WP acting funny, posting this here for now as i revise... will probably take this down shortly but feel free to read this if youre interested in girls / violence etc.
Outside of feminist criminology, little speculation may take place to address how social contexts or inequality has effected girls in relation to violence. In an article by Jody Miller and Norman White entitled “Situational Effects of Gender Inequality”, the authors address this topic. Miller and White state, “Girls’ violence is produced within social contexts of extreme gender inequality” (Miller, 2004) The authors later conclude, “how and when girls chose to adopt violent strategies, as well as when and how girls negotiate within potentially violent situations, each of these is best understood by recognizing the significance of contextual construction of unequal power relations and gender asymmetries” (Miller, 2004). In order to understand and recognize gendered inequality, the authors provide us with three theoretical issues to examine. These issues include: “cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity and their impact on girls’ behavior, power differentials between males and females and how these regulate and constrain girls’ use of violence, the impact of group and situational gender composition in shaping violence” (Miller, 2004). We can take these issues and others to help us examine violence amongst girls.
As a product of society and social structure, women and men do “gender” as a result of culture or society’s contrived views and definitions of femininity and masculinity. When girls commit a violent act, they may be perceived of acting like a boy. The rise of violence amongst girls is perceived as not only acting in a male role, but of girls “led astray from their preordained roles as mother, wife, daughter” (Batacharya, 2004). There is also gender divisions in location, gender divisions occur between a “feminized indoor, and a masculinized outdoor domain” (Pearce, 2004). Parents seem to tighten their control for adolescent girls compared to boys, allowing them to stay out later and more outdoor activities. It also makes sense that patriarchal and overprotective parents are more likely to turn in girls for delinquency, another aspect of social control. Unfortunately, the focus on girl’s behavior takes away from other issues, “girls acting like boys in boy’s spaces distracts us from developing an understanding of how young women do spend their leisure time out of doors within their everyday routines” (Pearce, 2004). It is often outside where these girls become vulnerable to violence and street activity. Yet it is often outside that girls may spend time socializing, relieving themselves from the indoor demands of domestic work, or avoiding problems such as abuse at home. Also, the need to break out of a patriarchal family not only for independence, but also to leave an abusive situation may be the cause of some girls’ absence from the indoors, and consequently, delinquency. Girls leave these situations and need to find alternative sources of income quickly, in order to make it in our society. This too, may lead to delinquent activity. Additionally, out on the streets they may develop or adapt to their surroundings, try to maintain their safety by carrying weapons, or sustain themselves on the streets by obtaining a reputation. Unfortunately, “faced with poverty and social marginalization, young women on the street become particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual exploitation in return for accommodation, money, and drugs” (Pearce, 2004). These girls have learned about sexuality from society, from a perspective that it is a power tool, and a resource to independence. It makes sense that some chose to use sex as a survival strategy and an alternative source of income for their independence. Therefore, female crime may be in direct relation to this genderization. Males and females may also construct their actions and decision making by how these actions will be interpreted by others around them.
While taking into account cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity, we must also acknowledge that these definitions are unequal or asymmetrical. These definitions are based on a social hierarchy where man are superior and dominate women socially, politically, and economically. Therefore, in conducting criminal behavior, females must chose strategies that can be accomplish “within the context of male-dominated settings, such as the streets” (Miller, 2004). Females may even use stereotypes as a gender stereotypes in a gender strategy to accomplish criminal activity. Females may dress differently, or use decoys, such as bringing children, to help hide this criminal activity. Stereotypes and gender hierarchies structure their crime in other ways. Documented research shows “the exclusion of women from drug selling networks and of female gang members from serious forms of gang crime” (Miller, 2004). Perhaps this is because of the stereotypes that women are not leaders, or that they are emotionally weak, incapable of harder or more secretive criminal positions. Power differentials between males and females may determine or factor into violent behavior by a girl.
Gender inequality is not the only inequality that can be factored into examining girls’ violence. We must also acknowledge and analyze misogynist, racist, classist, heterosexist, ableist and ageist violence committed by adolescent females. We must keep in mind that “girls must be sensitive to the interactions of gender with other aspects of their identities--including race, ethnicity, social class, sexuality, (dis)ability, and the communities where they live--that influence girls' actions, attitudes, and, ultimately, their futures” (Girls Report Executive Summary, 2002).
