'Men are aggressors and women are victims' is a very stereotypical view might be held by the majority of society and by some of the first criminologists; however criminology has evolved to try and understand how this stereotype has come to be seen as the norm within crime. They also try exploring whether this stereotype is in fact true or whether there are various differences.
To understand the part of this stereotype that women are victims we must first look into the role of a victim. The role of a victim is essential in initiating the criminal justice process as the majority of offences which come to the attention of the police are reported to them by victims of these offences; their two roles within the criminal justice system are that of reporting the crime and providing evidenced that the crime has been committed. This role of the victim is different than in days gone by when the crime was controlled by individual and community self-regulation, as crimes were seen to be a private matter between offender and victim and so it was up to the victim and their family to decide if they went to court or not and would play the role of prosecutor rather than victim.
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Nils Christie (1986) explained how in the role of victim there is an ideal victim such as an elderly woman or a child, both seen as an ideal victim as they are seen as weak and deserving of help and care, on the other hand young men are seen as not as deserving of help and sympathetically and so are not as likely to be seen as true victims. This shows that the stereotype of only women as victims and men as aggressors is not true as it may just be that men are not seen as much of victims of an offence than a woman might be.
There are many social variables which determine a person's likelihood to be a victim, one of which is gender. It has been shown from crime surveys that men are in actual fact more likely to be victims of violent attacks but that women are more likely to be victimised in the home. This shows how men can be victims and not just the aggressors who commit the acts, but it also shows how women can also still be victims and that perhaps different genders are victims of different types of attacks. For example "men aged between 17 and 32 make up 7 per cent of the population but 25 per cent of all murder victims" (Dorling, 2012) this is a greater percentage than women between these ages that are murdered proving how men can be more likely to be a victim than a women in certain crimes. This is true also by the fact that women are more likely to be the victim of reported and unreported sexual offences and are more likely to experience repeated unwanted attention such as stalking than men. However when it comes to a whole number of crimes it can be difficult to make judgements as to whether men or women are more likely to be victims as there are many forms on gendered crime such as forced prostitution and sex trafficking which are more likely to have female victims.
A study conducted by the NSPCC in 2009 on people aged between 13-18 found that a third of girls and only 16% of boys had experienced sexual violence (Barter et al., 2009) This shows how girls are more likely to be a victim of this type of crime; although this statistics may not be entirely accurate because some people especially boys may not want to admit to being raped as it is more humiliating because of their gender. The study also showed how 12% of boys and only 3% of girls reported committing sexual violence against their partners (Barter et al., 2009); so this could be used to show how men are more likely to be aggressors; however these statistics are related to specific crimes and not all reported crimes and so are not proof of the 'men are aggressors and women are victims' stereotype.
Men as victims challenges the victim stereotype about who can be a victim, the lack of understanding of potential impacts on men this lack of perceived victimhood can have points to the lack of large-scale surveys on male victimisation, although these surveys may not be answered correctly as men could perceive being known as a victim as a threat to their masculinity. This means men may not answer surveys correctly as they do not want to be seen as a victim or they do not see themselves as a victim such as in cases of domestic abuse as if they were attacked by their female partner they may not see it as a real crime as no actual damage was done to themselves.
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There has been a sort of gender myopia within criminology in which early criminologists did not look into crimes committed by women, Heidensohn (1968) how this exclusion of women from criminology excluded half of society in understanding deviance and that other aspects of women and their lives are of interest to social sciences and that as gender differences are well reported in crime such as men committing more crime on the whole then women why then where they not well investigated. When criminologists did look into female offending they did not go as in depth with male criminology.
Cesare Lombroso was an early positivist criminologist who used physiognomy to explain why some people commit crimes creating and anthropological criminology in which crime was thought to be inherited and that criminals could be identified from their physical features and that all criminals had certain physical features in common such as a small or weak chin and long arms. Lombroso penned a book with Guglielmo Ferrero in 1895, The Female Offender in this they tried to explain female criminals. They stated how when a woman does turn to crime how she is a "monster" and that "her wickedness must have been enormous before it could triumph over so many obstacles." They also held the belief like many of their time that women ranked lower on the evolutionary scale than men, so were more primitive and so they suggested that female criminals would not be as visible as male criminals and would show fewer signs of degeneracy than males. So Lombroso and Ferrero stated how female criminality was down to their biology and a female criminal is an abnormal woman but also as they were like a man "often more ferocious" (Ferrero and Lombroso, 1895). So although early criminologists were aware of female offenders they put this down to the abnormality of a women being manlier and ferocious therefore it is not just a man who can be an aggressor. Further exploration into any other causes of female criminality bar abnormality and masculine traits were not much looked into until the next century after The Female Offender was published.
