11. Feminist Criminology

11.8 Critiques of Feminist Criminology 

Dr. Rochelle Stevenson; Dr. Jennifer Kusz; Dr. Tara Lyons; and Dr. Sheri Fabian

Like any other group of theories, feminist criminology is not without its critics. The main critiques, and the ways in which feminist criminology has and continues to respond to these critiques, are detailed here. A key critique of feminist criminology is its exclusive focus on cisgender women. Recent scholarship illustrates this is not the case. The work by Connell (2000, 2005) highlights how patriarchy and inequality disproportionately affect men as well, and how existing gendered notions of masculinity and femininity are harmful to everyone. Adams (2000) points out the similarities between the treatment of female agricultural animals and women in the emphasis on controlled reproduction and dominated labour. Others have clearly linked the violence against animals and women in cases of domestic violence, calling for a species inclusive approach (Barrett et al., 2017; Barrett et al., 2018; Fitzgerald al., 2019; Stevenson et al., 2018). Feminism is not about bringing men down, but about raising women up. Feminism is about equality. Feminist criminology offers more comprehensive theories about criminality and crime as well as inclusivity in understanding the circumstances of the victimisation and criminalisation of both men and women and the disproportionate factors that affect them in unique ways.

As discussed throughout this chapter, another critique of feminist criminology is its tendency to focus on the experiences of white and cisgender women and to ignore or minimise the experiences of racialised, transgender or other marginalised women. While this may be a valid critique of early feminist criminology, more recently, we see a renewed and concentrated focus on intersectionality. Intersectionality is a framework that examines how race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity layer on each other in interlocking ways to multiply the effects of victimisation or criminalisation (Crenshaw, 1995). For example, feminist criminologists now focus on how Indigenous women in Canada experience victimisation at different rates than non-Indigenous women due to intersecting social identities and structural factors including colonialism, racism, and misogyny. Feminist criminologists also look at how Black, transgender, or marginalised women experience intimate partner violence, or street level harassment, and how they are affected by such violence against them. Other research focuses on how structural inequalities including racism and transphobia, embedded within policing and the criminal justice system harm Black, Indigenous, and women of colour (Maynard, 2017; Monchalin, 2016; Lyons et al., 2017a; Lyons et al., 2017b) as well as the dismissal and derision transgender people experience within the criminal justice system (Kendig et al., 2019).

Overall, feminist criminology centres gender together with other aspects of identity in crime and criminology rather than minimising or treating gender as an add-on. Rather than taking the male experience for granted, feminist criminology actively theorises the female experience of both criminalisation and victimisation, with critical attention to racism, classism, sexism, and other bases of discrimination and marginalisation. This chapter has illustrated the unique and critical lens that feminist criminology brings to issues of incarcerated women as well as gender based violence and victimisation. Sharing feminist roots with the diverse feminist theories, feminist criminology emphasizes the role of patriarchy, inequality, and gender in all explanations of crime and criminality.


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Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Rochelle Stevenson; Dr. Jennifer Kusz; Dr. Tara Lyons; and Dr. Sheri Fabian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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