Feminist criminology today is primarily concerned with the victimization of women. Other issues, such as female delinquency, prostitution and gender inequality in the law and criminal justice system are also receiving attention.

Feminism seeks the elimination of all forms of gender inequality. The goal is not to push men out but to pull women in.

Feminism is a set of theories about women’s oppression and a set of strategies to change it.

Remember that gender is not a natural fact (sex is) but a complex social, historical and cultural product. It is related to, but not simply derived from, biological sex difference and reproductive capacities.


Liberal Feminism FREDA ADLER and RITA SIMON


This is the most widely recognized feminist theory in North America. It emerged in the 1960’s.

Liberal feminists contend that women are discriminated against on the basis of their sex, so that they are denied access to the same political, financial, career and personal opportunities as men. This can be eliminated by removing all obstacles to women’s access to education, paid employment and political activity, by enabling women to participate equally with men in the public sphere and by enacting legal change.

The problem for gender inequality can be solved by clearing the way for women’s rapid integration into what has been the world of men.

Adler and Simon challenged sexist assertions made by Lombrosian crimonologists. They argue that sociological factors, not physiology, best explain women’s criminality.

There is a strong relationship between women’s emancipation and the increase in female crime rates. As women become more liberated and become more involved in full time jobs, they are more likely to engage in the types of crime that men commit.

But this lacks empirical support. Most of the crimes committed by women were not related to improved labor market opportunities. Even now women primarily commit petty property crimes, such as shoplifting, bad checks, and welfare fraud, which are offenses caused by an increasing feminization of poverty. Women’s crimes tend to follow their traditional roles as shoppers, consumers, and health care providers within the family.

They commit primarily feminine offenses, they write bad checks and take items useful for them as homemakers and for feminine appearances. Female violent crime rates are significantly lower than male rates. But societal reactions to their behaviors have become more punitive, e.g., the public is more likely to report violent females, the police are more likely to arrest them. Women who challenge the traditional patriarchal gender role structure are viewed as unruly women worthy of punishment.




Marxist theory argues that the economic formation of a society is the primary determinant of other social relations, such as gender relations. Marxist feminism emerged in the late 1960’s in response to the masculine bias in the Marxist social theory. Rather as simply ignoring women as did traditional Marxist theory, Marxist feminism agreed with liberal feminism that women are dominated by men and are prevented from full participation in all aspects of society. As Marxists, they believe that ultimately the key explanatory factor is the nature of the economy. The gender division of labor is viewed as the product of the class division of labor. Because women are seen as being primarily dominated by capital and secondarily by men, the main strategy for change is the transformation from a capitalist to a democratic socialist society.


Rape is not common in all societies. Capitalist societies have the highest rape rates because they produce unequal gender relations that foster violence. The exploitative modes of production that have culminated in the formation of class societies have either produced or intensified sexual inequality and violence.


Radical Feminism

Radical Feminism has dominated feminist perspectives on woman abuse and it was the first radical perspective to criticize the assertions of liberal feminism as simplistic. Radical feminists see male power and privilege as the root cause of all social relations, inequality and crime. The most important relations in any society are found in patriarchy (masculine control of the labor power and sexuality of women). All other relations such as class are secondary and derive from male female relations.

The main causes of gender inequality are (i) the needs of men to control women’s sexuality and reproductive potential, and (ii) patriarchy.

Their work has focused on female victims/survivors of male violence. Radical feminist theory contends that men physically, sexually and psychologically victimize women mainly because they need to desire to control them.




It is informed by both Marxist and radical feminism. Class and gender relations are viewed as equally important. To understand class we must recognize how it is structured by gender, conversely to understand gender requires an examination of how it is structured by class. In sum, socialist feminists argue that we are influenced by both gender and class relations.

Crime is mainly seen as the product of patriarchal capitalism.