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Feminist Criminology: Androcentricity of Criminology, its impacts, and the need for improvement

Feminist Criminology

History:
Feminist criminology is a branch of critical criminology, which focuses on challenging the mainstream/ traditional theories of crime down to their basic nature. Feminist criminology for a long time was not accepted as it lacked definition and certain boundaries, and like many other theories, it had its own shortcomings.

Henceforth, as opposed to limiting the idea of feminist criminology in a box it is more important to comprehend the angles encompassing it, such as history, androcentricity criminology, impacts, and the need for improvement. The rise of feminist criminology was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This moment was largely motivated by the continuing sexism and patriarchy in the field of criminology.

Feminist theories by itself have had a huge impact on shaping the core dynamic principles of feminist criminology. Feminist theories such as radical and liberal theories and their applicability in criminology have to be cross-examined thoroughly in order to implement and bring a change in the pedagogy of mainstream criminology.

Androcentricity of Criminology:

Criminology was perceived to be a mainstream area of study, that is male sociologists studying male criminality, and there was limited discussion of female criminality and the female criminologists. Women have always been neglected and marginalized in the field of criminology both as subjects and as experts of the study. By saying ignored as subjects, it means that, when an empirical research study is done, the main focus is on men and their nature and how likely they are to commit a particular crime.

Mainstream criminology has been constructed in such a way that only men commit crime and women are “typically good” and if and when a woman commits a crime then the method of “add women and stir”[1] has been applied. Traditional criminology is ignorant of the fact that “typically good” women also commit a crime and the economical, racial political, psychological backgrounds and motives differ from that of the men, through whose eye’s criminology is mostly viewed. And even in rare cases when women were considered as a subject it only took into account biological rather than social differences between males and females just relying on biological reasons to criminalize women enhances the social perception of biologically criminal women.

Thus, again judging a women’s character on the grounds of what is considered morally right by the society and categorizing women who don’t fall into the regulated norms as “typically bad”.

Mainstream criminology has focused exclusively on male offenders; this raises the underlying tacit assumption that men commit more crimes than women. This statement can be justified by giving an example of Travis Hirschi’s well-known control theory of delinquency[2], in this theory, Hirschi wilfully excluded the female subjects, he also stated that "Since girls have been neglected for too long by students of delinquency, the exclusion of them is difficult to justify,"[3]

And by saying that women were neglected in the field of study as experts and professionals, it means that not enough opportunities were given to women. Gender inequality in the workplace has been prevalent. This kind of inequality can also be rooted in the everlasting problem – the views of the society.

An ambitious woman who is interested in pursuing a career is often back lashed by society. It is viewed that a woman should stick to her gender roles which are tendering the domestic needs rather than setting up a professional path.

Mainstream criminology has overlooked the sex differences in criminal justice handling. Few criminologists also underestimated the roles and impact of gender in criminal justice processing. It was just assumed that men and women were treated equally harshly or leniently, that fact that men were undertreated for petty and public order crimes than women because it is considered that only women indulge in such crimes and are not capable of committing more savage crimes.

And the fact that women were treated more harshly comparatively in gruesome crimes such as murder due to the assumption that women who commit such crimes are not socially acceptable. Women as the symbol of love and caring are always treated as the loving figure that lacks masculinity and hence, can’t be seen as an offender in a strict sense as opposed to the male counterparts Due to this ignorance in the mainstream criminology both the gender has faced certain issues.

Mainstream criminology also does not take into account female criminality. The theory of female criminality explains the background and the complete ordeal of a crime committed by a woman. Whereas mainstream criminology explains the nature of crime through the vintage point of a male.

Female criminality and mainstream criminology do not go hand in hand. These are the components that shed light on the fact that criminology is indeed androcentric.

Feminist Theories:

As stated, feminist theories have been inculcated into criminology to bring in fresh and diversified perspectives. Flavin (2001)[4], argues that “feminism challenges criminology to reject androcentric thinking” and to be “thoughtful and relevant”. Feminist theories act as an extension to understand the gender gap in society.

There are four different types of feminist theories:

  1. Liberal feminism
  2. Marxist feminism
  3. Radical feminism
  4. Dual–system feminism

Not dwelling into all the types, we here discuss the theories which have the most relevance to criminology that is radical feminist theory and liberal feminist theory.

Radical feminist theory: radical feminism arose during the second wave of feminism; this theory calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is wiped out in all social and economic settings. The purpose of the formulation of this theory was to oppose sexual objectification and raising public awareness and challenging the concept of gender roles.
Radical theory talks about questioning the existing norms to their nucleus and then bringing about the required changes from that level and encompassing it in the society.

Liberal feminist theory: during the 1980s, radical feminism slowly started to drift away which thus put an end to the second wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism gave rise to the theory of liberal feminism which aims to bring gender equality through political and legal reforms. Unlike radical feminism which aims for a change in the fundamental values of mainstream theory, liberal theory intends to accomplish equal rights and opportunities by integrating women into the mainstream structure.