The absence of qualitative research also meant that women were neglected from criminology, they are also seen and represented as helpmates rather than instigators of serious crime such as Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960's; he was seen as the instigator and she as a manipulated helper in killing and hiding the murders of several children. Some criminological theories attempted to explain female offending such as the learning theories which explain it by the fact male crime was glamorised in the media and encouraged women to commit crime.
Because of this lack of thought into female offenders they were often seen as abnormal to other females as a criminal cannot be neutral when the norm is taken to be male and so women are measured to the degree to which they deviated from this norm and if they did offend and thus would be institutionalised for their own protection. Because of this previous treatment many think this leniency has carried on into the current criminal justice system causing the chivalry debate (Pollak, 1950) where a female offender might not be treated or judged as harshly as a male counterpart by a for instance a male judge who is sentencing her for a crime. This thinking of female offenders being abnormal from the rest of women reinforced the women as victims not as the aggressors stereotype and Pollak (1950) talks about this behaviour from certain women meaning them being seen as devious women. Female criminals are seen as twice as deviant as they have gone against the law and also against their prescribed gender role; this double deviance has reinforced the stereotype of women as victims so therefore they have not been twice as deviant even though in committing the same acts a man would only be seen as being deviant by going against the law and that his gender role is played along with as deviance is seen as a more male trait and thus males are seen to be more likely an aggressor than a victim.
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This silence of female offending in criminology could be explained by social gender inequalities, a low public profile as female crime could be seen as the 'wrong' sort of crime, and it could also be difficult to accommodate gender perspectives in traditional criminological theories, the traditional feminisation of victimhood and masculinisation of aggression. There have been several theories and perspectives as to why women are perhaps committing more crimes such as Simon (1993) "women's greater opportunities and skills... increased participation in labor force and years of schooling, have increased their propensity to commit criminal acts, especially property and white-collar offenses." Adler (1975) explains how women seem to be becoming more violent and aggressive and that perhaps this is why they are committing more crimes.
Because of this lack of research into female offenders, feminist criminology emerged in the 1960's and 1970's, as it could not be doubted that female criminals existed and seem to be on the rise as does female delinquency although this could be due to the media sensationalising female offenders "there has been a veritable siege of news stories with essentially the same theme - girls are in gangs and their behaviour in these gangs does not fit the stereotypical and traditional stereotype" (Chesney-Lind, 1997). There are many different sub-sects of feminist theory each dealt with specific problems such as liberal feminism which deals with discrimination. This rise of research into female criminality lead in turn to more exploration and a deeper understanding of male crime and masculinity within crime and the differences between men and women and offending; showing that masculinity although perceived as a male criminal factor could also be apparent in women and that masculinity is not static and can be effected by context. There is also no clear notion of masculine identity meaning that although aggression is seen as a masculine trait that it can be apparent in both sexes and thus the stereotype that only men can be aggressors is false.
Feminist criminology's concern is the marginalisation of women as subject matters in other criminological theories, because of the lack of theorising female offenders and then the lack of empirical investigations into the topic. The feminist critique also includes the lack of research into female victimisation and male violence against women and they argued that the majority of attention on how the criminal justice system affects male offenders and not female offenders. They argued that criminology in general held a rather uncritical attitude towards gender stereotypes, leading to the 'doubly-deviant' debate (Llyod, 1995). Works such as Dobash and Dobash's (1992) Women, Violence and Social Change challenged the mainstream ideas around vicitimology and made the various forms and extent of female victims more visible. Feminist critique explores the gender gap apparent within the criminal justice system which went beyond early criminologists views such as Pollak's (1950) 'chivalry thesis' which plays upon the existing stereotypical gender roles and patriarchal values to develop a more sophisticated gender analysis.
As masculinity is seen in criminology as a male criminal contributor, the feminist criminology critique has allowed for the revealing of the power that underpins masculinity and its effect on the genders such as how males are obliged to live up to their gender role and so any criminal or deviant behaviour could be linked to them trying to fulfil their male role. The feminist approach shows a new side that builds on gender role theory and so helps criminology to move away from strict biological explanations such as those by Ferrero and Lombroso. So masculinity is viewed as an expression of difference from feminism behaviours but masculinity becomes representative of heterosexual power in this way and is normative and valued. So the feminist critique helps to explore gender template roles. Although the feminist critique shows how deviant acts committed by males are an example of men trying to fulfil their male role, this approach also points to a hierarchy of masculine types. This masculinity is not only confined to males but masculinity can change meaning over time and so there is no single masculinity.
