Feminist Criminology

VII. Feminist Criminology in the 21st Century

Gaining widespread acceptance of feminist criminological scholarship has been a daunting task. Given the fact that the field of criminology has been dominated by scholars who are more wed to mainstream theories and research, approaches challenging the mainstream perspective have met with disdain or simply with disinterest. This has led to considerable difficulty getting feminist scholarship published as well as marginalization of the work that has been published. Indeed, there was not even a session on women and crime at the annual American Criminology Society meetings until 1975.

Publication in criminology journals has also been difficult, and much feminist scholarship was relegated to smaller, and not very prestigious, criminology journals. In 1989, the journal Women & Criminal Justice was launched, specifically devoted to the publication of scholarly research on all aspects of women’s and girls’ involvement in the criminal justice system. Then, in 1995, Violence Against Women was launched to publish peer-reviewed scholarship on gender-based violence and female victims. Since the early 1990s, a wide range of books about women, crime, and criminal justice have been published. In 2006, Sage Publications introduced the first issue of Feminist Criminology, the official publication of the Division on Women and Crime of the American Society of Criminology. This journal has taken a broad focus on feminist scholarship, publishing peer-reviewed articles on feminist criminological theories, female offending, victimization of women, and the treatment of women and girls in the justice systems.

VIII. Feminist Criminology From a Global Perspective

Feminist criminology has arguably had more impact outside of the United States than within. This is because of the focus on violence against women that is a hallmark of feminist criminology as well as a recognized problem internationally. Research has focused on the abuse of women in Muslim countries and in India, female circumcision/genital mutilation, and female infanticide, to name a few topics. Because international attention has been drawn to the plight of women and girls in various parts of the world, research that takes a feminist slant on women’s victimization has been welcomed (Maidment, 2006). At the international level, considerable attention has been paid to the exploitation of women and girls in the global sex industry. In addition, feminist criminologists study the ways in which laws and criminal justice policies around the world may victimize women, sanctioning them for violating traditional gender norms, in particular in regard to sexuality. For example, in some Muslim countries, women who are raped may be viewed and treated as offenders instead of as victims because they have violated the expectations regarding women’s sexuality.

Some feminist criminologists have recently argued that there has been a global backlash against feminist attempts to improve the situations of girls and women, not only in third world countries but also in the industrialized West. A 2008 issue of Feminist Criminology was devoted to articles on how crime and victimization initiatives by feminists have led to a countermovement.