Assess the Value of the Chivalry Thesis in Understanding Gender Differences in Crime
Assess the value of the “chivalry thesis” in understanding gender differences in crime (21) The chivalry thesis is where women are treated more leniently than men by the criminal justice system. This is because of paternalism and sexism when it comes to male dominated police and courts. As a result of this, criminal statistics underestimate the true extent of female offending. This is because police officers are less likely to convict a woman of a less serious crime because it is a woman therefore are seen as more likely to just get a warning.
Graham and bowling (1995) did a self-report study on 14-25 year olds and found that 55% of males and 35% of females admitted to offences in the last twelve months. This suggests that males commit more crime than women in general although this self-report study is based on the younger generations of males and females. Women are also more likely to admit to their offences, which concludes this figure is an accurate one and may suggest that the male figure could also be even higher. Another study would be the youth lifestyles survey (2000) where it was found that 11% females and 26% males committed serious crimes in the last twelve months.
In general, women are seen to commit less serious crimes like shoplifting and are very rare for them to commit a violent crime. These statistics show that males are a lot more violent and are more capable of committing more serious crimes compared to women. Flood page et all (2000) found that one in eleven self-reported offences by women resulted in prosecution whereas one in seven did for males. This backs up what Allen (1987) says where women are less likely to be given custodial sentences for indictable motoring offences because they are able to talk their way out of it and apologise sweetly.
This could also be the case when it comes to prosecution. As well as this, women are seen to be treated more leniently by law for example, first offenders are half as likely to be given a sentence of immediate imprisonment, where as if it was a man there is no doubt about it. Women are also seen by the police as a less serious threat compared to men and they seem to benefit from informal approaches to their offences such as just a caution or warning.
Pollak (1961) states that men(including police officers) are protective towards women and are less likely to prosecute them because of this, especially if it is a typical crime that a women is seen to commit. Female defendants are treated more sympathetically unless it is a crime against children or a serious crime that is seen as a crime only men commit. Because of this protectiveness towards women and courts giving them sympathy this creates an invalid picture on crime rates.
Another study would be the ministry of justice (2009) where 49% of females recorded of committing a crime received no more than a caution but in 2007 this figure was 30% which implies that this problem is getting worse year by year. On the other hand, studies by Graham and Bowling and Youth lifestyle study, both found that males tended to be involved in more serious offences, which would explain the higher proportions of men among the convicted and cautioned, also possible males are more likely than females to admit offences in self-report studies.
Box (1981) did a self-report study in Britain and USA and found that statistics on gender and crime are fairly accurate. He found that women who commit serious offences are not treated more favourably than men; as well as this the lower rate of prosecutions of females compared to the self-report studies may be because the crimes they admit to are less serious and aren’t likely to go on trial. Women offenders also seem a lot more likely to show regret, which may help to explain why they are more likely to receive a caution instead of going to court instead of police and courts just being seen as protective.
Buckle and Farrington (1984) found that men were twice as likely as women to shop lift even though official figures suggest men and women are equal. There could be many reasons for this, such as women could be a lot less subtle about it as they are seen as more innocent, whereas males hanging about browsing at things in a department store looks a lot more abnormal. Although women commit less serious crime, those who do are likely to face a serious punishment compared to the males that get convicted for the same crime.
This is because it isn’t seen as an acceptable way for a women to act as it defies their feminine role of being caring and loving. Violent crimes are seen to be male crimes because it is scientifically proven that males are a lot more aggressive compared to females because of their levels of testosterone. So when women commit a violent crime, the courts come down on them like a tonne of bricks because of how unnatural it is. Carlen (1997) says that’s sentences given to women are based on the female role and the way that a certain female fulfils this role and her character.
For example if she is an aggressive women, she will probably get a longer sentence as it strictly defies the female role, whereas if a women was very regretful about what she had done, the courts are more likely to give her sympathy and a softer sentence. If women commit a violent crime they are seen as doubly deviant because they aren’t just committing a crime they are defying their role as a women. Farrington and Morris (1983) did a study, which was the sentencing of 408 offences of theft in a magistrate’s court.
They found that women were not treated any differently when it came to crimes men and women both committed as they were seen to end up with similar sentences no matter what their circumstances were. This suggests that the chivalry thesis doesn’t always apply and it may not apply at all. There is seen to be a clear divide in what is and isn’t a female crime. Crimes like shoplifting aren’t as serious, which means that it may not always end up in court because bigger crimes come first which suggest looking at statistics from convictions and court sentences isn’t an accurate way of measuring the number of female criminals.
This may be why the male statistics are always higher because they are usually the ones to commit the worse crimes. Overall I don’t think the chivalry thesis is very valid as it forgets to look at the crimes women commit that don’t get recorded as they get off with a caution. Just because it isn’t a prison sentence, doesn’t mean that the police are being lenient with women it just means that women don’t often commit as serious crimes, but they still do commit crime.