The association between gender and crime demands deep study and thought and within this essay my intention will be to critically discuss and evaluate the suggestion that the invisibility of woman is notable when looking at crime.
Empirical studies reflecting the number of years observing offences show there is a difference in the offence rates and patterns of men and women and in their experiences of victimisation.
This victimisation in the past and to an extent even today has marginalised women and has been most prolific in the areas and issues of concern to women who were overlooked and regarded as 'unimportant'.
Early sociology text books were written by males and their research focused on males as the norm and within this context females are often considered an afterthought however it has to be mentioned here, at an early stage in this essay, that the neglect once harboured is being increasing rectified.
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During the early years of sociological study much emphasis was put on a stereotypical vision of masculinity being at the forefront in the explanation of crime in our society, this image of the typical criminal, is young, male, working class and in many cases black.
He often exhibits the characteristics of masculinity in an exaggerated fashion, hence he is motivated by a search for thrills and excitement, he acts on the spur of the moment, he demonstrates courage in the face of physical threat and he excludes the supposed virtues of toughness and aggressiveness.
Hence masculinity emerges as a key feature in the theory of crime and deviance, while femininity is totally ignored. Haralambos, (1990)
It is now an axiomatic principle that engages the different aspects of feminist principles and of different criminologist, although the fact that women account for a very small proportion of all known offenders and as a consequence relatively little attention has been given to them.
One particular critique of the liberal feminist 1960s onwards was that, even though woman were being recognised in criminal studies they were depicted in terms of stereotypes based on their supposed biological and psychological nature, whilst critical criminology challenged the assumptions of positivism in explaining men's crime. Maguire, Morgan, Reiner. (2007)
Haralambos (1990) points out the fallacy of relying on official statistics, noting that agents of social control have preconceived notions of typical criminals and thus some individuals are more likely to be labelled as criminal than others.
It is not surprising that in an age of imbalance in which gender, status
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and culture, were all ignobly misconceived, Freud (1895) argued the fact that criminal women were neurotic, maladjusted sexual misfits who were not content with their role as wife and mother and as a result their behaviour was
consequently seen to result from a failure to develop healthy feminine attitudes and from a wish to be a man.
Indeed in his study of Eugenics, Lombroso (1895) claimed that the maternal instinct was very weak in criminal women because they belonged to the male species, he also went on to argue that the criminal women had the worst characteristics of women and all the qualities of men. Eugenics was widely popular in the early decades of the 20th century, it is worth noting that within 30 years Eugenics had fallen into disrepute after having becoming associated with Nazi Germany and Fascism.
These ludicrous suggestions actually helped provide explanations to account for women's involvement in criminal activity and biology still continues to command place long after it has been seriously challenged as an inadequate explanation for male criminality.
The focus on biology regarding female law breakers led to a substantial amount of research linking menstruation to crime and mental illness to crime, Marsh (1981) found that 80% of all female crime occurred around the period of menstruation, Morris (1987) countered that it was hardly surprising that researchers found a link between menstruation and female crime, given that women spend almost half their lives in menstrual phase.
Individuals have and always will use excuses for their deviant behaviour, not being in charge of one's faculties whilst being under the influence of alcohol is often used by men for example, equally women know their behaviour can be excused by reference to menstruation.
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Liberal feminism, with its commitment to equality of opportunity and the recognition of woman's rights in welfare, health, employment and education probably has the closest relationship with criminology.
Postmodernism with its opposition to essentialism probably has the most difficult relationship with criminology. Carrington (1998)
There are many sophisticated explorations of the different feminist positions and of the differences with categories, Jackson and Scott (2002) but these positions collectively illustrate men's material interest in the domination of women and the different ways in which men construct a variety of institutional arrangements to sustain this domination, Feminists argue the case to 'make visible the invisible' by bringing into focus the gender structure in society.
In many cases where premenstrual tension was successfully accepted as a valid defence plea, feminists argue that the success of these pleas depends
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not only of expert witnesses but also on the courts preparedness to believe this evidence because it fits their stereotype of female criminal. Maquire, Morgan, Reiner. (2007)
Marxist criminology highlights the class dimension of crime. Until the flowering of radical criminology in the 1960s and 1970s little systematic attention had been given by Marxists or others on the left to crime or criminal justice. Marx and Engels themselves wrote little on crime. Taylor, Walton, Young. (1973)
Critics have often dismissed Marx's analysis as simple economic determinism but this has been countered by discussions that stressed Marx's humanism, he illustrated the ways in which criminal law is selectively enforced on the powerless, the working classes in particularly.
Working class women, who are perhaps one notch down on the powerless scale and yet they do not accumulate the indictable offence ratio men do?
