The relationship between gender and crime are intense, persistent, and contradictory. Both women and men commit and are victims of crimes, but their perspectives, understandings, and interpretations of the crime are likely to be different. As far as observation has been made, it has been proven that both men and women differ in their crime rates, patterns, and in their experiences of discrimination. Also, women are statistically less likely to commit crime than men.
Crime is more easily identifiable as a male characteristic in this society rather than female characteristic because of historical social conventions. Men have been generally the people who go out for work, have drinking habits. Generally, men used to socialize more than women in the past which created an opportunity for men to experience varied and traumatic types of strains. These strains led men to indulge in crime.
On the other hand, women have a more practical and sensible approach to any criminal activity; this is because they are more careful in exposing themselves to persuasion for crimes such as theft, fraud and so on. Another reason is that the females are expected to exhibit soft characteristics, tend to look beautiful, and are considered as the connecting link in the social circle.
Women who are aggressive or violent are more prone to be negatively labeled in the society. The major exclusion to this gender pattern is for prostitution. It is a well established fact that females have lower arrest rates when compared to men except for prostitution.
Both female criminals as well as male criminals, tend to come from surroundings marked by poverty, discrimination, poor schooling and so on as a common factor. But distinctively, male performers may be more self-centered in their approach to crimes and committing offences which directly benefit them or gives them an instantaneous sense of gain. Women who commit crime tend to have a history of being exposed to physical torture or pain, psychologically trauma or sexually abuse either in their childhood or in their adult life.
There are many things such as biology, psychology, economic, education and society which will have a major impact on each and every individual’s activities and their understanding of what is acceptable. So, it is a must to look at the issue of correlation between gender and crime from a variety of angles.
It’s often thought that when females commit a crime they are often given a lesser sentence than if they were a male and that more males commit crimes than compared to females. It is also often thought by females that feminists if tried by a male may get longer than they should because of what they stand for. This can also apply when the situation is turned around where the male is standing up for what they believe in. Most people believe that the only reason females commit a crime is to provide for her family and make sure her children are brought up in a stable environment. On the other hand females are portrayed are the people that are more likely to shoplift and other crime that are unlikely to be noticed. The work carried out on the area of females and crime is very limited as there are fewer reports.
1. Gender and Patterns of crime.
Carol Smart has given a number of reasons as to why she thinks crime rates for females are neglected.
- Carol Smart indicates that because females commit so few crimes they as not seen as much of a threat as males are because they commit more serious crimes therefore females are considered to be less of a threat to society.
- She also says that in both sociology and criminology professions there are more males employed than women therefore more studies have been on a males state of mind for crime instead of women’s state of mind.
- Also criminology is stimulated by a desire to control, behaviour that is regarded as challenging. Females have been seen as less problematic then men so they are given less attention for the crimes they have committed.
Carol Smart has quoted judges who are being biased against females:
It is well known that women in particular and small boys are likely to be untruthful and invent stories (Judge Sutcliffe 1976) how would the female fell in this case? She would fell like it was her fault like he had committed a crime.
She also asks three very interesting questions about females and what crimes the commit and why they do:
- ‘Do females really commit fewer crimes then males, or are the figures misleading? Some Sociologists have suggested that females offences are constantly under-recorded by the authorities’
- ‘Although females continue to commit comparatively few crimes, some people have suggested that the proportion of crimes committed by females has been increasing. According to a number of commentators this alleged increase has resulted from ”Women’s Liberation”. Is this so?’
- ‘Why do females who break the law commit crimes?’.
2. Official Statistics, Criminality and Gender.
Otto Pollak helps explain the answers to the above questions. He has looked at the figures of crimes committed by females over different countries so it is not as accurate as it would be if the U.K statistics were used. Pollak insists that the official figures are very vague level of female criminality.
He further indicates that he thinks that a large amount of petty theft crimes are committed by females, and the asserted that such crimes that were improbable of coming to the awareness of the system. Many unreported crimes were committed by female household servants.
Otto Pollak also insinuated that a females household roles gave them a considerable opportunity to commit such crimes like Poisoning Loved ones and sexually abusing their children.
The police, Magistrates and other law enforcement officials have a tendency to be male. Raised to be courteous, and are usually compassionate towards female offenders so that smaller quantity of females becomes apparent in the statistics.
