How Has Feminist Thought Influenced the Discipline of Criminology?

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How has feminist thought influenced the discipline of criminology?

In attempting to answer the question how has feminist thought influenced the discipline of criminology? This essay will briefly discuss the development of feminist thought within the discipline. This essay will then discuss the female emancipation leads to crime debate which was the focus of liberal feminists, like Adler and Simon, before focusing on the radical feminist notion of patriarchy. This essay will then discuss how feminist thought has challenged and invalidated the leniency hypothesis and then the development of a gender based theory of female criminality that focused on social control systems. Finally this essay will discuss the raising to greater prominence of the female victim and feminist victimology. Until recently, criminology has been primarily focused on men and crime with little reference to women, according to Gelsthorpe and Morris (1988, p.94) theories of criminality have been developed from male subjects and validated on male subjects. It was assumed that these theories would apply to women but it appears most do not. Heidensohn (1985, p.112) argues that when women were incorporated into criminology, it was only to explain women’s apparent sexual deviant nature which traditional criminologists, such as Lombroso and Ferrero, explained by suggesting women were still primitive and thus driven by their biological and physiological needs. For Oakley (1972, p1) women’s invisibility in the academic discipline of criminology renders women’s problems to be insignificant, and thus women suffer not only academically but also in the policies which are generated from academic studies. Heidensohn and Gelsthorpe (2007 in Maguire, Morgan and Reiner p.383) state that feminist thought in the discipline of criminology developed with the emergence of second wave feminism in the 1960s and 1970s and led to female academics looking critically at the invisibility of women within the subject. Second wave feminism offered concepts which could criticise and undermine mainstream criminology. Joyce (2006. P.45) claims a key development associated with feminist thought in the discipline of criminology was the publication of Women, Crime and Criminology by Carol Smart in 1977. Smart argues that by viewing women as insignificant to the study of criminology, the discipline is contributing to the subjugation of women by men. Marsh et al (2006. P.125) argues that Smart’s book was the first major example of British feminist criminology which highlighted that criminological theory is lacking if it does not attempt to understand women’s criminality and their vulnerability to violence and rape within the home. Feminist thought has influenced the discipline of criminology in a variety of ways and as Downes and Rock (1988 cited by Hopkins Burke 2005. P.168) identified there is the female emancipation leads to crime debate. During the period of 1951 to 1979 women’s employment rate doubled and the female crime statistics also showed a significant rise. It was not long before a link was made between rising female criminality and the increase in women’s employment and the new found emancipation of women and their increased economic opportunities. The relationship between rising crime and women’s emancipation was the focus of liberal feminists Freda Adler’s major work Sisters in Crime 1975 and Rita Simon’s work Women and Crime 1975. Adler (1975 cited by Newburn 2007. P.304) argued that women have lost many of the constraints that have kept them within the law. Changes in the social position of women in the legitimate world have a correlation in the illegitimate world which has brought about greater involvement in crimes. In other words as many women were leaving traditional housebound roles they were becoming more involved in different forms of offending. Simon (1975, cited by Hopkins Burke, 2005. P.168) argued rather differently to Adler, she claimed that it was...
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