Gender, crime and justice!!!!!!

  • Created by: Oohla
  • Created on: 19-05-15 23:07

Gender patterns - Statistics..

Heidensohn observes that gender differences are perhaps 'the most significant  feature of recorded crime'. Most crime appears to be committed by males.

Official statistics show that:

  • Four out of five convicted offenders in England and Wales are male.
  • By the age of 40, 9% of females had a criminal conviction, as against 32% of males.

 Among offenders, there are some significant gender differences. For example:

  • A higher proportion of female than male offenders are convicted of property offences (except burglary) and of violence or sexual offences.

  • Males are more likely to repeat offences, to have longer criminal careers and to commit more serious crimes.
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Do women commit more crime?

Some sociologists argue that they underestimate the amount of female as against male offending. Two arguments have been put forward to support this view:

  • Typically female crimes such as shoplifting are less likely to be reported. It is less likely to get media attention than violent crimes usually committed by men.

  • Even when women's crime are reported, they are less likely to be prosecuted or if they are prosecuted, they are more likely to be let off likely.

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The chivalry thesis..Men treat women nice..

The thesis argues that most criminal justice agents, such as the police, are men and men are socialised to act in a 'chivalrous' way towards women.

  • The criminal justice system is thus more lenient with women and so their crimes are less likely to end up in official statistics. This gives an invalid picture that exaggerates the extent of gender differences in rates of offending.

  • Campbell (1981) states that female offenders are more likely to escape convictions than males. For example, The Ministry of Justice found that 49% of females recorded as offending received a caution in 2007, whereas for males the figure was only 30%.

  • In 2011, 1.2 million people were sentenced..24% were female and 76% were male. Is the criminal justice system more lenient with women? Do they not want to remove the primary care giver?
  • Allen (1987) states men are more likely to be imprisoned than women because they are less central to the family. Women are also seen as less inherently deviant than men, so the courts are more likely to ask for social reports ect. 
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Bias against women..

  • Farrington and Morris' study of sentencing of 408 offences of theft in a magistrates' court found that women were not sentenced more leniently for comparable offences.
  • If women appear to be treated more leniently, it may simply be because their offences are less serious. Furthermore, women offenders are less likely to show remorse, and this may help to explain why they are more likely to receive a caution instead of going to court.

Bias against women

Many feminists argue that the criminal justice system is biased against women. Heidersohn argues, the courts treat females more harshly than males when they deviate from gender norms. For example:

  • Double standards- courts punish girls but not boys for premature or promiscuous sexual activity.

  • Women who do not conform to accepted standards of monogamous heterosexuality and motherhood are punished more harshly.

  • Pat Carlin argues that when women are jailed, it is less for 'the seriousness of their crimes and more according to the court's assessment of them as wives, mothers and daughters.

  • Feminists argue that these double standards exist because the criminal justice system is patriarchal.

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Explaining female crime..

Explaining female crime

Sociologists take the view that social rather than biological factors are the causes of gender differences in offending. This is put forward in three main explanations of gender differences in crime; sex role theory, control theory and  the liberation thesis.

  • Functionalist sex role theory
  • Heidensohn - Patriarchal control
  • Carlen - class and gender deals
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Functionalist sex role theory..

Parsons traces differences in crime and deviance to the gender roles in the conventional nuclear family. While men take the instrumental, breadwinner role, performed largely outside the home, women perform the expressive role where they take the main responsibility for socialising the children in the home.

  • It tends to be the boys that reject feminine models of behaviour that express emotion. Instead boys distance themselves from such models by engaging in 'compensatory compulsory masculinity' through aggression and anti-social behaviour, which can slip into delinquency.

  • Because men have much less of a socialising role than women in the nuclear family, socialisation can be more different for boys than for girls. According to Cohen, this relative lack of an adult male role model means boys are more likely to turn to all male street gangs as a source of masculine identity.

  • New Right theorists argue that the absence of a male role model leads to boys turning to criminal street gangs as a source of identity.

  • Although the theory tries to explain gender differences in crime in terms of behaviour learned through socialisation, it is ultimately based on biological assumptions about sex differences.

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Heidensohn; Patriarchal control..

Heidensohn argues that the most striking thing about women's behaviour is how conformist it is - they commit fewer crimes than men. In her view, this is because patriarchal society imposes greater control over women and this reduces their opportunities to offend.

  • Control at home- Women's domestic role imposes severe restrictions on their time and movement and confines them to the house for long periods, thus reducing opportunities to offend.
    Dobash and Dobash argue that men exercise control through their financial power e.g. denying women funds for leisure activities, thereby restricting their time outside the home.

  • Control in public­- Women are controlled in public by the threat of male violence against them, especially sexual violence. The Islington Crime Survey found that 54% of women avoided going out after dark for fear of being victims of crime, against 14% of men.

  • Control at work- Women's behaviour at work is controlled by male supervisors and managers. Sexual harassment is widespread and helps keep women 'in their place'. Furthermore, women's subordinate position reduces their opportunities to engage in major criminal activity e.g. the 'glass ceiling' prevents women rising to senior positions where there is greater opportunity to commit fraud.

