"Criminology is an applied discipline which, searches for the causes of crime in order to eradicate the problem" (Muncie et al., 2001:453). It is a term used to include a multitude of topics and approaches and revolves around the central question of 'what causes crime'?
Feminism is the theory of the political, economic and social inequality of the sexes and is an organised activity on behalf of women's rights and interests. However from a criminological perspective it has many more definitions and takes on many subcategories, for example; liberal feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism and postmodern feminism to name the four identified by Walklate (1998).
As this essay title is particularly diverse it is not possible to adequately cover all aspects or subcategories of feminism in relation to its contradictory nature to criminology therefore this essay will be based around liberal feminism and particularly the debate of 'the new female offender', as brought to light by Adler, 1975.
The essay will critically assess why feminist perspectives in criminology are relevant and detail the use of them in relation to female offending.
In any discussion of the relationship between feminism and criminology it is important to recognise the complexities in their relationship. There is no one feminism and no one criminology. "Different schools of thought within the sphere of feminism have developed out of different political and theoretical traditions. Central to all feminist criminology is the commitment to ending sex-based discrimination in society towards women" (source adapted from Tierney, 1996:163).
There are feminists who have made a strong case for abandoning criminology (Smart, 1990), or who, because of resistance to a feminist transformation of the discipline of criminology, see fundamental incompatibilities between feminism and criminology (Stanko, 1993; A. Young, 1994). Smart, 1990 states the following conclusion:
'Criminology and the sociology must...