March 21 , 2013—Gender Based Theories
Sex-specific patterns of offending
-males outnumber females as offenders in all societies and time period for which
records are available
-the more serious the crime, the more males outnumber females
-although female and male offenders engage in somewhat different types of crime
and commit crimes in distinctive ways, they have much in common
-their early lives, personal characteristics, and motivations appear to be
more similar than different
-the social environments that increase their risks of offending are similar
-historically, offending by women was:
-tendency was to not say anything
-focused on men, data of men, by men, etc.
-deemed to be unnatural, odd, unfeminine
-caused by women’s sexuality, biology, or individual pathology
-psyche, mental illness, possession
-social factors were ignored
-how do we explain these themes?
-low rates of offending
-early theorists were men who had little understanding of the social worlds
of women and girls
Why do women tend to be the “forgotten offenders”?
-women commit fewer crimes than men
-less serious offences, etc.
-female criminality tends to be less serious than male criminality
-historically, women have tended more often than men to be “excluded” from the
justice system, by lenient treatment
-people were less likely to press criminal charges, or call the police in
comparison to if a man committed the same offence
-women constitute a small proportion of the correctional population (6%)
-popular social attitude tends to put all females in a subservient position
Early Gender Based Questions
-two main questions drove early theorizing about why women commit crime
-awakening from an androcentric slumber
(1) are traditional theories generalizable to female offending?
-ex. control theory -why don’t women commit as much crime as men?
-ex. differential association theory
-could these theories that are intended to apply to men extend to explain
-many people say yes, these theories are generalizable
(2) can traditional theories account for the gender-ratio in offending?
-why do women commit less crime than men?
-the debate over the size of the gender gap is ongoing
-moral panic over the rise of violent female offending
-the gender gap may decrease if:
-female and male crime rates both decrease, but the latter decreases more
-this is a good thing, not a cause of concern, overall crime is
-female rates increase while male rates decrease or remain stable
-male and female rates both increase, but the former increases more
-this is a cause for concern
-gender gap is based on…
-represent behaviour of men and women, but also dependent on what
Shortcomings of Traditional Theories
-according to critics, traditional theories cannot adequately answer the following
-why are serious crimes against property and against persons so much less a
feature of female offending?
-why are female offenders less likely to participate in or lead criminal
-offending with other people
-women are often solo perpetrators, or part of relatively small, non-
permanent crime groups
-why does female offending often involve relational concerns?
Early Gender Based Perspectives
-criminologists disagree as to whether or not gender neutral (traditional theories)
vs. gender specific theories
-liberation or emancipation hypothesis:
-one of the by-products of women’s liberation will be a high proportion of
women who commit crime
-concerned about the transformation of gender roles in society
-the rise of the new female criminal
-in the same way women were demanding equal legitimate opportunities, a
small number would be forcing their way into the world of crime -hypothesis was critical because it brought women into the criminological
discourse, prompted sustain interest in research on female offenders
-criticisms of the liberation thesis:
(1) women commit traditionally “female” offenses
(2) crime more common among women who did not achieve equality
-if we could find true equality, maybe there would be a reduction in
(3) fails to account for how