3. Criticism of Otto Pollak
Frances Heidensohn used the statistics for the U.K to point out the major flaws in Otto Pollak’s argument.
- Frances Heidensohn point out flaws in the statements above with his research.
- Most shoplift is actually done by middle ages males rather than females.
- That the time Pollak was writing there was a cut in the number of female household Servants.
- Heidensohn draws awareness to the quantity of crimes performed against prostitutes by male clients, and the occurrence of male crimes in domestic life, all the evidence point towards males being significantly more likely than a female to commit aggressive and sexual offence in the solitude of their own home.
- Otto Pollak’s statistical study is based on insignificant data and unconfirmed statements. Heidensohn notes that the ‘disguise of menstruation is by no means collective and changed sexual society have long since made gibberish of his view of passive, friendly females threatening revenge.
4. Evidence against the ‘Chivalry’ Thesis
Steven box has re-examined the statistics from self-report studies in Britain and the USA. A few of these studies show some compassion regarding females, the greater part do not.
The Mass of verification on females committing serious offences does not give obvious foundation to view that they get given a degree of difference and more positive conduct from members of the community, police and judges.
Abigail Buckle and David P. Farrington preformed a small-scaled surveillance study of shoplifting in a British department store in southwest England in 1981. Shoplifting is one crime where the female offenders nearly match the male offenders in the official statistics. This study found that two point eight percent of the one hundred and forty-two males observed shoplifted but only one point four percent of the three hundred and sixty-one females shoplifted. Evidently this study uses far too small a sample to get an accurate assumption, but as one of the very few attempts to measure crime precisely it does prove some evidence against the Chivalry Thesis.
In 1983 David P. Farrington and Allison Morris conducted a study off sentencing in magistrate courts. They started out by noting the some official figures did imply more compassion towards females. E.g. In 1979 six point six percent of males were found guilty of indictable where as only two percent of females were convicted. Farrington and Morris examined data in sentencing for four hundred and eight offences of theft in Cambridge in the same year. Some one hundred and ten of these offences were committed by females. Although males receive more severe sentences than females, the study found that the differences disappeared when the harshness of offences was taken into account. Farrington and Morris came to the conclusion that there was no self-sufficient effect of sex on sentencing seriousness.
Roger Hood on the West midlands in 1989 carried out a more recent study the used a sample of two thousand eight hundred and eighty-four male and four hundred and thirty-three female defendants in crown courts. Hood compared the sentencing of males and females, controlling for variables which he had found affected the sentencing of men. He found that white women were give custodial sentences thirty-four percent less often than men in similar cases and black women thirty-seven percent less often.
5. Female Crime and Women’s Liberation.
Freda Adler claimed that women’s liberation had shown the way to a modern form of female criminal and has amplified female’s involvement in crime.
Freda also thinks that the biological theories are not precise and she believes that is has nothing to do with a females hormones, aggression and criminality.
In the USA between 1960 and 1972 robberies by females went up by two hundred and seventy-seven percent males by only one hundred and sixty-nine percent. Embezzlement by females rose by two hundred and eighty percent in the same period of time, whereas for males it rose by as little as fifty percent.
Overall arrests rates for females rose three times as fast as those for males and particularly among female delinquents.
Why then were women becoming so much more involved in crime?
Adler believed the main reason was that females were taking on male social roles in both legitimate and illegitimate areas of performance. She stressed the pace and extent of change saying: ‘there is a tide in the affairs of females as well as males, and in the last decade it had been sweeping over barriers which have protected male prerogatives and eroding the conventional differences which once nicely defined the gender roles.’
Adler’s views proved to be very contentious, for the most part as they could be used to imply that the woman’s liberation was a bad thing. They replicated
Substantial research into the question on whether female crime is increasing or not. Adler is relying on statistics which are clearly unreliable as they are not recorded properly as stated earlier by Carol Smart and Frances Heidensohn. They believe that that system is too soft on females and that they are more likely to get away with petty crimes than males are.
- Smart, C. Women, Crime and Criminology 1976
- Pollak, O. The Criminality of women 1950
- Heidensohn, F. Women and Crime 1985
- Box, S. Recession, Crime and punishment 1987
- Adler, F. Sisters in crime 1975