Feminist Theories

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Outline and assess Feminist explanations of the relationship between gender and crime. (50 marks)

Gender is on the agenda” wrote Francis Heidensohn (1989) Feminist definition of crime is that “crime is politically informed and linked to particular interests”– of men. Before feminism, women were invisible in sociological research, this meant that explanations for female recidivism saw, female crime as a ’special case’ resulting from sexual promiscuity and biological deviance. Biological explanations for male criminality have lost credibility yet feminist research argued that biological explanations were used to understand female crimes for example the persecution of Maxine Carr. Some feminist criminologists accept that women commit
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Carlen states that these women come to the rational conclusion that crime is the only route to a decent standard of living. This links to interactionists labelling theory in some ways. However critics of this theory suggest that Carlen fails to explain why many women in poverty choose not to commit crime.

Feminisation of poverty is a major feminist explanation of the relationship between gender and crime. Some feminist sociologists suggest that poverty has become feminised in the last twenty years or so, as women have become increasingly more likely than men to experience low pay and benefits. Women still earn less than men on average as there is a glass ceiling. Consequently, some types of crime dominated by females, notably shoplifting and social security fraud, may be a reaction to poverty. Sandra Walklate found that shoplifting and prostitution are often motivated by economic necessity, for example to provide for the children.

Liberation theory also explains the relationship between gender and crime. Freda Adler argues that as society becomes less patriarchal womens crime rates will rise. In other words, women’s liberation from patriarchy will lead to a new type of female criminal because they will have greater opportunity and confidence to commit crime. Between 1981 and 1997 the number of under 18 girls convicted of violent offences in England and Wales doubled from 65 per 100 000 to 135 per 100 000. Other critics point out that

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