Definitions of crime

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In the 21st century defining crime is a difficult task to comprehensively achieve as suggested by Garland & Sparks (2000, p. 193). It is always difficult to distinguish a crime from a tort. However, many scholars in the field define crime as a wrong to the society involving violation of the legal rule, which has criminal consequences attached to it. Such crimes have a legal punishment usually imprisonment. However, both males and female are caught in the system as either victims or offenders. This essay presents a brief introduction to labelling, phenology, and feminism theories. The paper also presents a critical evaluation of labelling and phenology and feminism theory, their contribution to the definition of crime, crime control, and contemporary criminology.

Labelling and phenomenology

Labelling perspective is considered the springboard for the proponents of the modern criminology. It also forms the base of ideas for the new criminology. This perspective, at first does not represent a single theory but a collection of ideas drawn under one method. It is sometimes called social reaction theory. The theory looks towards the society’s reaction to deviants rather than the deviants themselves. The theory suggests that no behaviour is deviant or criminal unless it is so defined by the society in which the deviant ascribes. It aims at identifying how individuality and conduct of persons can be affected and influenced by descriptive words and titles attached to them. Some of the terms used include criminal, deviant, and disability.


This was a concept developed by the German philosopher Edmund Huseri (1859-1938) it was developed after the need to associate more directly to criminology. (Thompson & Zahavi, 2007, pp. 1-5). Phenomenology argues that the theory sees all actions as intended, that is to say that people choose their behaviours. Everything that a person does is intended and purposed as conscious of a person can be identified. He adds that each person behaves in a live conscious.

There are various assumptions that help explain the concept of phenomenology. The first is the grouping phenomenology that uses the epoch method, and rejects the objective research. The second is the assumptions that the study of human behaviour regularly can help one understand human nature. The third is the assumption that people should be explored. This assumption argues that it easy to understand a person by paying close attention to his or her actions. Moreover, in phenomenology, the researchers prefer using conscious data as opposed to collecting data and using it later.

Feminism criminology theory

In the two century of criminology, the feminist perspective is considered rather recent. According to Magnussen, Peterson and Sundin (2011, p. 9 ), the study of gender issues in criminology arose in the mid-1960. This period was marked by waves of women awakening and fighting for equal rights. This is the second wave of feminism. This period resulted to a completely changed social, political, and cultural perspective of women. During this period, the youths especially in Europe and America challenged the status quo by disregarding the older established norms. From this argument, it is worth looking at who a feminist is. The oxford handbook of criminology identifies a feminist as a person who views men as materially domineering over women and who always device ways and means of sustaining the dominance through construction of institutions. From this, a feminist is someone who believes that women are subordinated because of their sex.

The struggle for the female gender according to Heidensohn and Silvestre (2012, pp. 336-339) can be traced back to the 1980s when the first wave was felt. In this wave, women fought against official inequalities, which included voting rights, property rights, contract, marriage, and even legal rights. Women have struggled over the years to overcome gender bias, and have managed to do so in some aspects of the society, but there is still more that people need to do to ensure that all people have similar rights irrespective of their gender .

The second wave was felt in the 1960’s. Feminist in this wave advocated for unofficial inequalities like the right to abortion and working outside the kitchen. This was perhaps the most felt wave. Majority of voting rights were granted in countries like Sweden in 1968, Liechtenstein in 1991 (“The Feminist Movement.”, pp. 926-930).

The third wave started the 1990's and is ongoing to date. Feminist are advocating about diversity issues in the society, domination and societal issues such as gender, sexuality, and even class. Much of the current legislation in nations is being guided by this wave. Women are claiming national leadership positions even in conservative societies (“The Feminist Movement.”, pp. 926-930).

The standpoint feminist of the 1980’s see that feminism should address comprehensive matters like rape and traditionally specific issues such as female genital mutilation in areas like Africa and Middle east. This will help in understanding how gender disparities interrelate with racism, classism, and colonization. They should also consider issues hindering development of women in some continents.

Comparison and contrast

Labelling and phenology are associated with interactions theories. They view crime as associated with the definitions by a given society. According to this theory, crime is violating a societal norm where one is labelled a deviant or a criminal. Feminism, on the other hand, is a gender-based theory that views one group, male gender in this case, as oppressors of the female gender. Feminist fight for the recognition and equality of one gender in the society usually the rights for the female gender (Mikkola & Miles, pp. 41-48). They view crime as the discrimination against the gender.

Labelling and phenology, which is a collection of similar theories having one method is empirically impossible to measure. It is difficult to measure the extent of crime as whether it is serious or not as it is based on the societal values. In feminism, on the other hand, measuring is much easier. The constraints of economic, political, or social marginalization can be easily measured.

Labelling involves attaching labels to individual as deviants or criminals. This lead to segregation of such people seen as criminal thus leading to stigmatization. Feminism, on the other hand, can be seen to be a higher form of labelling where female gender is often seen as being oppresses. Feminists seek to understand crimes based on gender studies rather than basing on the societal values and norms (Finn & Servoss, 2013, pp.5 -11).

