In much of social science research, gender, race, class, and other dimensions of identity are treated as discrete variables, to be studied and measured separately. In recent years, however, feminist sociological theorists have argued that race, gender, class, and other axes of identity must be treated as overlapping and intersecting forms of oppression. Kimberle Crenshaw, (1989) was among the first to articulate this theory, and coined the term “intersectionality” to describe it.
Intersectionality has emerged as a major paradigm of research in women’s studies (McCall 2005).
In her book Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins argues that we must understand “race, class, and gender as interlocking systems of oppression” (Collins 1990: 553).
Intersectionality has also been used to understand the experiences of other women of color (e. g. , Crenshaw 1991).
Intersectionality has tremendous potential to yield insights into the experiences of women in gangs, who are likely to be poor and minorities.
Furthermore, the fact that the concept of intersectionality has proved useful in studies of women in other areas of criminology shows that intersectionality will likely yield insights into female gang members. Our research, therefore, will interview female gang members of different races to attempt to answer the question of how intersecting gendered and racialized identities affect the lives of women in gangs. Our paper will provide and overview of the existing literature on race, gender, and gangs.
Part I. Introduction Statement of the problem Female and male gender roles in today s society reflect on more than just what others think about the man and female role. This paper will also show how and why people think this way. At the time of conception male and female babies are influenced to act a certain way by the actions of the people around them the most. A baby s sex distinction is ...
We will argue that an intersectional analysis of race and gender in gang life is needed to fill a gap in the literature and to fully understand how these dimensions of identity affect gang life. Next, we will outline our proposed methodology for studying the intersectionality of gender and race in gangs. Finally, we will summarize what can be learned form our proposed study and why this knowledge is essential to better understand gang life. Literature Review Though gangs are often considered a male phenomenon, research shows that women and girls are also involved in gangs.
Researchers estimate that young women account for 20 percent to 46 percent of gang members (Miller and Brunson 2000).
Until recently, scholars have largely neglected female participation in gangs, believing that female participation was “statistically rare and the behavior substantively unimportant” (Esbensen and Deschenes 1998: 799).
Often it was assumed that girls participated in gangs only as sex objects or at most ancillary members (Esbensen and Deschenes 1998).
Recent work on the subject of women and gangs, however, has demonstrated that girls’ involvement with gangs goes beyond the roles of simply the “tomboy” or sex object.
Women’s reasons for joining gangs, and the roles they fill within their gangs, vary widely. According to Esbensen and Deschenes (1998), there are factors that increase the likelihood of gang involvement that are specific to females alone. These include subordination to males, future as a housewife occupied with “meaningless domestic behavior,” responsibility for children, fear of abuse, exposure to violence, and social isolation, which all increase girls’ likelihood of joining gangs (Esbensen and Deschenes 1998).
Similarly, based on in-depth interviews with female gang members from the greater Detroit area, Taylor (1993) argues that the “feminization of poverty” and the disenfranchisement, social isolation, and neglect of poor women (especially black women) has led to greater gang involvement. Strain created by these factors encourages women to turn to gangs and drugs as the only avenue available for them to achieve. The general oppression of women in American society, Taylor argues, adds to this strain. Esbensen and Deschenes (1999) also find that risk factors differ for males and females.
Women are subjected to gender-biased evaluations with their performance on male gender-typed tasks often devalued and their competence denied. This result from the inconsistency between stereotypic perceptions of what women is like and the qualities thought necessary to perform a typically male job. The main idea of this article is to demonstrate this phenomenon, to provide insight into why and ...
For women but not for men, commitment to academic achievement decreased the risk of becoming involved in violent crime while in a gang. The experiences of female gang members within their gangs are also different than the experiences of their male counterparts. Through in-depth interviews with 20 female gang members in Columbus, Ohio, Miller (1998) found that women often have difficulty being accepted as gang members. Many attempt to show “masculine” leadership qualities, such as being tough, able to fight, and being willing to engage in criminal acts for the gangs.
Beliefs that women are weaker than men, however, mean that women have a harder time proving their commitment to the gang. Nevertheless, women might also gain acceptance through connections to influential, high-status men – a route to acceptance that is less available to men (Miller 1998).
Women’s participation in crime within the gang is also different from men’s. Though girls are involved in less serious forms of delinquency, gang boys are still more likely to be involved in the most serious forms of crime, such as drive-by shootings and gun assaults.
This is due both to the deliberate exclusion of girls from these types of crimes and the fact that young women themselves often use gender as means of avoiding crimes they find dangerous or morally dubious (Miller and Brunson 2000).
The lesser involvement of girls in more serious forms of crime, however, can lead to the devaluation and mistreatment of female gang members because they are perceived as less valuable to the gang. Female gang members are also more likely to be sexually mistreated than male gang members (Miller 1998).
Given these facts, it is not surprising that female gang members are more likely to experience social isolation and low self-esteem than males (Esbensen and Deschenes 1998).
Assess the views that males commit more crime than women due to primary socialisation Primary socialization occurs during childhood and is when a child learns the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. For example if a child saw his/her mother/ father expressing a discriminatory opinion about a minority group, then that child may think this ...
Overall, the literature on gender and gangs clearly demonstrates that the experiences of gang life differ for males and females. There is also some research that demonstrates that the experiences of gang members also differ by race. For example, white youth are significantly less likely than any other ethnic group to become involved in gangs (Esbesen and Deschenes 1998).
The 1998 National Youth Gang Survey estimated that nationwide, gang membership was 46 percent Hispanic and 34 percent African American (Rosenthal 2000).
In a study of homicides in Chicago from 1990 to 1994, African American males were sixteen times more likely to be charged with gang-related homicide than white males, and Hispanic males were thirteen times more likely to be charged with gang-related homicide than non-minority males (Rosenthal 2000).
