By Shelly Clevenger and Jordana N. Navarro, authors of Gendering Criminology: Crime and Justice Today
In Gendering Criminology, we take readers on an exploration of how gender informs major criminological perspectives and structures life experiences in terms of criminal engagement and victimization. In addition to discussing the role of gender within major criminological perspectives, Gendering Criminology provides readers with an understanding of gender as a social construct, which in turn structures how one experiences the criminal-legal system as someone who engages in crime, is victimized, or is employed within the system itself. Our scholarly lens also extends to the lay public and how crime is understood via mass media.
Gendering Criminology discusses how men, women, and the LGBTQIA+ community experience crimes across the offense spectrum–both offline and online—and how gender structures decisions about which crimes are perpetrated and why. We address the dominant patterns within the literature and also persistent gaps that are likely connected to gender norms and roles. For example, although research indicates that men are more likely to engage in hacking relative to women, we discuss the gendered reasons why men likely dominate within that deviant act. Likewise, within the chapters devoted to victimization, we discuss dominant patterns across various offenses but also consider the role of gender in patterns that are discussed less across the literature. Although research indicates that women are more likely to experience intimate partner abuse, cisgender men experience unique barriers stemming from their gender and dominant beliefs about masculinity to accessing help if trapped in an abusive relationship.
Outside of the people directly involved in the criminal event itself, Gendering Criminology also considers the role of gender broadly and discusses how gender shapes the experiences and thoughts of those employed within the criminal-legal system, which then impacts those who encounter that system. This focus of the textbook emerged from our research that continued to show that individuals’ experiences were heavily influenced by their gender and how others understood the gender roles associated with that presentation. For example, cisgender men could not access social services dedicated to intimate partner abuse survivors because their experiences did not conform to notions of hegemonic masculinity. In addition, individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+ experienced unique barriers to accessing help from social services because state laws reflected binary gendered understandings of offenses. For example, research has established that the risk of “dual-arrest” is a reality for LGBTQIA+ individuals, given that law enforcement will sometimes err to perceived physical advantages when deciding who should be arrested in a confrontation within states that require mandatory arrest. Thus, when called to a confrontation involving a same-sex couple, law enforcement may arrest both the abusive individual and the survivor.
The ultimate message is that gender underscores all aspects of social life–including dominant understandings of deviant behavior, risks of engagement in antisocial behavior, and risks of experiencing harm. The social construct of gender rarely produces any social benefit for the individual or wider society in which people operate. On the contrary, we argue that gender is another tool to order individuals into a social hierarchy where they are granted or denied resources based on who they are. The first step to mitigating the harm associated with this social categorization is to raise awareness among social science students of this reality so that they can assist individuals in crisis with a greater understanding of the socio-cultural constraints in which people operate–especially in terms of the onset and aftermath of crime.
Gendering Criminology includes various active-learning exercises that prompt direct engagement from students. Research shows that active learning leads to a classroom environment where students become directly involved in their learning rather than solely relying on the instructor, and the included assignments are designed to increase an empathetic understanding of the complex nature of crime. In the criminal event, each individual that engaged, was victimized, or responded is shaped by their life experiences, and these life experiences can then lead to inappropriate responses that decenter the individual who was directly harmed. To truly address harm perpetrated through crime–as experienced by persons victimized and their loved ones–moving beyond sympathy to empathy is an essential skill for students.