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Chapter 6

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Abigail Salole

Chapter 6: Criminalized Girls RACE, CLASS, GENDER CONNECTIONS Introduction: Media Representation and Public Perceptions  Wider cultural values and society- what it means when girls act “differently” outside of the social norm (gender norms)  **when females commit crime, they violate law but also socio-cultural scripts  Girls who defy gender norms by being “naughty” viewed more negatively than boys who engage in violence o Tendency to view boy’s law-breaking as part of growing up “boys just being boys”  Media coverage of girls’ violence represented trend toward aggressive women and girls- women fastest growing prison population worldwide; increased criminalization of women and girls, especially the poor and racial minorities  Yasmin Jiwani- existing research links issue of teen girl violence to internalization of dominant, patriarchal culture which values sex and power o Patriarchal culture based on ideology of familial patriarch supporting abuse of women who violate ideals of male power and control over women o Patriarchy- system of male authority that oppresses women and girls through its social, political, and economic institutions whereby men as a group have greater access to, and mediation of, resources and rewards of authority structures inside and outside home  Real issue is not the girls themselves but the injustices they face outside in large society (sexism, racism and poverty) and inside the Youth Criminal Justice Act (denial of rights, violence and abuse, harsh paternalism) o Systematic failure of part of YCJS and other social institutions to understand and attend to unique circumustances of girls’ lives **punishing girls in the name of protection** Construction of Criminalized Girl  Sensationalized events give impression that girls are more involved in crime and also increasingly violent  Nasty girl phenomenon (Barron and Lacombe)- anxiety over girl violence  Media discourse and popular consciousness fails to contextualize girls’ criminality  Girls commit one fifth to one quarter of all youth crime; adolescent males responsible for 75-80% of it Female Delinquency Trends  Empirical evidence challenges media claims and public perceptions that girls are becoming more criminal and more violent  **panic over out-of-control girl violence is a social construction (Barron and Lacombe)  Rates of female delinquency still higher than 1940s or 1980s  Violent female delinquency still rare Differences in Male and Female Delinquency  Most frequent charge for males and females is theft under $5000, with theft accounting for mostly female charges  Girls less likely to be arrested for crimes of violence and serious property crimes  Charges for prostitution more frequent for girls  Girls charged with more administrative offences (i.e. breaching probation)  Involvement in youth crime decreases at different ages with girls less likely to engage in delinquency in adulthood; male involvement in crime peaks at age 17 while girls peak at 14-15  Main gender difference one of volume, followed by seriousness **boys commit more crimes than girls and overwhelmingly responsible for violent youth crimes  Contexts of male and female violence different (girls engage in horizontal violence- directed at other powerless females [extension of relational aggression]) o Boys use of aggression usually has more instrumental ends (i.e. robbery)  **female violence is contextualized in significant factors related to self-defence, anticipation of an upcoming physical or sexual assault, or prior victimization by physical and sexual abuse- girls expressions of aggression can be located in socio-cultural context of abuse, sexism and inequality Extent of Female Delinquency  Official extent of female delinquency has increased over past few decades  Official rates of violent crime among young women increased in 1980s and 90s, this increase was only for minor offences like common assault  Number of young women charged with serious violent offences (murder and attempted murder) constant and infrequent for last 20 years  **changes in official record of girls’ delinquency may reflect heightened sensitivity and different societal response rather than changes in actual conduct  Police in Canada arresting more girls o Overall number of young women charged with violent offences remains low, any increase in that number will create more substantial percentage increase than increase in male rates  Jane Sprott and Anthony Doob- when we consider nature and extent of female delinquency using official statistics it is “all in the denominator” o To understand how much female youth crime exists we need to move beyond media headlines and percentage increases; look at absolute numbers and contextualize charge rates for girls in related to pattern for boys  More females being processed through youth courts than in the past, absolute numbers of Canadian girls involved in youth crime (specifically violent crimes) remains disproportionately low Nature of Female Delinquency  Nature of female criminality not as serious as media discourse portrays  Girls may be charged with more violent crimes than before but few of them are as horrific as media portrays them to be  Youth crime among females relatively