Feminist Criminology

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Feminist Criminology:
How useful is it in its analysis of female crime?

MSc Criminology and Forensic Psychology

Feminist criminology emerged out of the realisation that criminology has from its inception centred on men and the crimes they commit. Although it can be argued female criminality was researched by Lombroso, as far back as 1800’s, female crime, it’s causes and the impact in which it had on society was largely ignored by the criminological futurity. Those Criminologist who did attempt to research female crime such as Thomas and Pollak were not only very damning of women but were also very condescending, choosing to stereotype them as either Madonna or whore (Feinman). Law abiding women were described as passive, obedient, chastic, childlike whereas the deviant as aggressive, defiant, sexually impulsive, becomingly adult and even masculine in nature. (Law.jrank.org/pages1218/feminist criminology) It is argued by feminists that these views have stayed in the psyche of those in the criminal justice system despite the fact that over the years much research has challenged and discredited these antiquated views, theses perceptions still linger which in turn has meant that as victims or perpetrators of crime, women have been and still are discriminated against purely on the basis as to whether they are “good “or “bad” women. Menacham Amir 1971 in his book Patterns of Forcible Rape made a point of bringing his readers attention to the fact that 19 per cent of the victims in his sample had a criminal record which included sexual misconduct and 20 per cent had a bad reputation. His research implied that victims were ‘asking for it’ a view which has been vehemently criticised by many feminist as Wright and Hill argue “Such an approach perpetuates the insidious myth that women invite rape (or other forms of victimisation such as domestic violence……” Feminist criminology was born out the frustration to redress the balance, and challenge patriarchy. It was never its intention to exclude males but rather to insert the female perspective to demonstrate that crime manifest due to the inequalities that exist with in society. Feminist Criminology embodies an assortment of theoretical perspective all which each claim to in their unique way to explain female oppression and how it can be eradicated. The main strands of Feminist criminology include Liberal, Radical, Socialist and Postmodernism.

Liberal Feminism
Heindensohn (2001) defines Liberal Feminism as follows;
“Its emphasis is very much on equality of men and women, especially with regards to their moral and intellectual characteristics, thus Liberal feminist have argued for social and political change in the educational and legal framework which they see as constraining women. In the sphere of criminal justice studies, Liberal Feminism has had a powerful impact on the analysis of equality and discrimination.” This strand of feminist criminology is concerned with a particular methodological position which Harding (1987), identifies as feminist empiricism. The Liberal feminists believe it is “bad science” or in other words; how the science is applied which produces the sexist bias in empirical studies on women and crime. This point can be argued in the case of Hirschi whilst he was compiling his research on Control Theory he deliberately excluded data on female subject, claiming he would return to them later which he never did. In order to eliminate such bias Liberal feminists believe that more feminist researcher, male and female are needed, and that any empirical investigation should include women in the sample. Criticism of this approach include Smart (1995) who argues although Liberal Feminism can fill the gap in the knowledge about women, it make little difference to criminology on the whole as it does not allow the discipline (criminology) to progress in any other way. Jagger (1983) points out that Liberal Feminism reflects “normative dualism,”according...
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