Feminist criminology

Feminists know that the society we live in is patriarchal. That means that it is largely controlled by men, giving woman little power. The suggest that men control woman and so discourage deviance in this way. But this control also generates some serious crimes by men against woman like sexual offences and domestic violence.

'Malestream' sociology and the invisibility of woman

Until very recently theories / explanations of crime have been about men, concerning men and tackling male crime. Therefore there is little consideration in these theories about female offenders, why females in the same situation as males don’t commit crime and also the gender gap in crime statistics. Female victimisation is ignored in theories, particularly violence and domestic abuse. Newburn (2007) suggests woman are invisible in criminology. This all reflects the male dominance in society, which means male dominance in crime theories, and therefore Malestream sociology.

Heidensohn came up with some ideas as to why woman were invisible in this way.

  • Academics & researchers in sociology of crime mainly male

  • Malestream middle class sociologists gained status from having a romanticised male preoccupation with macho working class males

  • Less to study. Low levels of female crime / women tend to commit more invisible crime e.g. Shop lifting

The growth of feminist criminology:

Since the 1960’s and 70’s researchers have been more focused on female offending as well. Looking at things like female offending, woman’s treatment by the criminal justice system, female victimization and the gender gap.

Gender identity has been identified as a important area when examining crime and deviance. Smart (1976) suggests women are seen as DOUBLE DEVIANTS because they break the law & traditional gender role. This means there offences are more highly stigmatised.

Feminist criminologist understand the importance of gender identity in theories of crime rather than just structural factors like strain, subcultures, social class and power. It also looks at how the conception of femininity might deter females from becoming deviant.

Messerschmidt (1993) researched into the idea that crime and deviance including domestic violence, can be a way of accomplishing masculinity for men that have failed to achieve that in other areas of their life

Feminist contributions to crime and deviance:

  • a new focus on female offending and the experiences of women in the CJS

  • the application of existing theories, criticisms of them and development of new theories to explain female deviance

  • new focus on the various types of female victimisation, like sexual and domestic violence

  • challenging the idea that woman get special treatment in the CJS called ‘chivalry’.

  • Have raised questions in control theory concerning how men and woman experience different levels of control. In labelling theory in why female offending has more stigmatisation than male offending. 

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