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Women and Deviance


Gender can be defined as the social positions, attitudes, traits and behaviors that a society assigns to females and males. A close examination of theories of deviance reveals an androcentric perspective. Barring examination of a few deviant behaviors there were and still are few serious considerations of female deviance. There are four main schools of thought 

  1. The chivalry perspective
  2. Patriarchal considerations
  3. Women’s liberation
  4. Victimization

The chivalry perspective proposes that girls and women are not seen as deviant because they male members of society protect them from the label. Male police officers, prosecutors and judges have a traditionally chivalrous attitude toward women and treat them with more leniency than men. This theory of its potential accuracy perpetuates the cycle of male -centered perspectives attempting to explain female behavior by examining male attitudes and behaviors.

Patriarchal explanations hold that male dominated social institutions especially the family are designed to prevent girls and women from engaging in deviance and crime. Socialization controls girls more than boys, teaching boys to be risk takers while teaching girls to avoid risk. According to the theory, the behaviors of girls and women are more closely monitored and controlled resulting in less delinquency.

The perspectives of women’s liberation hypothesis and theory of victimization attempt to explain the deviant behavior of girls and women apart from the attitudes /behavior of males. The women’s liberation hypothesis proposes that as the gap between women’s and men’s social equality decreases, the gap between women’s and men’s deviant behavior decreases as well. The liberation hypothesis has not received much empirical support. Though increasingly represented in the labor force women continue to be concentrated in traditional pink-collar work that reflects a persistence of traditional gender. This theory would not explain an increase in female crime rates. 

Chesney- Lind and Pasko(2004) recognize that girls are much more likely to be the victims of childhood sexual abuse than are boys. Women offenders frequently report abuse violence in their life histories. Empirical research suggests that exposure to abuse and violence could compel girls, women to engage in various types of deviance. There is an increasing body of research examining girls and women engaged in deviance and crime but most of the contemporary research continues to examine girls and women engaged in traditional deviant and criminal behaviors or limits discussions of women and deviance to women’s status as victims.

Reference : Chesney-Lind,M .&Pasko,L ( 2004) The Female Offender: Girls,Women and Crime,Sage