Feminism is not a single distinct theory, rather it is a set of adjacent perspectives collectively referred to as feminist theories. These theories share a number of principles which serve their common denominator. The first principle is the definition of gender, or the so-called “social sex”, as a socially produced artifact which consists of expectations, attitudes and behavioral patterns attributed to men and women. These social visions of males and females are referred to as masculinity and femininity respectively. According to feminists, gender as an artifact is the central, pivotal component upon which the whole society is built. In fact, gender is seen central to criminal justice processing, criminal offending and victimization. The second principle views patriarchal sexism as the reason for excluding females from social life, in particular from criminology both as subjects of study and as professionals. The third principle is examining, inter alia, criminal offending, victimization, and criminal justice through the lens of a complex of social factors, such as race, ethnicity, age, class, in addition to gender. Basically, feminist theories claim that masculinity is valued more than femininity so that the latter is marginalized. And, as seen from the abovementioned feminism principles, the most eloquent example of social practices where gender inequality is vivid is the field of criminology. In other words, a central theme of feminist theorizing is that male dominance permeates all aspects of social life, both conventional and deviant. Thus, it would be logical to make the issue of deviance central in this paper.
Feminist perspective on crime and deviance has its roots in the conflict view of the social order and social organization. Feminist theorists point out the existence of gender bias in theory as well as in research on deviance and crime. According to them, this bias hinders the objectivity of both practices and prevents from building an objective, holistic picture of society with all its actors. In other words, females are overshadowed and understudied. On the specific example of criminology, they are overshadowed as the sources of theoretical perspectives on crime and understudied as victims and perpetrators of crime. Interestingly enough, there exists a belief that women much more often play the role of victims rather than crime perpetrators. Overall, this vision is correct and there is no proof that this belief is formed by biased data on crime; nevertheless, most studies on crime and deviance are limited to male offenders, which is a fact. Androcentric approach to criminology triggered the emergence of the feminist perspectives on crime and deviance. The aim of this perspective was/is to level the debatably narrow approach to analyzing crime. Leading feminist theorists, inter alia, Cathleen Daly and Meda Chesney-Lind openly doubted that the male-centric model of approaching crime could be expanded onto female actors with no distortions of the objective reality. In addition, they wondered what stood behind the disproportional participation of men and women in criminal events and what the reasons for female crimes are. Attempting to fill the gap, feminist theories provided their answers to their own questions, namely why females engage in violent and/or criminal behavior. According to liberal feminists, female deviance is a response to gender inequality in life (at home, at the workplace, etc.). According to radical feminists, female crime results from male domination over women, i.e. patriarchal exploitation. Socialist feminists argue that the cause is the combination of patriarchy and capitalism, i.e. the reasons are economic as well as social. Again, the common denominator is gender.
Thus, feminists argue that the effect of class, age, race and other social factors on crime and deviance can be understood adequately and objectively only via taking into account the fact of social structure being patriarchal. According to feminists, present inequalities in social class, race, and age further aggravate gender inequality. The latter makes gender inequality a “red thread” of social life and, respectively, deviance. A conclusion that follows from the argument of feminist theorists is that studies of crime and deviance must include considerations on gender (including the factor of relationship of genders), gender inequality and adjacent issues as well as their consequences and effects.
About the author:
Helga Marselos, the blogger and a writer at top writing service