feminist criminology

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criminology, feminist A self-conscious corrective to mainstream criminology and deviance theories (of various kinds), and one with the triple goals of critique, research, and reformulation of the field of inquiry. It emerged during the 1970s, partly as an outgrowth of both the women's movement and feminism, but also as a response to the so-called new deviance theory and critical criminology (see CRIMINOLOGY, CRITICAL), which, whilst aiming to be radical and innovative, had continued to ignore women. In Britain the first major publication of feminist criminology was Carol Smart's Women, Crime and Criminology (1976), which critically reviewed the field to that time. In the United States there was a more controversial start, with several studies suggesting that the crime-rate amongst women was increasing, alongside the development of the new feminist consciousness (see, for example, F. Adler 's Sisters in Crime, 1975
, or the somewhat less controversial R. Simon , Women and Crime, 1975

Research and theory now covers a wide range of areas. The initial critiques examined the neglect of the study of women in the fields of crime and control, and also reviewed the few studies which did exist, in order to reveal their patriarchal and sexist foundations (studies, for example, such as O. Pollak's The Criminality of Women). From this start, attempts were made to see if women could be incorporated into the mainstream of deviance theory, for example by asking whether anomie theory or subcultural theory could make sense of gangs comprised entirely of girls.

Feminist criminology brought with it not just a revitalized interest in established areas of research, such as female offenders, differential court responses to women offenders, and women's prisons (all traditionally areas of male inquiry); it also helped to develop a number of newer areas of study. For example, it looked at the way in which women's deviance was more often prone to both sexualization and medicalization, and investigated new areas of control (such as the regulation of women's bodies, their reproductive cycles, their private and personal lives, and their sexuality). Thus, in one key feminist analysis, the thesis was propounded by Susan Brownmiller and others that fear of rape was a central mechanism in the control of women's lives (Against her Will, 1975).

The most general contribution of feminist criminology has been to open up the topic of gender relations for criminological study. Since crime is overwhelmingly committed by men, the fundamental question that it poses concerns the links between gender relations and crime: namely, what is it about gender that creates the tendency for crime to be a predominantly male phenomenon?

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feminist criminology See CRIMINOLOGY, FEMINIST.