Week 2: Gender and Social Control
Kruttschnitt & Carbone-Lopez Moving Beyond the Sterotype - Women's Subjective Accounts of
Their Violent Crimes
Scholars, the courts, and especially the media have shown increasing interest in women’s
involvement in violent crime. However, their interest in this topic has been perhaps more prurient
than analytic. Focusing in particular on women who kill, the question has been, how do we explain
this aberration in the “kinder and gentler” sex?
The answers appear to have changed relatively little over time and include biological defects,
hormonal influences or, more recently, psychological syndromes that emerge from a history of
severe victimization (Downs, 1996; Rasche, 1990).
What all of these approaches have in common is that they deny women’s agency or the possibility
that women are involved in violent acts as active, rational human subjects (Morrissey, 2003).
Study: We aim to contribute to this scholarship by analyzing narratives of 106 incidents in which
sixty-six women used violence toward another person, whether an intimate partner or someone
else. We want to determine how they construct their involvement in these violent incidents.
We set the stage for our analysis by examining research on violent female offenders in the context
of three advances in feminist criminology:
1.The first draws attention to the role of institutions in reproducing gendered hierarchies (see
especially Connell, 1987, 2002).
2.The second focuses on how women realize their goals in gendered environments.
3.Finally, in this examination of women offenders’ agency, we also draw attention to the
important, but somewhat limited, work that addresses how intersectionality can further our
understanding of women’s violence.
INSTITUTIONS REPRODUCING STEREOTYPES OF FEMALE VIOLENCE
Media Accounts of Women’s Violence
Morrissey suggests that because news stories, like other narratives, are the product of “the cultural
and social organization of the institution in which they are situated” (Morrissey, 2003: 15), they
rely on“stocktales.”Chesney-Lind (2006: 11–12) argues that in the recent depictions of girls’
violence, the liberation-masculinization tale is most often invoked.
Today, though, violence by women is largely portrayed as a by-product of their husband or
partner’s violence toward them or of the abuse they experienced in their families of origin.
If a woman’s violence cannot be readily linked with a conventional explanation such as child abuse
or spouse abuse, she represents a threat to traditional gender norms and regimes, breaking down
what some have called “the essentialist argument that gender and sex are indissolubly linked”
(Gilbert, 2002: 1295).
Interestingly, however, the use of these stock tales may also be conditioned by race. As Allard
(1991) suggests in her critique of the battered woman syndrome, whereas a killing by a white