Chapter 10 – The Gendering of Criminology
• Early prefeminist theories → these works had the advantage of focusing on women as offenders -
something most other scholars ignored - but they did so in a limited, if not sexist, way, locating the
causes of crime in females' sexuality, biology, or pathology.
• A sig transition in criminology occurred when, in the midst of the 2nd wave of the women's movt in
the 1960s & 1970s, theories emerged that linked crime to gender roles, arguing that as women were
liberated & gained equality, the nature & amount of crime would equalize with their male
• Importantly, there was a growing recognition that crimes by & against women were shaped by the
gender inequality inherent in patriarchy. Scholars observed that gender is only 1 structure of
inequality in society → examine how gender intersects w/ race & class.
• There are many types of feminist criminologies
• It ranges across all disciplines
• Last 10-15 years explosion of feminist criminology literature from around the world
• Most of the theories thus far focus on men
• Reflect the fact that majority who come into conflict with the law are men
• Women = 30% of the population in federal penitentiaries
• 500 women incarcerated every year
• 1 in 5 who are charged/accused by the police are women
• Range of crime among women comprise of ¼ of crime among men
• Women commit different crimes than men
• High frequency of women being repeat offenders, but their crimes don’t escalate
• Women and girls form a small part of federal penitentiaries in Canada
• Field of feminist criminology includes a range of perspectives
Prefeminist Pioneers and Themes
• In the late 19 and mid-20 centuries, there was a small group of writings specifically concerned with
women and crime.
• Throughout this early literature, there were different analytical approaches; many shared assumptions
about the nature of women and the crimes they committed.
• These assumptions focused on crime as the result of individual physiological or psychological
characteristics of women.
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• It was also thought that these characteristics were universal to women and that they transcended any
historical time frame.
• Assumption that there is an inherent nature of women.
• Focus on crime as a result of individual characteristics rather than on conditions in the existing social
structure to determine the differences between criminal and noncriminal women.
• The creation of 2 distinct classes: good women who are not criminal and bad women who are
• Theoretical and research attention directed toward determining the differences between criminal and
• Another assumption: crime resulted from individual choices.
• Therefore, women were conceptualized as freely choosing to act criminal or noncriminal, void of any
influences from the social, economic, and political worlds.
• The general theories were very simplistic and only focused on women as criminal or non-criminal.
• 2 classes of women:
o Good women who were not criminal
o Bad women who were criminal
• According to his arguments, evolution accounts for the uneven development of groups. Ex: Whites
were more advanced than non-Whites, men were more advanced than women, and adults were more
advanced than children.
• In The Female Offender, female criminality was described as an inherent tendency of women who
had not developed properly into feminine women with moral refinements.
• He supported his argument with physiological evidence that he thought explained why female
criminals were biological atavists.
• Criminal women were primitive and had distinctive features and they were abnormal.
• Criminal women were more masculine than feminine:
o Short, dark-haired women with moles and masculine cranial and facial features were good
candidates for crime.
o They could think like a man, whereas good women could not.
• Also said that women were characterized by physiological immobility, psychological passivity &
amorality featuring a cold & calculating predisposition.
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o As an ex, he argued that criminal women often adjusted so well to prison life that it hardly
affected them at all → criminal women were abnormal.
• In Sex and Society, Thomas began by offering the age-old dichotomy that men and women were
fundamentally different. Ex: men = destructive of energy; women = stored energy this difference
had contributed to a relative decline in the structure of women.
• Argued that the decline could be explained by women’s loss of sexual freedom.
• Underlying these arguments of the inferior status of women was a focus primarily on physiological
issues. Ex: Men had more sexual energy than did women. This allowed men to pursue women for
sexual reasons and allowed women, in turn, to exchange sex for domesticity monogamy and chastity
= became a form of accommodation to men’s basic urges.
• He explained that middle-class women committed so few crimes because they were socialized to
accept their situations and treasure their chastity as investments. Lower-class women had not been
socialized to suppress their need for security and instead committed crimes rather inadvertently out of
a desire for excitement and new experiences.
• Women’s crimes were defined of having a more sexual nature.
• Primary target analysis: women having sex outside of marriage.
• Sutherland argued that delinquency is more frequent among girls and it usually involves sexual
• Other theories argue that women were less involved in crime because they were more passive or they
work in the home, therefore had no time to engage in crime.
• These explanations focused on women in sex roles.
The Emergence of New Questions: Bringing Women In
• In 1961, Walter C. Reckless questioned whether any theory of delinquency would be accepted if a
criminologist attempted to apply it to women.
