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Female Crime: The Construction of Women in Criminology

NCJ Number
N Naffine
Date Published
146 pages
This text surveys the major schools of criminology to explore the images of the female offender that underpin contemporary crime theories.
It focuses primarily on the female offender literature from the late 1960's to the mid-1980's and how it has been influenced by the male-dominant and misogynistic mainstream of Western thought. It critically examines (1) strain theory and postulates that crime is an expression primarily of financial strain in males and emotional strain in females, (2) social learning theory and the tenet that offending is learned from criminal groups from which women are excluded, (3) masculinity theory (i.e., that crime is symbolically masculine and therefore unsuitable for women), (4) conformity and social control theory, and (5) labeling theory. The impact of the women's liberation movement on criminology is considered within the context of the philosophical, psychological, political, and sociological traditions which esteem men for their supposed autonomy, intelligence, and force of character, while disdaining women for their alleged weakness, compliance, and passivity. It is concluded that a more positive construction of women can be derived from the material already collected by mainstream criminology. The sterotypes imposed on the present body of findings are derived from a distorting male world view. A feminist reexamination is recommended to ensure that a balance is struck between the treatment of men and women in criminology. Index, 12 notes, and approximately 160 references.


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