Over the past century the field of criminology has changed drastically, with ideas like intersectionality quickly becoming more dominant when attempting to explain crime and the driving forces behind it. Gender has become increasingly important in the quest to understand criminal statistics and the disparities between the sexes. Gendered behaviors influence even street level crimes in more ways than the early criminologists would have ever believed. One important question is how does the re-construction of gender occur and influence offenders and how can examining crime through an intersectional framework help us understand it? I firmly think that the gendered behaviors, or the action of “doing gender” by offenders, plays an important role in crime and that the intersectional framework can provide serious opportunities to further understand how gender, race, and class intertwines with crime.
It is important to first understand how men and women re-construct gender on the streets. Typically, men are the “inner circle” of the gang, and this immediately leads to gender stereotypes being reinforced. The men reinforce stereotypes they have absorbed from the wider society, like family or media. They then enforce these stereotypes on the rest of the gang, especially the women. In a study published in the International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, titled Homegirls, Hoodrats and Hos: Co-constructing Gang Status through Discourse and Performance, Dr. Abigail Kolb and Dr. Ted Palys (2016) investigate this phenomenon in street gangs. Women who join a gang by sleeping with one or more members are not respected and are seen as “hoodrats”. They are not trusted with important matters and are seen as quick to snitch if caught. Women who “do masculinity”, or dress and act more masculine, are seen as much more trustworthy than hoodrats. Unfortunately, to keep their status they have to condone and often act out the bias of the men in the group by putting down the other women designated as hoodrats. In their study, Doing Gender, Dr. Candace West and Dr. Don H. Zimmerman (1987) further explain that by “doing gender” people are simply acting out a socially constructed “achieved property of situated conduct.” Drug dealers reconstruct this in how they treat women in gangs as well as how they interact with other males.
Another way that these gender stereotypes are reconstructed are during drug robberies. In the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography article Damn, Yo-Who’s That Girl: An Ethnographic Analysis of Masculinity in Drug Robberies, Dr. Randol Contreras (2008) examines the role of women in the commission of drug robberies. The standard practice is for women to use their sexuality to lure drug dealers into a trap. Usually they get them secluded and then the men ambush and rob them. The women are not given an honest cut, and are not viewed as equals with the men. The robbers know that the drug dealer will fall for the bait because he has to prove he is a real “man” by attempting to sleep with the girl. This shows that drug robbers know the stereotypes, take advantage of them, and yet internalize them, all at once. They don’t see the girls as equals, they don’t think they are smart enough to earn a real cut.
It is also just as imperative to the notion of understanding the complexities of crime to look at the various factors involved in a person’s social identity. Intersectionality examines crime while taking into account gender, class, and race. It takes into account the various power structures that a person has to deal with, and the combination of these factors gives their “social location”. African American females will face different challenges than African American males or Hispanic females. Wealth will change how someone has to interact with the world around them. These are inescapable facts that must be taken into account when studying crime.
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