Asses Sociological Explanations For Gender Differences In Rates Of Offending Essay

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Asses sociological explanations for gender differences in rates of offending

The official crime statistics show that most crime appears to be committed by males, with around 87% of all recorded crimes being committed by the gender. There are two schools of thought regarding the official rates of offending; the first is that women really do commit less crime than men, the second is that women commit just as much crime as men but the recording of crime by females are flawed.

One view is that the statistics give an invalid picture of the gender differences in crime, as the criminal justice system is biased. One theory, known as the Chivalry Theory, argues that male police officers (who are predominately male) treat women differently, they take a paternal stance, wanting to be seen as a knight in shining armor and will let the woman off lightly, telling her simply not to do it again rather than the harsher punishment that would be handed out to a male caught committing the same crime. This means that crimes committed by females are not being included in the statistics because they are not being charged with their crime. This leads to an invalid picture which exaggerates the gender differences in rates of offending. Self-report studies have shown that female offenders tend to be treated more leniently than males, supporting this theory. In addition to this the Ministry of Justice found 49% of females received a caution, compared with only 30% of males, suggesting that the criminal justice system appears to favour females. Furthermore, some feminists take the opposite approach to the chivalry thesis, arguing that the criminal justice system is biased against women, not in favour of women. For example, Heidensohn notes that the courts treat females more harshly than males because they are deviating from gender norms. Feminists argue that the criminal justice system has double standards for women as criminal behavior is seen to be masculine, an example of this could be the media focus on Amanda Knox in the Meridith Kercher murder trial, calling her “foxy knoxy” and ignoring her boyfriend who was also on trial for murder. Another difference that can be seen in the statistics is in the difference in the crimes being committed, predominately shoplifting and welfare fraud, this can be linked to the fact that women are increasingly more likely than men to experience low pay and to receive benefits, consequently the crimes committed by females can be seen as a reaction to their poverty. Feminist sociologist Sandra Walklate notes that shoplifting and prostitution are often motivated by economic necessity; such as to provide for their children. A postmodern perspective on shoplifting is that crimes committed by teenage girls tend to be motivated by three inter-related factors, to fund a drug habit (shoplifting and prostitution), for excitement and the conspicuous consumption of goods (designer labels). This, along with the differences in the crimes committed by the two genders, shows some of the gender differences in rates of offending.

The other stream of thought is that women really do commit less crimes, early feminist explanations focused on sociolisation, Both Carol Smart and Anne Oakley suggested that males are socialised to aggressive, indivualistic behavior that may make them more inclined to commit crimes. One