• 2 issues were critical at this stage of the development of feminist perspectives in criminology:
1. Whether general theories of crime generated by men to explain crime by men and boys could be
applied or generalized to women and girls.
2. The second issues involved social structure and categories of risk whether race, class, and age
found to be the core of criminological theory for males also held for gender.
• Sutherland and other early criminologists had little or no understanding of the social worlds of
women and girls. It is not surprising, therefore, that historical explanations of female crime and
deviance often focused more on biological forces than on social forces or economic ones.
• The 1 wave of feminism ended in the US in 1920 with the ratification of the 19 Amendment to the
US Constitution, giving nationwide suffrage to women.
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• The 2 wave of feminism denounced the domestic or private sphere as oppressive to women and
sought to achieve equality with men in the public sphere.
• The 1 wave of feminism focused on extending rights to women (i.e., right to vote): 1920s – 1930s
o Women rebelling against sexist gender norms.
o In Canada and the US, the rise of feminist activism focusing primarily on legal rights for women.
o The right to vote, legal protections for women and children from abuse, equal access for
education, employment opportunities, allowing women to own property.
• 1960s – 2 wave feminism denounced the domestic sphere as oppressive to women and sought to
achieve equality with men in the public sphere.
o Feminist criminology tends to emerge in the second wave feminism.
o Betty Friedan (last name?)
o White educated middle-class housewives who found themselves isolated in suburbs – lack of
o The personal is political.
o Analyze women subordination – resurgence of a new form of political activism to end gender
o More women entering university campuses.
o Early women academics.
The Second Wave: From Women’s Emancipation and to Patriarchy: Women’s Emancipation
• The late 1960s saw the beginning of renewed emphasis on women's issues, a development that is
known as the 2 wave of the women's movt.
• Born in part out of quesns about social, political, & economic equality with men, it has had a
profound impact on the nation's social agenda, especially on how women & crime were examined.
• In the 1960s and 1970s, women showed an increase participation in the workforce, and thus, new
explanations of female crime were developed.
• During the mid-1970s, 2 controversial books (Adler’s Sisters in Crime and Simons Women and
Crime) proposed ideas about women’s criminality based on analyses of female arrest trends of the
1960s and early 1970s.
• Adler: Sisters in Crime argued that the lifting restrictions on women’s opportunities in the
marketplace gave them the chance to be greedy, violent, and crime prone as men.
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o Women’s crimes are increasing because they have more opportunities to commit crimes
o No studies on female crimes; women were just added onto the studies based on men
• Simon: women’s increasing share of arrests for property crime might be explained by their increased
opportunities in the workplace to commit crime.
Patriarchy and Crime
• The next gen of female criminologists went from focusing on emancipation to patriarchy.
• Major theme → The pervasiveness of male dominance in patriarchal society and its impact on crimes
committed both by men and women (book - committed both by & against women??)
• The next generation of feminist criminologists – focus on men’s power over women.
• Rape and other forms of sexual abuse were all explained by patriarchal dominance.
o Questioning the violence against women – to make it a question to study.
o Limited understanding on the violence against women.
o When feminist criminologists start to look at women in institutions, it became apparent that the
majority of women in institutions had history of physical and sexual violence.
o Their history cannot be ignored.
o Women considered the mules for trafficking drugs and they are the ones that get caught and
charged when they’re not the ones involved in the organization of drug trades – often times, they
are coerced into trafficking drugs (ex: poverty)
• The emphasis on power differences b/w men & women led women into powerless types of crime
such as prostitution and small-scale fraud.
• These crimes bring little reward to women b/c they are marginalized by economic destitution → some
female crime is a manifestation of, & helps to reproduce, sexual stratification in society.
Varieties of Feminist Thought: Early Feminist Perspectives
• All kinds of feminists – feminism takes multiple forms
• Many of these theories have different arguments that they put forth
• Feminism can’t be seen as a unified perspective
• Liberal Feminism: Gender socialization as the cause of crime (ideas of liberty and equality).
o It emphasizes gender socialization as the cause of crime. Male dominance & female
subordination as reflections of how each gender is taught to behave socially & culturally.
o Each gender commits crime consistent w/ role expectations.
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• Marxist Feminism: Class and gender division of labor combine to determine the social position of
women and men
o Masculine dominance of women, is not just an expression of sexism.
o The criminal victimization of women & the crimes they commit result from the mode of
production under capitalism.
o Women's labour in the home & in the marketplace creates profit for capitalist