In January last year, during his State of the Union speech, President Obama raised his concerns about female equality, he stated that in the USA women are still unequal, and that this is not acceptable. He stated …
“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment”
One area that he didn’t mention is how women are also treated unequally from a criminology perspective. Criminology as the scientific study of crime and criminals has been criticised for being “androcentric” meaning that the research is centred and focussed around men, only to refer to women in certain types of crime.
One writer, Amanda Burgess-Proctor, recognised that to fully achieve equality, feminist principles should be applied equally across the entire spectrum of society. In her 2006 paper on feminist criminology she demonstrates the innovative “intersectional” approach, highlighting the many elements that influence criminal behaviour, and provided a feminist focus alongside the approach. Burgess-Proctor‘s intersectional approach describes how two or more influential factors can cross over and cause either a certain behaviour or a specific reaction, which can provide an effective method to look at crime and sentencing. By focussing on oppression and inequality across many aspects of society, i.e. not just gender differences but also race, sexuality, age, nationality, culture and physical capabilities the framework is able to describe a wider view of the effects these have on sentencing and crime rates.
To understand what Burgess-Proctor meant by intersectional feminist criminology, her work needs to be placed in the context of feminist history, partly to see how far it has come, but also to show what the real world implications of intersectionality in crime really are. There have been many feminist movements, all with the key similarity of aiming for gender equality, the most commonly cited are:
The names themselves suggest that feminism tended to arise in pockets and lacked the overall societal force and acceptance that would drive real change. More recent views would suggest that feminist ideals and equality are becoming mainstream, however the criminal perspective still remains absent.
Through these perspectives of feminism, feminist criminology has risen in what can be seen as effectively three major waves. The first through feminist writers increasingly objecting to the fact that studies on women were not being included in mainstream research, despite the obvious impact that gender had on crime. The second wave quickly followed when although criminological research began to involve women it tended to focus on white middle class women, an obvious bias. The third wave built on this idea and started the concept of intersectionality. The debate of whether men and women should be treated equally or whether differences should be highlighted and lead to different treatment for both genders, also arose through this wave of feminism.
In this context, and against a backdrop of rising demands for racial equality, multiracial feminism added extra elements to explain the difference between genders, but also extended the discussion to identify an inclusive race-class-gender framework relevant to all, regardless of their social situation.
When placing an intersectional structure into criminological research, it is necessary to look broadly at social attitudes and beliefs. Research by Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer in 1998 provided an early look at how the American court system was influenced by a person’s social background. It concluded that when sentencing, young black males, tended to receive harsher punishments demonstrating that race influenced sentencing and a clear view that it needs to be included in mainstream research. It is highly likely that other factors such as class and sexuality also play a part in influencing sentencing, this highlights the need to study the relationship between race-class and gender and their effect on crime and punishment.
As the first black president of the USA, Obama demonstrates that race equality is closer than ever in the west. However his speech, as well as many remaining discriminative views held by certain members of society, shows that gender equality both in society and criminological research still has a long way to go. Building equality and fairness across society by changing the underpinning attitudes and beliefs takes generations. Burgess-Proctor’s paper, is now seven years old but still provides a proven and effective approach to evaluating racial, class and gender stereotypes and going some way to eliminating their influence from the criminal system. The future of feminist criminology lies, in the ability to fight for broader equality not merely gender.
This blog was written by first year Criminology student Harriet Bryan as part of the assessment for the module “ASC 111: The Criminological Imagination” last term and was based around the article:
Burgess-Proctor, A. (2006) ‘Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Crime: Future directions for Feminist Criminology’, Feminist Criminology, 1(1), pp. 27-47.
Andy Whiting March 24th, 2015
Posted In: Criminology Theory
As humans, we are all inclined to judge certain events that happen in our society… especially CRIME! Although many of us believe that criminal behaviour is decided by the individual, some focus on other factors such as reasoning, weaknesses and mental illnesses. These are better known as biological factors, involving certain aspects found in a person’s brain functioning that can cause them to make certain decisions… decisions that could possibly be out of their control.
So, are we in control? Well, in order for us to be able to answer this question, we need to identify the reason behind crime.
Recently, a theorist discovered a link between brain deficits and antisocial behaviour which was later found to occur in childhood in which they found it difficult to abide by rules of society. Researchers then discovered the reasons behind these deficits wereassociated with certain events, such as trauma early on in a childs life, or even during foetal development.
Mental health is probably one of the more recognized issues in criminology with many illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders being connected to crime. Although these health issues are believed to be out of our control, statistics show those with mental health problems are twice as likely of committing crime.
Then we have bad behaviour, which later on progresses to aggression, also known as conduct disorder. Unsurprisingly, it is associated with crime with almost three quarters of children demonstrating this behaviour being convicted later on throughout adulthood. Reasons for convictions however, are found to be connected to evidence of associates such as abusive relationships and substance misuse.
Other suspected biological reasons connected to conduct disorder are impulsivity, defined as “the inability to control behaviour” (Farrington, 2007). Like conduct disorder, it has been argued that biology is not a single factor, instead, it is believed to involve outside factors such as the environment, which again, questions our title?
Question: What can we do to prevent crime from happening, and avoid further criminal behaviour? Answer: Prevention schemes and programmes!
Some of you might ask what a prevention scheme or program is… well, it’s a plan put in place by charities, the law and support workers etc to support individuals at risk of crime to prevent it from happening. The purposes of these programmes are to identify problems in individuals and those at risk to improve their situations and increase their skills which hopefully will then eventually stop crime!
Programmes assess each individual situation in order to concentrate on a certain prevention, using one of the following four different types of crime prevention:
Prevention schemes are not only available to the individual, but for those responsible for them as parents. Parenting programs and family nurses are available to pregnant women to identify certain risk factors e.g. smoking, which has been found to cause deficits which then later link to crime. Other risks are introduced to children whilst at school, some of which may not have been identified previously. Some children find their school days very difficult if support is not provided at home and as a result, turn to antisocial behaviour. Programs at school focus on the behaviour of the child and aim to increase their skills and development so that bad behaviour does not become a problem later on.
Other prevention programmes focus on the brain activity e.g. where mental health is concerned, schemes aim to improve brain development through the use of doings in order to avoid criminal behaviour from occurring. Prevention also focuses on the nutrition of an individual with cognitive deficits, as it has been associated with crime. Diet has a key affect on a person’s behaviour and as a result, prevention to poor nourishment such as the use of vitamins and other certain foods is most important.
So… could you answer the question “do you choose crime or does crime choose you?” Researchers are still trying to answer the same thing! By taking biological factors of crime into consideration, it has allowed appropriate crime prevention to be developed, however, theorists still argue to support several other factors and theories to why crime occurs and this will probably continue until we get our final answer!
This blog was written by first year Criminology student Jodie Rackley as part of the assessment for the module “ASC 111: The Criminological Imagination” last term and was based around the article:
Rocque, M., Welsh, C. B., Raine, A. (2012) ‘Biosocial Criminology and Modern Crime Prevention’, Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(4), pp. 306-312.
Andy Whiting March 9th, 2015
Posted In: Criminology Theory
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