Gregory (1986) suggests that Marxist theory needs to be enhanced by socialist feminist theory, which would take into account gender as well as class. Such a combination would give a clearer insight into the unequal distribution of power and wealth as regards women in capitalist societies and how this in turn may affect their capability towards criminal tendencies.
Probably the most influential sociological theory of how criminal motives are formed is Robert Merton's version of anomie theory.
At heart, many theories take it that crime is a consequence of defective social regulation. People are said to deviate because the disciplines and authority of society are so flawed that they offer few restraints or moral direction.
According to Merton, anomie became a socially fostered state of discontent and deregulation that generated crime and deviance as part of the routine functioning of a society which promised much to everyone but actually denied them equal access to its attainment. Merton (1938)
He argued attributes such as wealth and success, elements some people had been encouraged to achieve in the United States (the society on which Merton focused) could not be achieved through hard work and education. It was far from easy for a poor inner city adolescent to receive sponsorship for jobs, achieve academic awards, or acquire capital.
In a society where failure was interpreted as a sign of personal rather than social weakness, where failure tended to lead to guilt rather than political anger, the pressure to succeed could be so powerful that it impelled people thus disadvantaged to bypass legitimate careers and to up take illegitimate careers instead; 'the culture makes incompatible demands â€¦. In this setting, a cardinal American virtue - "ambition"- promotes a cardinal American vice - "deviant behaviour" Merton (1957)
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The Home Office figures for Indictable Offences in England and Wales (2007) reflect this theory to be accurate as they verify a steady increase in Offenders of both gender, however the statistics still reflect a significant disparity between the male and female offender and yet according to the Marxist theory there should be at least as much crime by women as men since they too are predominantly working class and powerless, thus more prone to the affects of, 'selective criminal law', and equally, within Merton's theory of anomie, the opportunity structures are less open to them.
One theory by Eileen Leonard suggests women's goals are relational and not financial, that way are more concerned with relationships rather than financial success. "Their main goal is to get married and since most of them are able to achieve this then they do not experience the gap between goals and means. Being married and having children is all women expect," Leonard, E. (1982)
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Whilst Leonard's notion of goals and means answers part of Merton's anomie theory, it smacks hard of stereotypical images of women.
One can only imagine the effect this concept would have had on the pioneers of liberal feminism, given the fact that one in three marriages end in divorce.
The types of offences between male and female vary little.
Home Office statistics for England and Wales 2008 indicate that women are considerably less criminal than men, however they do commit the same type of crime, homicide is relatively rare compared to other forms of violent crimes, "in most of the last ten years, there have been between 700 and 900 homicides recorded in England and Wales, well under 0.1 per cent of all violent crimes recorded by the police, over 90 per cent of all homicides are committed by male's", Brookman (2005)
The two most frequent crimes committed by females are shoplifting and benefit fraud, its significant to note that neither of these crimes require a great deal of strength," this reflects the woman's concern of maintaining a greater occupation of private space, whereas male crime involves a greater emphasis on the use of force and the occupation of public space", Smart (1976)
Statistic's involving criminality are based on prosecutions and convictions, and within this framework, Pollak (1961) claims that the gender divergence indicated in crime statistics are ficticious.
Women commit as much crime as men but they are able to conceal the amount of crime they commit because society tends to view them as caring , loving, creatures, incaperble of crime.
Courts do have a tendancy to be more lienient with women, Steffenmeier (1980) suggests judges are reluctant to separate a woman from her children and given the statistics on male deviance, criminals are generally viewed as being dangerous, whereas woman are rarely viewed as dangerous, taking
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into account the stereotyping of socialisation when women are found guilty of a crime they are likely to be viewed as acting emotionally.
A Crime of Passion : Conclusion.
When the aspect of Differential Socialisation is considered as a reason for the invisibility of women when looking at crime, it can clearly be observed what the forward thinking liberal feminist's were focusing on certainly had relevance. Smart,C. (1976) cites,"males are socialised to be aggressive while females are socialised to accept passive roles", and Oakley, A. (1981) suggests that the dividing line between masculinity and criminality may at times be a thin one.
It is hardly surprising therefore to receive such disproportioned Home Office figures regarding gender and crime, In her studies of male and female delinquencies, Smart (1976) found that girls were more strictly socialised than boys by their parents and had less opportunity to engage in juvenile delinquency.
Abbot and Wallace (1990) illustrate the ways in which the ideology of femininity creates constraining images and expectations of girl's behaviour. Of particular concern is the protection of a girl's virginity. While boy's are expected to sow their wild oats, girl's are expected to remain a virgin until they marry or at least until they are in a steady relationship.
Statistics involving criminality are based on prosecutions and convictions and within this context Pollak (1961) claims that the gender divergence indicated in crime statistics are fictitious. Women, he says, commit as much crime as men but they are able to conceal the amount of crime that they commit because society tends to view them as caring, loving creatures, incapable of crime.