Feminist School of Criminology - Discussion

Discussion

Criminology is the study of crime and criminal justice, and it covers a multitude of topics, but according to those of the feminist school of criminology the principal theories of criminality have been developed from male subjects, have been validated on male subjects, and focus on male victimization. This 'sexism' in criminology also influences the sentencing, punishment, and imprisonment of women who are not expected to be criminals and, if they are, they may be described as 'mad not bad'. The attribution of madness to women flows from the entirely outdated construct that women who conform are pure, obedient daughters, wives and mothers who benefit society and men. If they dared to go against their natural biological traits of 'passivity' and a 'weakness of compliance', they must be mentally ill: a classic androcentric view which has been held by few academics in decades. Feminism operates within the existing social structures to examine the social, political, and economic experience of women and to devise strategies for achieving greater equality (via inequality) in women's roles.This involves considering how women came to occupy subservient roles, the nature of male privilege, and the means whereby the discourses that constitute the power of patriarchy can be redirected to transform society.

As it is, gender role expectations continue to define acceptable behaviours and attitudes for females and males; deviation from these expectations may result in a variety of societal sanctions ranging from verbal abuse to violence to incarceration. These roles are a powerful form of social control maintained through informal and formal mechanisms. Heidensohn (1992, 2000) suggests a male-biased control theory:

  • "a woman's place is in the home": a woman has fewer opportunities for criminal activity because the routine of domesticity keeps her in the home. In any event, women are more afraid to go out of the home after dark because they fear aggressive male behaviour.
  • at work, men have a supervisory or managerial role (often characterised by women as harassment) which makes it more difficult for women to commit major crimes.

Further, those of the feminist school of criminology claim that men are the dominant group and the standard of normality and have maintained inequality through control of the definition of deviance and of the institutions of social control. Naffine argues that women have been defined as different from men and, hence, inferior; that stigma has acted to deny them their full civil rights and access to societal resources (Naffine: 1996).

Feminists waves may have brought greater liberation to women, but have not changed their pattern of crime. Women are still much less likely to commit crime; this includes both blue and white collar crime. Feminist criminology is conflict based calling for the downgrading of many dominant crime theories, as they were constructed without consideration for feminist viewpoints. Feminists now call for the inclusion of women into criminological teaching, research, theory and publications.

Most criminological texts (from 19th century men) and discussions almost forgot about women as they were afforded little attention as they were grouped with juvenile delinquents and the mentally insane. Smart argues this grouping with the more neglected members of the criminal world was a reflection of the females role in the community; women had lacked “civil and legal status”, therefore it was acceptable for women to be grouped with juvenile offenders and mentally challenged offenders. Smart continues by arguing that the study of criminology was always in reference to men, in reference to a male’s rationality, motivation, alienation and his victim who was always male. The disqualification of women from the criminological field was evident in criminological texts as it was assumed the man could speak for her. In criminology, just as in society, man was the centre of the universe and women were merely their complement.

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