Crime, Gender and Sex
Sept. 14, 2011
Professor Rosemary Gartner
By the end of today’s class you should be able to answer this question:
Why don’t we know which gender had the higher arrest rate for theft in Canada in 2009?
--Attention to sex and gender can provide a richer understanding than simply the criminological mainstream theories.
Next week will pair corporate and white-collar crime with masculinity theories.
Definitions of Gender and Sex
Most definitions refer to gender and sex as attributes of individuals
Sex is typically seen as a biologically-based attribute with two ‘natural’ categories, female and male
Gender is typically seen as a socially and culturally-based attribute; a continuum with two poles, feminine and masculine
--We need to acknowledge that there are different ways that sex and gender are defined.
--Commonly, sex and gender are defined as characteristics of individuals. Thus, they are seen as things that distinguish
people. However, there is a distinction between sex and gender. Sex is seen as biological or physical characteristics that
distinguish males and females. Thus, your sex depends on what you are born with and people lack choice.
--This has changed an we now have reassignment surgery, but we generally see sex as biological.
--We tend to think that sex is binary and dichotomous, and when a baby is born, they are immediately assigned. However,
sometimes sex is ambiguous, and some societies are more tolerant/accepting than others. Other cultures sometimes
immediately surgically try to change this ambiguity. Western society isn’t as accepting. We tend to get uncomfortable
when sex isn’t clear.
--A couple had a baby, and gave it a gender-neutral name, and made the decision to not name the sex in order to have
the baby’s options less limited in life. People in the community didn’t take this well, because people want to categorize
someone as clearly male or female.
--Gender is different from sex in that it is seen as a socially and culturally based attribute. It refers to the socially
constructed goals, behaviors, and attributes that a given society at a given time views as appropriate for people of the
male and people of the female sex.
--Gender is something that people CAN choose. It isn’t something one is born with. It is something achieved or
incorporated into one’s identity.
--Gender can be referred to as the identity one has of themselves. This gender doesn’t always align with the sex one is
--Gender can also be used to indicate masculinity and femininity.
--Bottom line, gender is socially constructed, depending on the culture in which one may live and such.
--There is much debate about these terms and also about how sex and gender are related.
--We will talk about 3 views on the ways in which sex and gender are related.
Views of the Relationship Between Sex and Gender I
The “essentialist” view:
- It’s a causal relationship: sex largely determines gender
- Biology is fundamental
--This is a more traditional view. It says that the relationship between sex and gender is simple. Sex causes gender. The
sex you are born with will determine the gender you identify with. Your sex limits the gender you can be. Thus, in this
view, the biological characteristics you are born with shape your thoughts and feelings, the way you view the world, and
your behaviors. Thus, men are naturally more competitive and risk-taking, women are more nurturing.
--There are various attributes or behaviors that are just naturally masculine or feminine (according to this view).
--At the same time, while they do assume that sex assumes gender, they also allow for the fact that there is some
flexibility and some men can be more masculine than others and vice versa for females. However, this is the gist.
Views of the Relationship Between Sex and Gender II
The ‘social constructionist’ view:
It’s an arbitrary relationship: there is no necessary or natural relationship between sex and gender
Social and cultural factors are fundamental
--The relationship between sex and gender isn’t determined or causal and sex does not determine gender. Instead, the
relationship is arbitrary. Females can have many masculine attributes and vice versa, and the very existence of this
gender bending is good evidence of the socially constructed nature of gender.
--What is considered masculine or feminine or appropriate also varies over time and place.
--Thus, while sex may not depend on the society or culture in which you live, your gender does. The gender differences
that we associate with males and females aren’t natural and aren’t biologically based. They result from the way human
societies have organized themselves.
Views of the Relationship Between Sex and Gender III
The ‘integrated’ view:
Sex influences gender, but doesn’t determine it Biological and social/cultural factors interact and influence each other
--Sex may not determine gender but it does influence it. This view disagrees with essentialists in that sex doesn’t
determine gender. It also rejects that social constructionists in that sex does relate to gender. However, gender is always
constructed within certain boundaries that are always constructed within one’s sex.
--Biological and social factors interact to produce gender. Some types of choices about sex and gender are constrained
by biology. For example men may want to adopt the gender role of mothers. They may want to raise a kid and be
nurturing. However, their ability to do this is limited by the fact that they cannot give birth.
An Expanded Definition of Gender I
Gender is a set of relations, structures, and everyday practices that characterize social life and social institutions
--This expanded definition is intended to shift the focus from a characteristic of individuals to an attribute of social
structures. This gender infuses many aspects of our lives. According to this, gender is a basic fact in the way societies are
--Gender is broad, and it permeates all aspects of our social life and not just our identity.
--Many activities are gendered (sewing, boxing, etc). The fact that these activities are gendered doesn’t exclude the other
sex from participating in them. However, when the sex of the person participating ht the activity doesn’t align with what we
traditionally see as common in the activity, gender becomes salient.
--A nurse is just a nurse, but when it is a male, it is a male nurse.
--When a person of one sex takes part in an activity that is gendered the other way, we notice it (you fight like a girl, you
cry like a girl, etc). Interestingly, it doesn’t work both ways. Women are often praised when they do something that is
typically more masculine. There is an assumption of a gender heirarchy in which males are higher than female and so are
many of their attributes. So for a woman to engage in masculine behaviors, means she is embodying the more powerful.
The opposite exists for males.
--Many activities don’t have a gender, but can still be gendered. So the same activity for a male and female may have
expectations that it is done in different ways. For example, getting dressed. If a woman dresses in a masculine way, it
may be a conscious effort to subvert our gender expectations.
--Clothes can become gendered in the way they are worn. Eating i