Has Criminology Been Gender Blinded

Criminology has been ‘Gender-blind’ rather than ‘Gender neutral’. Discuss It has been argued that the gaze of criminology has been primarily focused on male offenders, Cain (1989) argues that criminology is in fact incapable of speaking in gender neutral terms (cited in Walklate 2001: 19). A reason for this includes that history has been prepared to offer universal explanations of crime achieved by the study of the male offender. Feminists such as (Naffine 1997: 18) believe that criminology has been ‘dominated by academic men studying criminal men’.

A major concern for feminist writers on this subject is that for many the world is seen as a masculine one, despite facts clearly proving that it is made up of feminine and masculine attributes, they see this as a clear example of gender blindness (Walklate 2004: 22).

This essay will discuss the historic assumptions of the female criminal, theories of gender blindness which look toward the feminist criminologist perspective on gender attempting to show studies where the female criminal has been studied, but to which degree, and finally does this present criminology as more of a sexist social science, gender blinded or possibly even gender biased discipline. It is important to understand if criminology could have became embedded with gender assumptions (Paul Rock 1986) believes so and that they were created through various theoretical and analytical approaches within criminology, (Gouldner 1968) also was of the same opinion explaining that these assumptions did exist and that they were indeed so deep in the foundations of the study that the were taken for ‘granted as given’ (both cited in Walklate 2001: 17).

A brief look at the history is now needed to understand more concerning these claims. Cesare Lombroso was responsible for many studies into the criminal, he published six editions of his notorious book ‘The Criminal Man’ between 1876-1897 each edition published to combat criticisms from the last, Lombroso included criminality from various aspects including age, race, mental capability, climate and the epileptically insane.

Only once did he mention women within these writings and this was regarding the phenomenon of prostitution, he saw this as the only deviant behaviour manifested by women and could not detect signs of criminal diversity within the women’s body (http://www.museocriminologico.it/lombroso_3_uk.htm). Lombroso also published ‘The Female Offender’ in which he espoused the belief that criminals possess an innate and ‘atavistic’ predisposition towards crime. Lombroso and Ferraro (co-author) attributed that women’s lower crime rate was a result of their maternity, want of passion, sexual coldness, weakness, and undeveloped intelligence.

Women criminals, however, were more male than female and deficient in such typical feminine characteristics. Instead, they exhibited ‘strong passions and intensely erotic tendencies,’ as well as high intelligence and physical strength. Although society believed that women criminals were capable only of a lower level of criminality because, as women, they lacked the blend of intellectual features required of more demanding crimes, such as murder and assault (http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?action=getPage&docId=5000298254).

Therefore it can be said that this contributed to the existence of certain presumptions towards women within crime. From (Jones 1998: 287) it is found that Freud also considered the aspect of women and crime, he went beyond the biological explanations of Lombroso stating that anti-social behaviour is link to basic human instincts being uncontrollable at time. Also believing that female offenders are more male than female however he cited this as a result of their failure to conform to their nurturing role as women.

This is still gender blind as it disregards sexual differences in offending behaviour. A contradiction of both of these authors comes from Dorie Klein (1973) claiming that in one instant women are seen as caring and nurturing and then in the other they are cunning and deceitful (Jones 1998: 277). Frances Heidensohn (2002: 292) describes these studies as having grave effects on the discipline of criminology, she claims that it was cast into a scenario much like that of ‘sleeping beauty’ describing how criminology strove forward from the positive approach allowing integration into a number of different sociological theories of crime and deviance but the subject of feminine crime was left behind.

Walklate (2004: pp28) appears to agree however notes a shift towards concepts of emotional stability and socialisation to explain criminality, the notion of the “sex role socialisation” could be argued as a starting point for this, in which Talcott Parsons (1937) directs attention to how children are socialised into society in accordance to their sex. One such study which seams to take this path was performed by Thomas (1907) who is quoted as saying “the girl as a child does not know she as any particular value until she learns it from others” (www.Kelfawebcomcepts.com/au/ecrgend1.htm) It would appear thatwomen were becoming more apparent at this point with the work of Talcott Parsons however criticisms arose that women were not being reflected in a true form. Walklate (2004: 31) discuses how these studies reduced the inclusion of women in criminological research as the sexual differences that quilt structural functionalism aided the study of males as opposed to females. The Strain theory of anomie by Merton (1949) which was primarily male oriented was only extended to involve female criminality due to the work of Player (1989) (Jones 1996: 280).

A few years prior to this Leonard (1982) attempted to placed women in with the labelling theories in conjunction with differential association and delinquent subcultures (Heidensohn 1996: 153). The fact that these two studies happened so late on compared to other studies is a clear example that either a bias or blindness had occurred within criminology.

Prior to these few studies existed, to note them Cohen (1955) in which female delinquents were the focus and Hirschi (1969) (http://www.sociology.org/content/vol006.003/kalkhoff.html) both of which were criticised, the later for ignoring women’s conforming and Cohen for the Famous saying “boys collect stamps and girls collect boys” (Walklate 2004: 31), Although during the 1950’s some studies were emerging no new explanation of female criminality was emerging and Naffine (1988) agrees stating that criminologists have been unable to view female crime in any other way except that of sexual terms due to the idea that women are passive carers has been kept (Walklate 2004: 31).

The 1970’s saw the emergence of the feminist movement, which set its sights on the absence of women in criminology, Naffine however illustrates her believe that the radical labelling theory could have been adopted and become an excellent base for research into the bias against women (Naffine 1997: 40).