Phenomenology states that society operates in a set of assumption. The most prominent of all is that that the people on the same culture will have similar worldviews despite having different worldviews. Therefore, it aims at understanding how people come to have the experiences they are having now. On the other hand, feminism tends to question such societal worldviews that are culturally inherent in each society. Feminist challenge the status quo and advocate for a new paradigm. Labelling, on the other hand, is a societal theory, which identifies an individual basing of existing norm (Hagan, pp. 288-290)

Contribution to crime definition

Labelling theory as earlier noted sees crime as a deviance from the societal norms. Any person who goes out of these norms is considered a deviant. This theory suggests that societies create criminals. However, one will question why there has been many people doing against the societal norm yet go unpunished. The answer will be that only those caught are punished. In addition, a weakness in this theory is that it tends to categorize the offender as the victim. In most cases, punishment for crime is seen as the act of those in authority only. The theory suggests that labelling one as a criminal can actually lead one to committing more crime; however, this is impossible to measure empirically (Becker, 2008, pp. 92-95). However, a hurdle appears of identifying which acts are criminal or not. In the people vs. Frazier ruling of 2009, the California court of appeal identified that a person must have the legal capacity to commit a crime. Therefore, both legal and natural persons can be held liable to a crime but animal cannot since they do not have a legal capacity.

Phenomenology on it part build on the labelling theory. It aims at directly associating crimes to the conscious mind. It takes into account the intentional objects and tries to first define the meaning or intentions of the offender and try to relate them to the objects, which gave rise to them. Phenomenologists also use the derived description to construct the process through which the meanings arose in the person's mind.

Feminism, on the other hand, has led to a radical change in criminology. Through the study of gender issues, feminism seeks to understand crime in the context of gender related issues rather than relying on the society. Liberal feminism views women as an equal part of the society and thus laws should be amended to ensure equality. Although, the legal justice claims to be neutral it works more favourably for one gender. Women are discriminated against in almost all process of legal justice from the arrest, prosecute to sentence levels. Socialist feminists look at patriarchy and capitalism in criminality. It notes that women are discriminated in their private and public arenas and exacerbated by capitalism. Some criticize this theory by stating that it may confine women to the traditional women space.

Contribution to control of crime

The federal guideline to sentencing manual of identifies crime control as referring to the methods put in place to reduce crime occurrence. Several scholars supported this proposition. They proposed regulatory control of crime and identify two means of dealing with crime. They argue that many factors can subject a place to criminal activities. Emily suggest two means based strategies as relating to procedures and end based strategies focusing on the overall outcome.

Labelling has led to minor acts of public order being more closely controlled. Youths in major parts of the globe tend to have anti-social behaviours and are experiencing curfews. It has been made easier and common to classify offenders by the risk they pose rather than the crime itself. This has made it possible to analyse and punish the person rather than the crime. More of community service sentences are being imposed to minor offenders. This has helped to reduce stigmatization as well as to integrate the offender back to the society.

Feminism, on the other hand, has had its contribution towards the control of crime, disorder, and criminality. First, studies have led to a deeper understanding and explanation of female criminality and conformity. This has led to a relooking of the judicial system based on gender.

Prisons are now focusing on the roles of women in the society this tends to avoid double punishing women for deviancy from of criminality and behaviour. When women are placed in cells, they suffer double fold. This is because of the few female prisons in the country. The female prisoners are kept far from their families, which often lead to family break ups.

Labelling theory has formed a base of publication of other theories concerning criminology. These theories encompass the definition of crime, how prisons and other criminal justice system ought to be used and run. It suggests that legal systems should be necessary intrusive or be just crime prevention but rather aim at increasing freedom and dominion. Glick (2005, p. 131) suggested the need to connect re-integrative shaming where rights will be important as well as responsibilities.

Contribution to Contemporary criminology

Research in recent days is suggesting that crimes are on the rise. This can be attributed to labelling. This can be attributed to the stigmatization brought about by labelling and harsh economic times. In some instances, re-labelling makes certain less serious acts appear more serious. Feminist theories have lately led to investigation of women’s experience as offenders, victims, workers in criminal justice system and as subjects of this system. They study multiple inequalities and their impact on women. This has led to a critique of knowledge and portal of women within various disciplines and how this affects women. In addition, the other major product of feminism is the study of women lives and how their problems and ways of coping with life influences their behaviours as offenders, victims or otherwise (Glick, 2005, p. 130-135)

Another research by collier in 1998 places gender as a way of understanding societal divisions as being rationale for them; this study has found that traditional explanation of criminality is much based on men’s knowledge to explain female behaviours (Eck & Eck, 2012, pp. 314-316).

In conclusion, there have been major changes in criminology over the past century. Theories have arisen to explain these changes. However much of the change was experienced in the 1960’s where feminism arose in the second wave characterized by challenging the status quo then. This led to the introduction of gender studies to understand criminal behaviours and the need to have correctional facilities aligned to suit gender issues. Labelling and phenomenology also became more popular in this era. Criminologist sought better ways from the positivist in understanding behaviour. Labelling theory often labels people as deviants or criminals by their rebellious acts. One is considered a deviant after going against the norm of the society and state. Phenomenologists, on the other hand, seek to have a deeper understanding of the person’s action. Phenomenologists study the motives behind criminal actions and thus seek ways of punishing the motive. This has helped avoid stigmatization associated with labelling.


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