Chapter 11- Feminist Theories

Criminology Professor Bachmann Criminological Theories
primary aim of feminist theory
draw on women's "ways of knowing" in contrast to criminological theory, "rooted in men's experiences
androcentric science
science dominated by males
major blind spot in criminological theory
failure to understand the profound significance of gender and sex roles in society
fundamental principle of societal organization

the rights and privileges of males are superior
conflict and labeling theories recognize male-female differences in power
feminist theories propose that the power differential between men and women is as/ more important than the power differentials by race, class, and age
marxists view class as the fundamental force in capitalist society
feminist theories regard patriarchy as equally important as class and may even override class in the division of society into the dominant and the subordinate
empirical validity
cross-sectional comparisons of patriarchal and non-patriarchal societies

research on the male-female disparities in criminal justice decisions
patriarchal society?
patriarchal society = masculinity favored over femininity

so the prediction would be that women would receive harsher treatment for the same offenses as men.

research shows the opposite. why? why is the system more lenient with women?
chivalry hypothesis
male authority have a traditional, chivalrous attitude toward women= more leniency

dismissed by most feminists
decision makers take a paternalistic stance toward women (limit their autonomy for their own good), viewing them as too weak and passive to withstand or even learn from punishment by the criminal justice system
paternalism- twin effects
1. leniency to protect powerless women
2. harsher treatment of these same women in the name of control
selective chivalry hypothesis
extended only to:
-certain women (middle class, white)
-women charged with a crimes consistent with traditional feminine stereotypes
-juvenile justice system especially punitive toward girls
-higher proportion of girls brought in for status offense (running away, truancy)
-more likely to be incarcerated for status offenses,
less likely for serious offenses
-girls treated more harshly for minor offenses than boys because the system "sexualizes" their offenses as a threat to traditional sex-role expectations
Farnworth and Teske
black females more likely than black males to receive reduced charges, but their likelihood of a charge reduction is no different from that of white females

does not reflect selective chivalry
claimed that neither chivalry nor paternalism properly account for gender variations in court decisions

hypothesis: judicial discretion influenced by the family status and relations of the defendants

judges more lenient with defendants (men and women) who had stronger family ties and obligations to children

in this case, such ties characterize more female than male defendants
Daly 2nd study
40 female defendants matched by crime, prior record, age and race with 40 male defendants

men more likely to receive prison sentences, but on closer examination of the matched pairs- men with same charges, actually had committed a more serious offense

harsher penalties for men for the same crime= different characteristics of individual cases
research shows
thus far research shows that the independent effects of gender on criminal justice actions are weak or absent

strongest effect of criminal justice actions come from legally relevant, non discriminative factors
Daly and Chesney- Lind
feminist explanations of crime- 2 main gender related issues
1) generalizability problem- "Do the theories of men's crime apply to women?"
- some theories have relevance for both men and women, but criminological theory as a whole inadequately accounts for female crime

2) gender ratio problem- "Can existent theory explain the well known gender difference in crime?"
- hypothesize that gender specific variables explain and predict inter-gender differences in crime
Freda Adler- masculinity hypothesis
theory- women's movement brought about changes in traditional sex roles, greater equality for women, and an increase in the female labor force

greater availability of women in areas traditionally dominated by men- crime

masculinity thesis-as women gain equality with men they will increasingly assume masculine characteristics, such as greater tendencies to commit crime
Rita Simon- opportunity hypothesis
occupationally related crimes by women will increase even more as women take on more positions in the work force, allowing them greater opportunities to commit such crimes

violent crimes by women NOT likely to rise because of increased education and independence= women will no longer accept victimization
economic marginalization hypothesis
argue that female offenders are largely poor, under employed, and lacking alternatives to provide for themselves and their dependents- NOT the image of an emancipated woman

economic necessity= crime
Hunnicutt and Broidy
women's economic fortunes tied with men

women's liberation movement= equality of opportunity but NOT equality of outcome

instead the movement released men from cultural imperative to financially support and protect women and children= women at this time had lower employment and income and could not provide for themselves or their children
John Hagan- power control theory
accounts for:
-gender differences in delinquent involvement
-how gender differences change depending on the type of family structure and the degree of parental controls over boys relative to girls

patriarchal family- fathers occupation places him in command; mother exerts greater control over daughters than sons
egalitarian family- both parents command, or father is absent, mother exerts either less control over daughter or more control over son; gender differences are reduced in this type of family

in both family's mothers are more likely to exert instrumental control (supervision) and relational control (emotional bonds that indirectly constrain deviant behavior)
revised power control theory
women's authority in the workplace increase= mothers have decoupled patriarchal gender- role beliefs from parental control theories

more occupational power= control sons more than daughters
less occupational power= control daughters more than sons
middle status mothers= occupational authority is unrelated to gendered parental controls
James Messerschmidt
theory- crime is caused by the combination of a male dominated, patriarchal social structure and a capitalist economic system

criminality of women and violent crime of lower class men= occur because of their powerlessness

corporate crimes and sexual crimes against women= occur because of male power
Chesney- Lind
one possible process of why gender- relevant factors may cause female delinquency- dramatic differences in childhood and adolescence for boys and girls

status offenses and minor delinquencies by girls are ways of responding to conflict in the family (ex. double standards between boys and girls; abuse)

especially important- *family abuse
shortcomings of patriarchy theory- no variation in the construction of masculinity= encourages the theorization of only one type of masculinity (patriarchal male)

supported "structured action"- gendered social structural features are created by and at the same time produce gendered social action

individuals sex judged by others as male of female

multiple masculinities- construction of masculinity depends on men's position in society as determined by class, race, or sexual orientation

essentially- crime by men is a form of social practice invoked to accomplish masculinity; position of authority determines the form of expressed masculinity

criticism- tautological explanation of crime
adhering to a culturally idealized form of masculinity
anything other than the ideal form of masculinity
gendered pathways
focuses on the life experiences and developmental trajectories of girls and women who become involved in crime

one of the most common themes to emerge in gendered pathways research- experience of physical and sexual victimization in the lives of female offenders
gendered context approach
examines the degree to which males and females encounter different normative expectations and opportunities for offending; respond differently to similar events and situations
Steffensmeier and Allan
organization of gender (structural arrangements that determine gender differences in norms, morals, and values) produce gender differences in opportunities, motivations, and contexts for crime

ex. women expected to be more nurturing than men= subjected to more informal controls than men

ex. men rarely kill their wives out of fear of violent victimization from them
Karen Heimer
hegemonic gender differences and their influence on social psychological correlates of delinquency

= different levels and forms of morality, empathy, and shame

ex. gender differences in:
meaning and importance of emotional bonds
actions when angry
different forms of risk taking