Feminist Criminology

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COMPARE AND CONTRAST FEMINIST CRIMINOLOGY AND BIOLOGICAL POSITIVISM

This essay will compare and contrast feminist approaches to criminology with biological positivism. It will discuss the varying approaches within both feminism and biological positivism and consider how feminists and positivists explain women 's criminality. The main assumptions and methodology will be outlined, compared and analysed, as well as the limitations and strengths of both theories.
Biological Positivism emerged in the early nineteenth century, however it had its roots in the Enlightenment period of the eighteenth century, where loss of faith in religion turned philosophers eager to gain knowledge and advocate the use of reason of re-evaluation of once accepted ideas. According to Williams (2004) Cesare Lombroso was the father of modern criminology and pioneered the Biological Positivist approach. His scientific theories centred on the idea that a criminal was a naturally occurring phenomenon, a biological mutation or throwback to an earlier form of evolutionary life, in other words people were born criminal, not made criminal and did not have a choice in their behaviour. He based his theory on facial features and abnormalities in the cranium on prisoners in an Italian jail who he claimed had true atavistic features, for example small craniums, excessive hairiness, dark skin, and the presence of moles and tattoos. He thought these particular physical features had a relationship with the probability of engaging in crime (Newburn, 2007; Smart, 1995).
Lombroso and Ferrero, (Lombroso’s son in law) published a study using the same technique of examining criminal women and found they did not appear to have many of these signs of degeneration so they concluded that true atavism was rare amongst females. They argued that women were nearer to their original origin than men, in other words were more primitive than men, had not evolved to the same degree and were biologically inferior to men



References: Burke, R.H. (2005). An Introduction to Criminological Theory. 2nd Ed. Cullompton: Willan Publishing. Carlen, P. Ed.(2002). Women and Punishment: The Struggle for Justice. Cullompton:Willan. Cited in Newburn, T. (2007). Criminology. Cullompton: Willan Publishing. Carlen, P Dobash, R.E.& Dobash, R.P. (1992). Women, Violence and Social Change. London: Routledge Cited in Maguire, M. et al(2007). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gross, R Heidensohn, F. ( 1991). Women and Crime. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education Ltd. Maguire, M. et al (2007). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McLaughlin, E Newburn, T. (2007). Criminology. Cullompton: Willan Publishing. Oakley, A. (1972). ‘Sex, Gender and Society’.London:Temple Smith. Cited in Smart, C. (1995).Law, Crime and Sexuality, Essays in Feminism. London: Sage Publications Ltd.. Pollak, O. (1961). ‘The Criminality of Women’. New York: A.S. Barnes. Cited in Smart, C. (1976). Women, Crime and Criminology, A Feminist Critique. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, Smart, C Smart, C. (1995). Law, Crime and Sexuality, Essays in Feminism. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Williams, K.S. (2004). Textbook on Criminology. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Young, J. (no date). ‘Ten Points of Realism’, Rethinking Criminology: The Realist Debate, eds Young, J. & Matthews, R., pp24-68, esp. p.56 Cited in Naffine, N. (1997). Feminism & Criminology. Oxford: Polity Press.

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