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Carlen: class and gender deals..

Using unstructured interviews, Carlen conducted a study of thirty nine 15-46 year old working class women who had been convicted for a range of crimes. She argues that most convicted serious female criminals are working-class. Carlen argues that working class women are generally led to conform through the promise of two types of rewards or 'deals':

  • The class deal: women who work will be offered material rewards, with a decent standard of living and leisure opportunities.

  • The gender deal:  patriarchal ideology promises women material and emotional rewards from family life by conforming to the norms of a conventional domestic gender role. - Love from husband.

If these rewards are not available or worth the effort, crime becomes more likely. Carlen argues that this was the case with the women in her study.
- In terms of the class deal, the women had failed to find a legitimate way of earning a living and this left them feeling oppressed and the victims of injustice. E.g. thirty-two of them had always been in poverty.
- In terms of the gender deal for conforming to patriarchal family norms, most of the women had either not had the opportunity to make a deal, or saw few rewards and many disadvantages in family life. E.g. some had been abused physically by their fathers.
Many of the women had reached the conclusion that 'crime was the only route to a decent standard of living. They had nothing to lose but everything to gain.' 

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The liberation theory - Alder..

Adler argues that, as women become liberated from patriarchy, their crimes will become as frequent and serious as men's. Adler argues that changes in the structure of society has lead to changes in women's offending behaviour, e.g. through greater opportunities in education because of a lack of patriarchal control.

As a result, women now commit typically 'male' offences such as white collar crimes. This because of women's greater self confidence and assertiveness, and the fact that they now have greater opportunities in the legitimate structure.

  • Adler found that between 1960 and 1972 in American robberies by women increased by 277% - women were taking on the roles of men, they no longer prepared to be second best.

Example - The new identity of 'Ladette' - In 2009 10 'ladettes' were detained in custody every hour for some form of violent crime. 250 women arrested per day, resulting in a increase of nearl 1000 than a year earlier.


·         The female crime rate began in the 1950s- long before the women's liberation movement, which emerged in the late 1960s.

·         Most female criminals are working class- the group least likely to be influenced by women's liberation, which has benefited middle class women more.

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Women demonised by the media example..

August 2002 Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman case.. 

The killer - Ian Huntley - girlfriend - Maxine Carr had nothing to do with the murder and was onloy charged with perverting the course of justice (later cleared of this).

Yet, placards called for the restoration of the death penalty, abuse screamed at her. 
"She will get identity swap and YOU pick up the bill" - Daily Express.

Connelly was described by the media as a "sex-obsessed slob", however the male how actaully commited the murder was hardly mentioned. 

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Masculinity and crime - Messerschmidt (1993)..

Messerschmidt argues that masculinity is a social construct or 'accomplishment' and men have to constantly work at constructing and presenting it to others. He argues that different masculinities co-exist within society:

  • Hegemonic masculinity: is the dominant, prestigious form that most men wish to accomplish - success in job, high valued.
  • Subordinated masculinities e.g. gay men, who have no desire to accomplish hegemonic masculinity.

He sees C&D as resources that different men may use for accomplishing masculinity e.g. class differences among youths leads to different forms of rule breaking to demonstrate masculinity.

  • White middle-class youths:  have success in school, leading to an accommodating masculinity in school. Outside school, their masculinity takes an oppositional form e.g. drinking, smoking.
  • White working-class youths: have less chance of educational success, so their masculinity is oppositional both in and out of school. It is constructed around sexist attitudes, being tough and opposing teachers' authority. 
  • Black lower working-class youths: may have fewer expectations of a reasonable job and may use gang membership to express their masculinity.

Example - African Americans to illustrate a subordinated masculinty..
Pimps: Pimps dominate a string of prostitutes and live off their earning, with his diamond rings, good car, power over women ect. he demonstrates an alternative masculinity.

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Winlow: post-modernity, masculinity and crime..

Globalisation has led to a shift from a modern industrial society to a late modern de-industrialised society. This has led to a loss of many manual jobs through which w/c males could express their masculinity by hard physical labour. 

Winlow's (2001) study of bouncers in Sunderland, an area of de-industrialisation and unemployment. Working as bouncers in the clubs provided young men with both paid work and the opportunity for illegal business in drugs and alcohol as well as the opportunity to demonstrate their masculinity through the use of violence.

Under postmodern conditions, an organised professional criminal subculture has emerged. In this subculture, the ability to use violence becomes not just a way of displaying masculinity, but a commodity with which to earn a living. 

  • The men use their bodily capital to maintain their reputation e.g. the bouncers seek to develop their physical assets by bodybuilding.

Winlow notes that this is not just a matter of being able to use violence and win fights, but of maintaining the sign value of their bodies, 'looking the part' so as to discourage competitors from challenging them. 

Winlow's study shows how the expression of masculinity changes with the move from a modern, industrialised society to a postmodern, de-industrialised one. At the same time, this change opens up new criminal opportunities for men who are able to use violence to express masculinity, by creating the conditions for the growth of an organised criminal subculture.

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