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Hale et al: Criminology 3e

Chapter 15: Chapter synopses

Sex and gender do not form the same concept. Sex differences are those based on biological criteria for classifying persons as male or female, including genital and hormonal differences and variations in reproductive capacity whilst gender differences are ascribed by society and relate to expectations about appropriate social roles. Criminology tended historically to ignore feminist perspectives, however 'second wave feminism' began to expose the male dominance yet 'gender-blindness' of criminology and was formative in the development of what has become termed loosely as 'feminist criminology'.

While there is no one set of perspectives which define 'feminist criminology', the main contributions to knowledge include:

  • A more central focus on women as offenders and victims
  • A critique of earlier (male) criminological studies of crime
  • The deconstruction of the sexist and stereotypical images of female offenders and victims
  • The identification of institutionalised sexism
  • An understanding of the effect of gender constructs on the propensity for women to offend
  • An insight into the interrelationship between prior victimisation and offending
  • An increasing concern with examining how constructs of class, race and sexuality affect the gender dimension of crime

Patterning of criminal behaviour and victimisation according to sex can be achieved in a number of ways and the chapter focuses on recorded statistics provided by the Home Office, self-report studies and victimisation surveys such as the British Crime Survey.

As stated, feminist influences on criminology inform us that inequalities between the sexes can differentially shape male and female experiences and behaviours. The differences between masculinities and feminities, in particular the nature of female conformity form one basis of distinction between the propensities for males and females to commit crime. Gender convergence, female criminality, gender learning processes power and control models are also offered as explanations for divergences between men and women in the criminal justice system. Further it is acknowledged that such differences cannot be explained by gender and sex alone and that factors such as age, race and class may affect how males and females experience the criminal justice system in both policing and punishment and sentencing. The chapter concludes by looking at the implications of a "gender agenda" for criminology and the criminal justice process.