way of earning a decent living->left them powerless, oppressed, and the victims of injustice.

32-always been in poverty.

Some found qualifications gained in jail-gaining work upon release, while others, on YTS courses-could not get a job. 

* Many had experienced-> problems + humiliation-> claiming benefits.

Gained no rewards->resulted in crime as escape from poverty.

Gender-deal: Not had the opportunity to make the deal or saw few rewards, plus see many disadvantages in family life. Some had been abused Physically or Sexually by their fathers or subjected to domestic violence by partners. Over half spent time in Care->broke bonds of family + friends. Those leaving + running away = homeless, unemployed or poor.

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Evaluation: Patriarchal Control

+ Heidensohn shows many patriarchal controls->helps prevent women from deviating.

+ Carlen shows-> failure of patriarchal society-> deliver promised 'deals' to some women removes the control that prevents them from offending.

However ...

- Both control theory and Feminism focus on patriarchal controls or class and gender deals. Critics argue-> Underplays the importance of FREE WILL and Choice of Offending.

- Carlen's Sample was small- Unrepresentative, consists largely of working-class women and serious offenders.

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The Liberation Thesis

Freda Alder (1975) - argues as women become liberated from patriarchy, their crimes will become as frequent and as serious as men's. Women's liberation-led to new type of female criminal and a rise in the female crime rate.

Adler Argues-

Changes in structure of society have led to changes-women's offending behaviour. Patriarchal controls and discrimination have LESSENED-opportunities in education + work more equal. Women have begun to adopt traditionally 'male' roles in both legitimate activity (work) and illegitimately activity (crime).

As a Result: Women no longer just committed to traditional 'female crimes’, such as shoplifting or prostitution, but now also commit typically 'male' offences, such as crimes of violence and white-collar crime.

*Women's greater self-confidence + assertiveness = greater opportunities in the legitimate structure. E.g. more women -> senior positions at work, opportunity to commit serious white-collar crimes, such as fraud.

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Evaluation: The Liberation Thesis


+ Overall rate of female offending and the female share of offences have gone up, eg. between 1950's-1990s-> females share of offences rose from 1 in 7 to 1 in 6.

+ Adler Argues-Pattern of female crime-shifted. Studies showing rising levels of female participation in crimes previously regarded as 'male’, such as embezzlement + armed robbery.

+ Martin Denscomb (2001)- of Midlands teenagers' self-images found-females likely as males to engage in risk-taking behaviour and the girls were adopting to 'male' stances, such as the desire to be in control and look 'hard'.


- Female crime rate began rising in 1950s-long before women's liberation movement-which emerged in 1960s.

- Most Female criminals are working-class- Middle-class women benefited from WLM much more. Chesney-Lindn (1997)- USA-poor & marginalised women-likely to be criminals.

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- Chesney-Lind: Found evidence of women branching into 'male' offences, such as Drugs, but often because of links with prosititution- a very 'unliberated' female offence.

-Little evidence-illgetimate opportunity structure of professional crime-opened up to women.

  * Laider and Hunt (2001)-found female gang members in the USA-expected to conform to conventional gender roles same way as non-deviant girls.

-Adler overestimates-extent which women have become liberated and the extent to which women who engage in serious crimes.


+ Alder's Thesis-Draw attentions-> importance of investigating the realtionship between changes in women's postion + changes in patterns of female offending.

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great hand out !



@tshiiy17 Thank you! Glad they helped!

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