"The possibility of being a victim of a crime is ever present on my mind; thinking about it as natural as breathing."—40-year-old woman
This is a compelling analysis of how women in the United States perceive the threat of crime in their everyday lives and how that perception controls their behavior. Esther Madriz draws on focus groups and in-depth interviews to show the damage that fear can wreak on women of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Although anxiety about crime affects virtually every woman, Madriz shows that race and class position play a role in a woman's sense of vulnerability.
Fear of crime has resulted in public demand for stronger and more repressive policies throughout the country. As funds for social programs are cut, Madriz points out, those for more prisons and police are on the increase. She also illustrates how media images of victims—"good" victims aren't culpable, "bad" victims invite trouble—and a tough political stance toward criminals are linked to a general climate of economic uncertainty and conservatism.
Madriz argues that fear itself is a strong element in keeping women in subservient and self-limiting social positions. "Policing" themselves, they construct a restricted world that leads to positions of even greater subordination: Being a woman means being vulnerable. Considering the enormous attention given to crime today, including victims' rights and use of public funds, Madriz's informative study is especially timely.
Esther Madriz teaches in the Sociology Department at the University of San Francisco.
"Nothing Bad Happens to Good Girls is an important and distinctive addition to the literature on the fear of crime. Madriz captures the voices of the generally silenced and invisible women of color who are proportionately far more likely than their white sisters to be the victims of crime. She moves us through the ways in which the fear of criminal victimization have forced all women to "police" themselves, while also focusing on the ironies of these precautionary behaviors. "Good girls go to heaven. The rest of us go everywhere." Finally, she warns of the dangerous racism that lurks in the rituals of protection employed, sometimes unconsciously, by privileged whites."—Meda Chesney-Lind, author of Girls, Deliquency and Juvenile Justice
"While fear of crime has become epidemic in the United States, Esther Madriz reminds us of the special concerns and fears of females, especially minority females, and how these fears limit and constrain their social life, thereby reproducing gender inequalities. This is an important, well-written book on an important issue that should be read by all who are concerned about the fear of crime."—Allen E. Liska, Professor of Sociology, University at Albany