Feminist Theories and Criminology:

Now that there is conceptual clarification about both the androcentric of criminology and feminist theories, it is highly essential to establish a link between the two, this interlink goes a long way into framing the boundaries of feminist criminology. As it is perceived, to dispose of the androcentricity there needs an adjustment of the perspective of criminology.

This is the point where feminist theories assume a gigantic duty. Criminological aspects, in order to keep up with the shifting paradigm of society, need to be changed fundamentally and should actively include the female gender as well. These changes are sought out by weaving the two main theories of feminism that are liberal and radical. Inculcating the radical theory of feminism into criminology promotes the involvement of women as subjects in the study of crime sciences.

As said before, from the initial time's women have not been given enough consideration as a subject and radically changing this thought will help in criminology becoming more inclusive. Radical feminist theory also talks about challenging the gender roles, an unmistakable edge between the gender roles goes far into setting up female culpability (female criminality).

The foundation and the nature behind female perpetrating wrongdoing are typically confined to her domestic background and this is discrimination dependent on gender roles and is uninformed of different socioeconomics which has a critical impact. Fundamentally changing this idea can legitimize different immaculate and incoherent pieces of female criminality.

Instilling liberal feminism theory into criminology helps in the involvement of the experts and the professionals of the field. Liberal feminism talks about incorporating women into mainstream criminology. And introducing political and legal reforms to help women shine in their respective professional fields can be a step towards gender equality in criminal science.

Victimization of Women:

When looking at trends in offending and victimization, there are several methods that can be used to assess the levels of criminality, to understand the differences between male and female offending and victimization of women in a crime; there is often a dark figure of unreported crime. Again, the figures of crimes committed, suggest that there are more males involved in criminal activities, particularly young males and often most of the acts are committed by groups rather than individuals, which leads us back to our sub-cultural theories as an explanation for criminality in comparison to crimes against the person.

Crimes of criminal damage are less likely to know the gender, class, or ethnic identity of the offender. As per a few estimations, less than 1/3rd of cases of criminal damage have an offender that has been identified by the victim. In those cases where an offender was identified, most of them were males, hardly a small percentage of such offenders were female, which demonstrates changing attitudes of females towards the types of crime being committed, although with less than a third of offenses being able to identify the gender of the offenders.

This could be seen statistically, where victimization of the respondents in a crime has almost one in five males who reported that they had been the victim of a crime. However so, the same males could have been victims of more than one crime, while in a wider society our perception is that females are more likely to be victims. A slightly lower proportion of females are seen as victims of crimes, this suggests that our understanding of who is most likely to be a victim of crime or fear of being a victim of the crime could be skewed somewhat and this is something we all have to look at and understand more in-depth.

Violence against women has been studied in thousands of researches, articles, and books across multiple disciplines. Growing attention has been paid to female victimization around the world in recent decades, and also to understand the nature of such victimization of women, we need to look at the last few years, where we witnessed an alarming increase in crimes against women.

Married women were also beaten up, tortured, and have died in circumstances, which is enough to shock the sensibility of the general public. Such deaths have come to be associated with dowry and here if we look at the victimizations, the victim is often a young or a recently married woman. This malady is very deep-rooted and has its origin in several social, psychological, and economic factors. In the Indian legal system (The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961), there is no real measure for redressal if a woman finds herself being held at ransom.

A recent report in one of the newspapers gives the following statistics on victimization and crime against the woman: [5]

  • One rape every 54 minutes
  • A molestation every 26 minutes
  • A kidnapping or abduction every 43 minutes
  • An act of eve-teasing every 51 minute
  • One dowry death every hour and 42 minutes
  • An act of cruelty every 33 minutes
  • One criminal offense against women every seven minutes.

Conclusion
Rise in the incarceration rate of females in the 20th century was also one of the factors that gave a spark and slight inclination towards the study of the impact of females in crime and criminology. The mere act of formulating these theories are not enough if it has not been implemented in order for a society to be harmonious there should exist no patriarchy; everyone should be given equal rights and opportunities mainly in the professional field.

It is also very evident from the given data about the crimes committed against women and the crime committed by women; in both of these cases, women are victimized. In the case of a crime committed against a woman, she is a subject to the concept of victim-blaming, and in the concept of crime committed by women and even after serving the required time of punishment she still faces harsh discrimination by the society; however, this discrimination can be seen in both the gender but it is little more prevalent in the case of a woman because of her stigmatized gender role.

Feminist criminology focuses on putting forward this thought it says that women, in the profession as a subject, women offenders and female criminals and criminality should be considered not through the point of view of a man but through the point of view of both the genders based on the circumstances, with an objective mindset.

End-Notes:
  1. The care tradition beyond: “add woman and stir” – Nell Noddings
  2. Control theory of delinquency – Travis Hirschi
  3. Travis Hirschi – control theory of delinquency p. 35, n. 3
  4. feminism for the mainstream criminologist – an invitation -J Flavin
  5. Home Ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau
Written By:
  1. Avhirup Kumar Ghosh - Presidency University, Bangalore) and
  2. Ananya K. - College: Presidency University, Bangalore

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