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 less crime than men. Diana Leonard believes that the major explanation for this fact is that women are more likely to conform to rules and social controls as opposed to men. However, there are signs that this commitment to the rules may be undermined by social class and age. There are six main feminist explanations of the relationship between gender and crime.

Differential socialisation is a major feminist explanation of the relationship between gender and crime. Early feminist explanations focused on differences in the socialisation of males and females. Both Smart and Oakley suggested that males are socialised into aggressive behaviour that makes them more to taking risks and committing criminal acts. On the other hand, females are socialised into a potentially less criminal set of values and values that stress cooperation and caring for others. Smart 1989 found that women were treated more harshly than men, particularly when the offence was serious. An example of this would be how Hindley has been treated more harshly than Brady. This shows that women who commit crime which transgress their gender roles will be punished more heavily as they are seen as doubly deviant. Critics such as postmodernists would argue that this is...
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