minor; most likely to be arrested for shoplifting, cheque fraud and prostitution-related offences o 1980/1995, 80% of cases heard in Canadian youth courts against girls were for property offences or offences of non-compliance  Given that theft accounts for at least quarter of all girls’ crimes, there is a relationship between girls’ troubles and their crimes; culture to buy goods to make themselves look and feel “better” o Gender differences reflected in types of items teens steal (girls steal makeup and clothes while boys steal electronics)  Arrests for non-criminal conduct largely responsible for criminalization of girls (i.e. YOA and YCJA offences like breach of probation) o Increase in Canada of charges for failure to comply  Under the YCJA and YOA, youth can’t be charged with status offences; girls incarcerated for breaching conditions of judicial orders, not criminal behaviour o **regulatory legislation in Canada contributed to increase in number of girls processed through child-welfare system; especially true for aboriginal girls who are overrepresented in youth detention and secure care facilities Ignoring and Misleading Female Delinquents  Criminology always been androcentric (based on male behaviour, written from male perspective and judged by male standard)  Early literature of female crime and gender gap divided into three types: 1. Biological differences- female deviance understood in terms of sexual dysfunction 2. Female deviance as masculinization of women brought about through feminism and women’s liberation, which minimize gender gap 3. Gender-role socialization- female deviance reflects gender roles and changes to them “Criminal Girl” and Biology  Girls traditionally misrepresented as “pathological” or “sexual delinquents” and understood as “other” in criminological literature o Mythologized girl delinquent assuming she was rare and different from males and other females  Influenced by social Darwinism – Cesare Lombroso believed criminals were biological atavists; females biologically destined to bear and raise kids and not as intelligent and thus had little ability to engage in challenging activities such as crime o Biology made women more passive and nurturing so engaging in crime would misrepresent their nature  Otto Pollack attributed women’s crime to hormonal imbalances (i.e. menstruation, pregnancy) o Argued women created a lot of crime but less likely to get caught Masculinization of the “Criminal Girl”  Masculinization- females have become more like males  **girls and women will have “equality” in criminality  Women’s liberation thesis (Freda Adler) – in the same way women are demanding equal opportunity in legitimate institutions, other determined women are calling for the same in area of criminal activity o Rita Simon- more women getting arrested for white collar crime linked to women’s greater participation in paid workforce  Idea that females who offend are following males and rejecting feminine role  Female aggression “rediscovered” and societal responses changing; focus was on controlling sexual behaviour, not violent behaviour o Idea that girls are just as likely to be bullies fuelled rediscovery of girls’ violent behaviour  Growing emphasis on bullying and girls’ aggression obscures reality that male physical and sexual abuse account for most violence against girls  Aboriginal girls are more vulnerable; 75% of aboriginal females under 18 have been sexually abused  Girl’s victimization gender-based and linked to patriarchal power and authority is obscured under banner of “bullying” o Take girls’ victimization by other girls seriously by locating it within larger context of patriarchy instead of seeing it as a reflection of the “nasty girl” phenomenon or expression of their innate capacity for aggression  Masculinization hypothesis misdirected, especially when it presumes that girls’ aggression reflects their empowerment  Connections between power, control and growing up male lost in favour of oversensitivity to violence by predominantly economically and racially marginalized girls and women  Masculinization hypothesis fails to place masculinity (or femininity) in its socio-cultural context and ignores socio-economic circumstances of girls’ criminalization Girls’ Criminality and Gender Roles  Hagan, Simpson, and Gillis- used power control theory to explain females; greater conformity to social mores o Argue that females experience more social control in traditional, patriarchal families than males or than females in egalitarian families o Patriarchal families enforce less risk-taking behavior among daughters and boys are encouraged to roam more freely; differential socialization accounts for females’ lower rates of delinquency  With greater male control over women and girls in families, risk for female adolescent deviance decreases  Suggests that mothers who work outside home contribute to higher delinquency among their draughts but there is no evidence for this  Acknowledges importance of gender and patriarchy in shaping male/female behaviour  Socialization patterns may help us understand differences in growing up male or female; they alone can’t explain motivation or why females engage in crime and violent crime Theoretical, Empirical, and Practical Issues  Generalizability problem:
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