Acknowledging other factors besides gender for violence committed between females does not always take place. As was one case when the media reported the tragic murder of Reena Virk. Virk was beaten and murdered by 7 women and one male. Reena Virk was female, but she was also age 14 and South Asian. Cultural definitions once again come in to place as Reena was portrayed and visually different from other girls her age. Reena was “not thin, white, and middle class, which is the dominant definition of a “girl” in Western culture” (Batacharya, 2004). The media however excluded this information when they covered the story. Some believed that this was not an act of racism because some of the accused were not white. Even though racism was disregarded as a cause by media reports, “Reena Virk’s racial difference and class disadvantage were repeatedly commented on” (Batacharya, 2004). Like the hierarchy of males vs. females, a power dynamic between females can also take place. We must keep this in mind as “young women who commit acts of violence could be demonstrating or vying for dominance and power over their subordinates” (Batacharya, 2004). The Reena Virk case and other cases of girl violence may be “an act of racist, heterosexist, classist, ableist violence- not an example of what has been erroneously termed girl violence” (Batacharya, 2004). We can not separate the system of oppressions from acts of violence that take place. The Reena Virk case was important as it raised awareness about the other factors taken into account for girls’ violence. One article on this case summarizes this importance and stated, “if the price Reena Virk paid with her life has any meaning at all, it has at least sounded a wake-up call to the pressing need for more research into the real lives of teenage girls today” (Graydon, 1999).
The Reena Virk case also shows the impact of group gender composition on violence. Some suggest that in a male dominated group, women follow two strategies that may account for violence: “overachievement to the “masculine” standards of the group, and attempting to become “socially invisible” to minimize their sexual attributes so as to blend unnoticeably into the predominant male culture” (Miller, 2004). Research backs up the theory of overachievement to the masculine standards of the group as recent research suggests that “males and females in majority male gangs had the highest rates of delinquency. In fact, girls in majority male gangs had higher rates of delinquency than males in all-male gangs” (Miller, 2004). Trying to fit in with boys or endorsing male dominance may be common for violent girls. Violent girls may want to join males “in similar rule breaking, deviant, and delinquent behaviors and attitudes, and in attacking other girls in search of male attention” (Artz, 2004). In doing so, girls are “demonstrating their limited access to alternative ways of understanding themselves and others, an are exhibiting classic oppressed group behavior” (Artz, 2004). Still, gender limit’s a girls’ participation in a gang, as boys perceptions of girls prevents them for serious gang violence.
Social control plays a role in the gendered and social contexts of girls’ lives, often in negative ways. Social control and gender inequality affects how girls chose to adopt violent strategies. Using the knowledge and theories provided, we can think about and consider the issues of girls and violence from a less narrow standpoint. There is a strong need for illuminating the complexities of girl violence such as gender inequality, and continued investigation and research on this subject. We must profess that “the fight to end violence and oppression cannot be won without acknowledging the interdependency of white supremacy, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, classism, and sexism” (Baacharya, 2004). We must yield to the significance of these unequal social constructions presented in order to thoroughly evaluate girls who commit violent acts, and the reasoning behind these acts.
Miller, J. , and White, N. (2004). Situational Effects of Gender Inequality. In C. Alder, and Worrall, A. (Eds.), Girls' Violence: Myths and Realities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Pearce, J.(2004). Coming Out to Play?. In C. Alder, and Worrall, A. (Eds.), Girls' Violence: Myths and Realities (pp. ). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Batacharya, S.(2004). Racism, "Girl Violence," and the Murder of Reena Virk. In C. Alder, and Worrall, A. (Eds.), Girls' Violence: Myths and Realities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Artz, S. (2004). Violence in the School Yard. In C. Alder, and Worrall, A. (Eds.), Girls' Violence: Myths and Realities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Girls report executive summary. (2002). Retrieved from The National Council for Research on Women Web site: http://www.ncrw.org/research/exec_sum.htm.
Graydon, S. (1999, Mar. ). Bad girls. Homemakers Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/articles/stereotyping/bad_girls.cfm?RenderForPrint=1.