11. Feminist Criminology

Dr. Rochelle Stevenson, Thompson Rivers University

Positionality Statement

My name is Rochelle Stevenson, and I identify as a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman. I currently live in Kamloops, BC, on the lands of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc within Secwépemc’ulucw, the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwépemc peoples. I am an uninvited guest in their territory, and I am grateful for the hospitality of the Secwépemc people as I live, work, and learn on their lands. I share my life with my partner, and we are parents to a wonderful Standard Poodle and two adorable cats.

I was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario. My parents were both Canadian-born, as were my grandparents. My great-grandparents immigrated to Canada from Ireland and France, settling in Quebec and Ontario. Despite the fact that neither of my parents had attended university, we enjoyed a great deal of financial and social privilege. It was not until returning to university as a mature student to pursue my degree in Criminology that I truly realized the extent of that privilege. Confronting my privilege was very uncomfortable, but critical to my growth as a scholar and a person. My early studies opened my eyes to the stark contrasts in experience, comparing my own experiences of private ski clubs and private schools to reading about women who didn’t leave abusive relationships because they had no resources. More than once I questioned whether I was in the right space, but my desire to effect change was the driving force to continue.

My research is firmly centred in a feminist space with its anti-oppression framework, paired with the non-speciesism of the human-animal bond. My work over the past 15 years has centred on the intersection of intimate partner violence and animal mistreatment, recognizing that companion animals are family members too, and domestic violence can include abuse towards animals in the home. My drive for change includes advocating for pet-friendly spaces, such as domestic violence shelters and housing, so that the family (animals included) can remain together while healing from violence. Though this work is emotionally challenging (even heartbreaking) at times, and I consistently wrestle with my own position of relative privilege, my furry family members are my inspiration to keep moving forward to create a safe and inclusive society.

Dr. Jennifer Kusz, Simon Fraser University

Positionality Statement

My name is Jennifer Kusz, and I am white, heterosexual, settler. My background is English/Scottish and Italian. My father was RCMP for 31 years, and as a child we moved around B.C. a lot. I spent time living in small communities, including Port Hardy, Masset and then back to Vancouver Island as a young adult. My mother worked as a 911 operator, and then various bookkeeping jobs. I grew up believing we were middle class, but relative to the many people we were living alongside we lived a privileged life. There was always food on our table, we were able to plan for family vacations to Disneyland and Hawaii, and when we lived in what the RCMP defined as remote communities, there was funding available for us to travel. Neither of my parents completed university and being able to pay for both their daughters to attend university was an important goal for them. My sister and I went to university straight out of high school and graduated with our undergraduate degrees without any student debt, thanks to the generosity and privilege bestowed upon us by our parents. Currently, I live with my partner, three children, five cats and a dog. We live, work, teach, and learn on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded Indigenous territories of the Snuneymuxw, Quw’utsun and Tla’Amin peoples.

I am a feminist and a criminologist. I have spent more than 10 years researching and supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence. My line of work and research intersects with the intergenerational violence that Indigenous peoples have experienced for centuries. Over time, my understanding of the harms has broadened to consider how Indigenous people, particularly women, are simultaneously impacted through their experiences as women, interests with their experiences through colonization, intergenerational trauma, and systemic discrimination.

I continue to work through and unpack my own privilege, and attempt to use my power and privilege to educate students, colleagues, family and friends about privilege, power, racism, and discrimination. I will continue to be an ally with those who are in positions of less power and privilege than I.

Dr. Sheri Fabian, Simon Fraser University

Positionality Statement

My name is Sheri Fabian and I identify as a white, heterosexual, settler woman. I now live in Coquitlam, BC on the unceded traditional, ancestral, and occupied lands of the Coast Salish peoples including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaɬ, and Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm Nations. I acknowledge these are stolen lands, the harms and mistakes of the past and present, and I dedicate myself to moving forward as an accomplice with Indigenous communities in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.
My paternal grandparents immigrated from Scotland and Ireland, and my maternal grandfather was Slovakian, born in what was then Czechoslovakia, immigrating to Canada alone at 14. My maternal grandmother was born in Saskatchewan and she and my grandfather relocated to Kelowna, in the interior of BC. My father was born in Salmon Arm, BC, my mother was born in Kelowna, as were I and my brother and sister.  Growing up, I was one of very few my age whose parents were born in BC, and it was even more unlikely that my classmates’ grandparents were born in Canada, let alone BC. My husband and I have one daughter who lives in Edmonton, and we are about to be first-time grandparents. I live with my husband and four cats.

I moved Vancouver in 1980 to attend UBC, completing a BA in English and Sociology as a first generation university graduate. I’ve remained in the greater Vancouver area since then and I am now a University Lecturer in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. I only began to understand my own privilege when I attended university. I became more aware of that privilege as I spent 15 years validating residential school survivor claims. That research helped me better understand the colonial project of the Canadian government that continues to harm Indigenous peoples today. That work continues to shape who I am, my relationships and interactions with others, and how I teach. One of my greatest joys is helping students see their own potential, paying forward the very gift my mentors gave to me.

Dr. Tara Lyons (she/her), Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Positionality Statement

I am a queer cisgender woman of English, French, Irish, and other mixed European descent. I grew up on unceded, ancestral, and traditional Lheidli T’enneh territories and currently live on unceded, ancestral, and traditional Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Stó:lō territories.

It took me some time to find my way through an undergraduate degree including stops at BCIT, Douglas College, and Simon Fraser University. Gender studies classes at Douglas College were the first to open up my views of patriarchy and how my positionality shapes my experiences and understandings of the world I occupy. These and subsequent classes pushed me to think critically about the harms of feminist approaches that are exclusionary and narrowly focused on cisgender White women perspectives. My most valued learnings throughout graduate studies at Concordia University and Carleton University were call ins, collaboration, and actions with communities of folks engaged in drug policy, prison abolition, and anti-capitalist activism. I am one of the first in my family to attend a post-secondary institution.


At the 2019 American Society of Criminology conference, Meda Chesney-Lind’s address focused on the overwhelming role gender still plays in the criminal justice system, both in the victimisation and criminalisation of women, and the presence of sexism and racism in criminology at large (Chesney-Lind, 2020). Chesney-Lind has been referred to as the “mother of feminist criminology” (Belknap, 2004, p. 2), and her critique stings, especially considering the past 50 years of work by feminist criminologists. Feminist criminology, at its core, highlights issues of inequality and power rooted in patriarchy (for an explanation of patriarchy, see What is patriarchy?), and the intersecting and embedded oppressions of race, colonialism, class, sexualities, and gender within the context of crime and criminality. As Chesney-Lind (2020) points out, as a discipline, “criminology needs to be more clearly engaged in [feminist] research to undo its history of sexism and racism” (p. 419).

In this chapter, we feature feminist criminology as an important area within the broader discipline of criminology. First, we identify the foundations of feminist criminology, the contributions of feminist thought to existing explanations for criminality, victimsation, and offending, and the issues that brought feminist criminology to the surface. Next, we focus on the treatment of women in the criminal justice system and how intersecting social identities impact women’s experiences of violence and criminalisation. We include the human rights crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women as one example of this intersectionality reflected in the criminal justice system. We end with a summary of historical and contemporary critiques of feminist criminology. Throughout the chapter, we also incorporate the important work of Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) on intersectionality (see Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality), and the work of Black scholars like Angela Davis, Hillary Potter, and Crenshaw to shift feminist criminology’s focus away from primarily White, middle-class, heterosexual women.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Shereen Hassan and Dan Lett, MA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book