While this may be due in part to a greater proportion of gang membership among African Americans and Hispanics, it could also be a result of bias in the criminal justice system and in media representations that emphasize the criminality of minorities. Both media and criminologists focus on black-on-black street crimes while downplaying similar crimes committed by Caucasians (Covington 1995).
Race can also affect the types of crimes gangs are likely to be involved in (Shay 1998).
Reviewing the literature on youth gangs, Howell (1998) found that African American gangs are usually affiliated with the drug trade.
Hispanics put more emphasis on their territory and frequently become involved in turf wars. Caucasian and Asian gangs are mostly involved in property crimes. However, Pih et al. (2008) found many similarities in types of crimes committed, regardless of race. Looking at surveys and interviews of Latino gangs in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Taiwanese gangs in Southern California, Pih et al. find that, despite some minor racial differences in crimes committed, most respondents of both races engaged in similar types of crimes: gun fights, drug sales, drug use, auto theft, robbery, and burglary.
Latinos, however, are less able to leave gang membership than Taiwanese gang members. This is because Latinos generally had lower education and therefore fewer opportunities for legitimate work outside of the gang. Latinos also had less social capital because their parents tended to be unemployed. Overall, because “unavailability and inaccessibility to legitimate economic, cultural, and social capital left the Latino respondents little change in advancing in normative institutions and processes. Illicit activities became an attractive, if not the only, option” (Pih et al. 2008: 490).
Colonization is associated with the occupation of a foreign land. The definition of colonization is broad. However, it is used in the materialist and the traditionalist sense, rather than the metaphorical, to refer to the expropriation and exploitation of land and/or resources by one group over another. Various countries and continents fell under the York of colonization, and one such case is the ...
This demonstrates how differing racial identities impact gang membership. Over the past 20 years there has been an emergence of hybrid gangs: non-traditional gangs that are composed of at least two different races/ethnic groups. According to research done in 2000, hybrid gangs account for 36 percent of gang types. Hybrid gangs are less involved in the drug market and turf wars; the members are also less likely to be involved in serious violent and property crimes. These gangs typically have more Caucasians, girls, and younger members than normal gangs (Starbuck, Howell, Linquist 2001).
Though it is clear that both race and gender affect gang life, there has been little research on how racial and gender identities intersect and affect the experiences of gang members. However, this question has been investigated in other areas of criminology. In her book Sexed Work, Lisa Maher, presenting data obtained from interviews with female drug users in Bushwick, Brooklyn, shows how multiple dimensions of identity, including race, gender, class, and ethnicity, intersect to produce segregation in drug markets and sex work (Maher 1997).
For example, though Latino men dominate the drug markets in Bushwick, Latina women are generally excluded from the most profitable jobs in the drug economy because of gendered cultural expectations for the proper roles of Latinas (Maher 1997).
Maher argues for the importance of intersectional analysis in her study of the Bushwick Drug economy. The social sciences, Maher argues, tend to view race and gender as discrete and independent variables (as is clear from the literature on girls and gangs).
Maher, however, maintains that it more useful to look at these dimensions of identity and interdependent and multiple.
She demonstrates this approach by showing how inter-racial tensions and intra-gender conflicts among female drug users fostered the social isolation and occupational segregation of female drug users. For instance, because Latina sex workers tended to engage in less formal forms of prostitution, they were often resented by African American and white sex workers. This tension prohibited the formation of beneficial social networks and worsened competition in the sex trade (Maher 1997).
Fried Green Tomatoes is a film about the strong bonds of female friendship in post World War I Alabama. In addition, the inspirational friendship between a middle aged woman, Evelyn and an elderly woman, Ninny Threadgoode is an impetus for change in Evelyn’s lack luster life during the 1980’s. Evelyn Couch meets Ninny Threadgoode in a nursing home when her husband’s aunt refuses to visit with her ...
Miller and Brunson (2006) also investigate the interaction of race and gender through surveys and interviews of 75 African American youth in St.
Louis, Missouri. Miller and Brunson found that African American males were more likely than African American women to report mistreatment by the police. African American females, however, were more likely than African American men to be stopped for curfew violations, confirming research suggesting that the police are likely to treat girls more harshly for minor or status offences (Miller and Brunson 2006).
Young black women also complained about police responsiveness in cases of violence against women (Miller and Brunson 2006).
Some women also expressed concerns about sexual violence committed by the police (Miller and Brunson 2006).
Thus, though previous research has demonstrated that African Americans in general are more likely than Caucasians to be treated harshly by the police, this treatment plays out in distinctly gendered ways (Miller and Brunson 2006).
Despite the fact that studies of intersectionality have yielded interesting insights in other studies of gender, race, and crime, there has been little research done on intersectionality in gang life.
As we have seen, the literature on girls and gangs tends to focus on either race or gender. Joe and Chesney-Lind (1995) do examine how gang members in Hawaii respond to challenges facing them in ways affected by gender and ethnicity, but there is little focus on the interaction of gender and ethnicity. This is a gap in the literature that ought to and must be filled. Treating gender and race as discrete variables within the context of gang life obscures the ways in which these dimensions of identity function as “interlocking systems of oppression” (Collins 1990: 553).
Different factions of sociologists depict men. Functionalists suggest that a division of labor originally arose between man and women because of the woman’s role in reproduction. By virtue of their larger size and greater muscular strength, men were assigned hunting and defense tasks. Conflict theorists reject functionalist arguments as simply offering a rationale for male dominance. They contend ...
As Kimberle Crenshaw argues, “because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women [and undoubtedly other women of color] are subordinated” (Crenshaw 1989: 140).
Because race and gender are not merely separate and additive, we must examine the ways that these variables intersect and produce racialized and gendered hierarchies in order to fully understand the experiences of women of color.