Race and Gender Considerations
CHAPTER 6: Criminalized Girls
Public Perceptions and Media Representations
- Some common perspectives of female crime is that it is in on the rise, teenage
girls are violent, crime rates are falling except females, girls fights marked by
insults, rumors and gangs.
- It is widely seen that boys participate in law breaking as a part of growing up.
For girls it is not seen as kindly.
- Media portrays women being the fastest growing prison population
- One rare horrific story is portrayed as all girls being as such and creating a
- One theory is the violence being a result of internalizations of a dominant
- Feminists have long ascribed male violence against women to the unequal
dominance and power of males in society.
- These factors are left out of media discourse.
Construction of the Criminalized Girl
- Media portrays female violence as irrational and the product of individual
- Frame the girl as the offender, not a victim of their own problems.
- Movie Mean Girls giving impression that girls have gone bad.
- Provocative celebrity teenage girls also make it look like girls have gone wild.
- Media discourses fail to contextualize girls’ criminality.
- When putting female crime into context, you notice that young males are still
responsible for 75-80% of youth crime.
- Media emphasizes the size of the crime rather than the number of crimes.
Female crimes have not really gone up, it’s the gravity of the crimes that has
perhaps gone up.
Male Versus Female Delinquency
- Most frequent charge for males and females is theft under $5000
- Females must less likely to be arrested for crimes of violence.
- Boys are responsible for far more violent crime than girls.
- Violence differs quantitatively and qualitatively as well.
- Violent activity peaks at a younger age for females than males.
- Contexts for male and female violence are different.
- Girls are more involved in property crime under $5000, much less likely to
be involved in violent or serious property crimes, more like likely to face
prostitution charges, charged with more administrative offences and are less
likely to extend delinquency into adulthood.
- Male violence and crime is much more frequent, serious and utilitarian. - Female violence is attributed to self-defence.
Extent of Female Delinquency
- Over the past 20 years the number of young women charged with the most
serious forms of violence has been constant and infrequent.
- Changes in official record of female delinquency may reflect heightened
sensitivity and a different societal response rather than changes in actual
- Even though the number of girls being processed the YCJS has increased, the
absolute number of girls involved in youth crime and violent crime, remains
Nature of Female Delinquency
- Placing girls and their behavior within the context of youth culture.
- Looking at relationship between troubles and crimes.
- Beauty industry indoctrinates young girls at an early age.
- Socialized to associate identity and popularity with appearance, fashion and
- Relates to shoplifting.
- Girls tend to steal things like clothes and cosmetics.
- Society of consumption.
- Its hard for poor and underprivileged girls.
- With no money to purchase the “look” dictated by pop culture some girls
resort to illegal means.
- Criminalization of girls is not simply about criminal conduct or limited to the
- Striking increase for girls in failure to comply.
- Under the YCJA, youth can’t be charged with status offences. Failure to
comply has become status like because of the similar consequences.
- Females 17 and under suspected to be involved in prostitution are locked up
under the jurisdiction of child welfare.
- This is most pronounced for Aboriginal women who are grossly
overrepresented in youth detention and secure care facilities.
Misrepresenting Female Delinquent
- Most of criminology has been male focused.
- Female is secondary.
- Most literature is divided into:
o Biological differences where female deviance is understood in terms
of sexual dysfunction
o Female deviance as the masculinization of women brought about
through feminism and women’s liberation which minimize gender gap
o Gender role socialization where female deviance reflects gender roles
and changes to them.
The Criminal Girl and Biology - Traditionally, young females seen as sexual delinquents.
- When women were delinquent it was seen as rare and profoundly different
- Biological throwbacks.
- Women meant to bear and raise children. Not as evolved as men. Therefore
unable to commit crime.
- Therefore when they participated in crime they went against their nature.
- One theory about young girls committing crime was hormones. PMSing.
- Understood female delinquency to be a sexual problem.
Masculinization of criminal girl
- Masculinization argument holds that women have become more like males.
- Women’s liberation thesis argues that like women are demanding equal
opportunity in legitimate institutions, other women are calling for the same
- Idea that females who offend are copying males and rejecting their feminine
roles is a dominant view despite criticism.
- Some females experience more social control in traditional patriarchal
- Enforces less risk taking behavior among daughters
Pathways to Criminalization
- Individual level pathways
o Physical and sexual abuse
o Leaving home
o Substance and drug abuse and untreated addictions
o School problems
o Negative experiences with adults
o Medical and mental health concerns
o Negative self-representation
- Structural level pathways
o Experiences of gender based oppression and victimization
o Living on the street and involvement in prostitution/sex trade
o Participation in economic related crimes
Sexual double standard
- Boys encouraged in exploring sexually. Girls punished for doing this.
- Violence against women reflects, reinforces and reproduces the double
- Double standard reinforces violence inflicted against girls and women at the
hands of men.
- Ex. Aboriginal sex trade women.
- Men still use violence as powerful patriarchal weapon to keep girls in place.
- Some females run away to women shelters. - Prostitution as means of survival