The wish of the feminists was primarily to give women a voice, to show criminology that women offending needs to be explained and to eradicate stereotypes that women were ‘mad not bad’ and in more recent times criticised the discipline for its lack of diversity in relation to the man question and why this was not investigated. Smart (1976) was one of the first feminist writers which had an influence on the subject (Gelsthorpe 2002: 508) in which she assessed the work of Lombroso and Ferraro (above) and concluded that their work had a catastrophic impact on the treatment of women as offenders and as victims (Heidensohn 1996: 151) she also criticised Pollack stating that the drawing upon chivalry had resulted in the underreporting of women’s crime (Walklate 2001: 68)

Ward et al (1969) argues that although women have not been completely ignored in the understanding of female criminality there is still much more research needed to provide differences in male and female offending (http://www.keltawebconcepts.com.au/ecrgend1.htm). One of the feminist original theories included the effect of women’s emancipation, Adler (1975) argued that the women’s movement brought about increased status for women and with this came more opportunity and this has resulted in increased crime by women. (http://www.keltawebconcepts.com.au/ecrgend1.htm).

However Adler received much criticism for the misuse of statistics citing large increases where in actual fact the number of actual cases only rose a few incidents and this rose the percentage quite a lot (www.rouncefield.homestead.com/files/a_soc_dev_33.htm). So far it is clear to see the emergence of women within studies, most likely lead by the second wave of feminism due to the impact of previously mentioned studies. Further investigations of women and crime included a study on the female alcoholic (Hutter 1981) Shacklady Smith’s study on delinquent girls (1978) women in prison by Carlin (1983) (Heidensohn, 1996: 162) along with the writings of Heidensohn which date back to 1968.

However a problem existed at this point as feminism was not just a single strand it had many variations branching from within all of whom sustained different opinions which meant that these studies were viewed individually as opposed to in union under feminism, which Byrne, 1990 concluded could be a reason for the inability to overpower certain assumptions established within the foundations of criminology (www.csse.ca.CJE/Articles/Fulltext/CJE17-3/CJE17-3-01Briskin.pdf). The variations of feminism include the following, liberal, socialist, post-modern and radical feminism.

Liberal feminists associate with methodological approaches which is defined as feminist empiricism they believe that more female researchers are needed to undo the bias and it is argued that they have had the most influence on criminology (Walklate 2004: 41). However Walklate also notes that they receive criticism for maintaining certain male knowledge such as that of Jaggar’s notion of normative dualism (1983), they have also gone far to note the discriminative research such as that of Pollack (1961) (Walklate 2004: 41).

Which is helpful for the reason that it brings the topic of gender blindness within criminology to the forefront of discussion. The radical feminists focus upon the male oppression of the women rather than social conditions. They see the framework of criminology as stereotypical towards the female and searching for answers within this frame only reinforces it and its elite men. An example of a radical feminist is Carol Smart who in 1990 stated that she believed that criminology needed feminism more than feminism needed criminology (Carol Smart 1990: 197). Another feminist Pat Carlin has been extremely influential

in the feminist movement, she performed work on women’s experiences in the criminal justice system and also on women in prison, she recognises the need for feminism as a politics rather than a theory and explains that focus on women’s offending allows assumptions that women offend for different reasons than men she also states that her work showed that women often offend for the same reasons as men do, her work branches out away from criminology and is often referred to as transgressive criminology (Walklate 2004: 51).

The postmodern feminists claim that we need to go beyond transgressive criminology and from (walklate 2004: 54) it is said that we should not deny issues of racism and sexual violence but strive forward to ask questions as to whether or not it is possible to concieve answers to these questions. They put forward the argument that there is no universal meaning of gender therefore no single approach will suffice the questions within criminology and what makes the postmodern feminist stand out from the others is that they not only look into what is known about the women criminal but what is the man criminal too (Gelsthorpe 2002: 114).

This leads us to a modern way of answering the why women offfend and focus it from why do men offend, thus the study of men being masculine rather than a criminal, its aim is to find out why men offend disproportantly to women (Naffine 1997: 18). Masculinity is another concept which was largely ignored in criminological literature as stated by Cain (1989) “men as males have not been the objects of the criminological gaze” (cited in Walklate 2001: 19).

One famous writer on this subject is Messerschmidt who in 1993 released the ‘Masculinity hypothesis’ which coined the concept of Zimmerman (1987) which states that gender is maintained through everyday interaction and that male criminality may in fact be a subconscious masculine trait and an accecptable way to convey toughness (Jones 1998: 291). Messerschmidt also found that Masculine-validating via crime occurred when traditional means of this did not exist for example success in school, marriage and occupational achievement. Thus he saw crime as an alternative way to accomplih or project ones masculinity (www.sociology.org/content/vol7.2/01_krienert.htm).

To conclude the above it is clear that criminology has been through tradition too accecptable with notions of female criminality being studied to a lesser extent to that of the male criminal. The few studies which did focus on women appear to have been glazed over, and assumptions that crime is ‘male’ were kept close to its heart. Even when discussing males they failed to investigate in depth such a dynamic issue as that of masculinity.

The work of feminists has proved to be important in sheding light onto the subject and because of this and apparent history of some research performed on women it would be incorrect to state that it was in fact gender blind, perhaps another term which would be more fitting would be ‘gender-biased’ which ever is correct both indicate a direct discrimination within criminology towards women and much more is needed for criminology to become gender-neutral.