Feminist criminology as a perspective of crime and the discipline itself was born in the 1970s. However, unlike previous and many later perspectives, it did not focus solely on aetiology of crime, but rather on critiquing criminology. The pioneer writers emphasised criminology as a ‘boys’ club’, criticised it for the exclusion of female criminality and victimisation, and for hypocritical assertions: ‘How can a theory be general if it ignores half of the population?’. From critique such as this, came evaluations of existing theories as well as the development of new, comprehensive ones.

One of them is the emancipation thesis. First proposed in mid-1970s, its main focus were gender roles at the time. More precisely, changes in those roles. This thesis asserted that key to explaining criminality amongst women, and by that also amongst men, are the expectations put upon each gender and the flexibility with which each they can be fulfilled, or otherwise. With women’s horizons broadening in the past, meaning they could pursue a life no longer dictated solely by gender expectations, their criminality also increased. Proponents of the emancipation thesis argued that women’s criminality was kept in check by their limited opportunities. With them changing their social environments through pursuing a not-so-traditional life, more chances for criminal activity arose and with that, freedom to take those chances. Though feminist at its core, this thesis still denies women some moral agency in regards to crime. Namely, it is based around the notion that without barriers, women will eventually behave like men. This was met with criticism from proponents of more patriarchy-focused feminist perspectives.

These did not necessarily attempt to develop their own frameworks for understanding male, female and combined criminality (though some certainly did), but to highlight the lack, necessity, and essential fundamentals of feminist perspectives within criminology. Five key elements of feminist criminological inquiry were developed: 1) complexity of gender as a product; 2) the importance of gender in everyday life; 3) the existence of inequality between constructs of gender and roles thereof; 4) the production of knowledge has historically been patriarchal; 5) the necessity for the central role of women in intellectual inquiry. Indeed, such criticism of ‘traditional’ and liberal-feminist (as above) criminologies was in place as was the concern with generalisability of previous research to strata absent from it. Though it is extremely important to consider gender differences where possible, when approaching a certain debate within criminology, one must consider the multitude of factors at play and choose on which to focus. For it is impossible to take into account all different strata within society and analyse them in terms of, for example, police response times or community budgetary commitments for situational crime prevention purposes.

One must pick their battles, but keep them all in mind. 

Autor: Mgr Tomasz Stankowski

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