The feminist understanding of masculinity seeks to move past the simplistic stereotype of men as aggressors and women as victims and instead suggests that male identities are all different and that there is diversity this way in both genders. This leads to a questioning of previous positivist biological approaches such as Ferrero and Lombroso's work and other positivist works which try to use on universal explanation for female crime and the idea of crime is maleness as a beginning point. Feminist theory has allowed for the deconstruction of the stereotypical view of men as aggressors or criminals and women as vulnerable and conforming to a victim role.
However "the most consistent and dramatic findings from Lombroso not postmodern criminology is not that criminals are working classâ€¦ but that most criminals are, and always have been, men" (Cain, 1989). So men in general do commit more crimes then women but this does not confirm the stereotype of 'men are aggressors and women are victims' as there is still room for women to be aggressors and men to be victims.
This table shows the population in prisons by gender 30 June 2007 (MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, 2012). Each year it shows how there is a vast gap between numbers of women and men, however this may not necessarily mean men commit more crimes than women but that maybe they are more likely to commit more violent crimes and thus end up in prison as it is a harsher sentence and women may just commit as many crimes but of a different sort such as stealing and not go to prison and be sentenced to community service.
This graph (Office for National Statistics, 2013) shows the incidents of intimate violence in the last year among adults of both genders aged 16 to 59, in 2011/12. These figures help to prove the stereotype that women are the victims are not always true as more men (2% more) interviewed reported being victims of violence than women. However 2% more women reported themselves as being victims of initiate violence than men.
Literature on female violence usually has two central themes. The first is that even women are just as violent as men this is hidden in some sort of conspiracy as women should be seen as passive and men as the violent gender stereotype "a small percentage of violent crime has always been committed by women" (Pollock and Davis, 2005). This theory has been quashed by many writers such as Pearson (1997) who provides evidence of women who have killed their own children, helped killers and who killed their husbands and many other examples to show how women are violent and she argues they have always been as violent and predatory as men. This disproves the women as victims and not aggressors stereotype. There are also statistics which back up the women as the aggressors and committers of crime and not just men theory "women commit the majority of child homicides in the United States" (Pollock and Davis, 2005). However Jones (2009) argues that the women crime waves that seem to be apparent actually correlates with women's liberation movements and so women may receive different reactions from law enforcement then previous leading to increases of arrests and thus women crime waves. She also argues that the reason the women as victims and men as aggressors stereotype is still prevalent is due to men fearing powerful women, however her description ignores that women are less likely to murder than men; so the stereotype of men being more likely to be aggressors and so commit crime is true, even though women can too be aggressors. Even though women "for some reason, they kill, rob, and assault much less often than men" (Pollock and Davis, 2005); this makes it difficult for feminist criminology to figure out why women are less likely to be aggressors than men as no clear unanimous reasons seem to exist.
The second theme is that more women are becoming violent than ever before and that numbers of violent and criminal acts committed by women are increasing; said to be due to women's liberation movements changing socialisation. This idea is based on percentage increases in women committing and being convicted of crime however as the numbers of women who commit these crimes are so small it won't take many to seem as though there has been a large increase Schaffner (1999) is one writer who discusses a rise in violent crime among young females uses these percentage increases. But she notes that the percentage increases can be influenced by small numbers; she infers that the rise may be due to females witnessing violence in their own home and on the streets but these factors may not be any different to times gone by when women in the 19th century witnessed these same factors yet were less likely to commit crime.
Although 'men are aggressors and women are victims' is a rather stereotypical viewpoint it can be the case given that more men commit crimes and are in jail and thus are aggressors and that women are more likely to be a victim of certain crimes such as rape. However feminist criminologists amongst others have shown how women can also be aggressors and commit crimes, although the reasons for this is not as well known or researched as it is for men. It is also clear from crime figures that men are more likely to be victims than women of certain crimes such as murder. So men are more likely to be aggressors overall but women can be aggressors too and men can be more likely to be victims of certain crimes. So the stereotype of 'men are aggressors and women are victims' does hold some merit when taken as a sweeping statement for all crime but there are certain errors in this statement when we look closer into gender and crime.