feminist criminology | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

Feminist criminology studies the links between gender and crime and how the criminal justice system may contribute to gender inequality.

Feminist criminology is a branch of criminology that delves into a specific aspect of crime: gender. It seeks to understand how gender influences criminal behavior and how the criminal justice system treats different genders. This approach helps us better understand crime and build more equitable justice systems.

Gender and Crime

Feminist criminology starts with a key question: How does gender influence crime? It’s a question that invites us to look beyond traditional crime theories. Instead of viewing crime as a gender-neutral act, feminist criminology highlights how our gender identities shape our experiences with crime.

For example, it may look at why men commit the majority of violent crimes. It might also examine why women are more often victims of certain crimes, like domestic violence. These insights help us see how gender norms and roles can impact criminal behavior.

Criminal Justice System and Gender Inequality

The second part of feminist criminology focuses on the criminal justice system itself. It questions how the system treats people based on their gender.

For instance, it might explore how courtrooms treat male and female defendants differently. Are women treated more leniently, as some studies suggest? Or do they face harsher penalties for stepping outside traditional gender norms?

Likewise, feminist criminology might examine how the system supports victims of gender-based violence. Do the police take claims of domestic abuse or sexual assault seriously? Are victims supported through the legal process?

By asking these questions, feminist criminology sheds light on potential biases within the criminal justice system.

The Goals of Feminist Criminology

Feminist criminology has two primary goals. The first is to deepen our understanding of crime. Exploring the gender-crime connection enriches our knowledge of why people commit crimes.

The second goal is to promote equality within the criminal justice system. Feminist criminologists advocate for fair treatment for all genders within the system. They work towards creating a justice system that does not perpetuate gender stereotypes or inequalities.

The Impact of Feminist Criminology

Feminist criminology has had a significant impact on the way we think about crime. It has expanded our understanding of why crimes occur and who commits them.

Additionally, it has informed policy and practice within the criminal justice system. From advocating for victims’ rights to influencing sentencing policies, feminist criminology has helped to create a more equitable justice system.

Challenges and Critiques

Despite its valuable contributions, feminist criminology faces several challenges. Some critics argue it focuses too heavily on gender, overlooking other important factors like race, class, and age. Others suggest it emphasizes the experiences of women, giving less attention to men and non-binary individuals.

Feminist criminologists acknowledge these challenges and continually work to address them. They strive to ensure their work is inclusive and reflective of diverse experiences.


In conclusion, feminist criminology is an essential field that enhances our understanding of crime. Focusing on the relationship between gender and crime, it provides a unique perspective on why crimes occur and how the criminal justice system responds to them. The ultimate aim is to create a more just and equal society free from gender-based prejudices and biases. Through its continued work, it is steadily moving us closer to this goal.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/19/2023

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