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Gender and Crime

I am interested in criminology, sociology, psychology and journalism.

Who is more likely to commit a crime and why?

Women significantly outweigh men in the overall population, however, they are under-represented in the criminal justice system. This is proven in Government reports showing that women makeup only 5% of the total prison sentences in the UK and in 2019, only 15% of arrests were women.

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Conducting a study

The first sample you take will most likely be a group of men, but why?

Subconsciously you know that men are the more dominant gender when it comes to many factors, e.g. crime. This is because your perspective of criminals is sculpted by the media, which portrays men as the gender more likely to commit a crime, whether it is extremely dangerous (such as assault, murder, etc.), or less so (such as stealing).

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Reasons why men commit more crime: opportunity

Sociologist Frances Heidensohn, argues that men commit more crimes as they are presented with more opportunities. As women take on the expressive role, they are controlled at work, at home, and in public.

  • At work, women are less likely to be in high positions as a result of the glass ceiling, meaning they have fewer opportunities to commit corporate and monetary crimes that men in these positions abuse their power to do.
  • At home, women experience the double shift (housework & paid work) and triple shift (housework, paid work, emotional support). Women absorb the frustration of husbands/partners that would have been aimed at their workplace. They take their frustrations out at home because they can't at work for fear of being fired. Women are also more likely to experience domestic violence in the household.
  • In public, women are more likely to be harassed by members of the public because they are seen as inferior to men, making them feel vulnerable and unsafe. E.g. they may experience catcalling.

This means that women are less likely to commit a crime because they are more controlled than men and would be seen as more deviant if they did.

The proportion of females experiencing domestic abuse in 2019/20 was 7.3%, double that of males (3.6%).

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The majority (85%) of arrests continue to be accounted for by males in 2019/20.

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Reasons why men commit more crime: socialisation

Socialisation is the process where we learn the norms, values, and culture of the society we are born into.

Gendered socialisation (canalisation) is the way parents channel their children's interests into toys, games, and other activities that are seen as gender appropriate. E.g. girls wear pink and boys wear blue.

  • Girls are socialised into feminine qualities, such as cooking, cleaning, being gentle, kind, calm, delicate, and nurturing. They are taught to play with toys like toy kitchens, dolls, etc.
  • Boys are socialised into masculine qualities, such as playfighting, being rough, and being tough. They are taught to play with toys like action figures, cars, etc.

It is these expectations of what children are socialised into that carry on into adulthood and determine whether someone is likely to commit a crime.

Being kind, delicate, and nurturing typically do not fit the characteristics of a criminal.

Statistics for women committing crime

Whilst the statistics do show a clear gender difference in offending, they are not accurate. The gender gap in offending is narrowing. They do not account for the hidden figure of crime because not all reported crimes are recorded.

When women do commit crimes, they are punished more harshly. This is not only because they are breaking the law and being deviant, but also because they are breaking the feminine stereotype they were socialised into. As a result, they are being doubly deviant. This means that the real offending rate for women is likely higher but still lower in comparison to the statistics for men.

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Reasons why women commit crimes.

Women commit more crimes now than they did in the past.

Why?

  • Feminism - women are now fighting against the inequalities that they face, e.g. patriarchy and oppression.
  • Inequality - women experience inequality at work, at home, and in public.
  • Declining chivalry. The chivalry thesis refers to the idea that the criminal justice system treats female offenders more leniently than male offenders. This means that women are less likely to be charged with a crime because people in these positions (e.g. judges, lawyers, lieutenants, etc.) are mainly men who see women as sad and needing help, rather than bad and needing punishment. This is declining, which means that women are being treated more harshly when they commit crimes, but not at the same level/extent as men.
  • The actual number of women offending increasing. More women are committing crimes now for the fear of poverty, especially if they are a lone-parent family because they have to provide for a family on one income, which is most likely not much because they cannot work full time as they have to provide childcare for the family. Another reason is because of domestic violence. Women are more likely to experience domestic violence at home.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Sophie Demmen

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