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“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”

Sticks and stones

The academic year is almost over and it offers the time and space to think.  It’s easy to become focused on what needs to be done – for staff; teaching and marking assessments, for students; studying and writing assessments – which leaves little time to stop and contemplate the bigger questions. But without contemplation, academic life becomes less vibrant and runs the risk of becoming procedural and task oriented, rather than the pursuit of knowledge. Reading becomes a chore instead of a pleasure, mindlessly trying to make sense of words, without actually taking time out to think what does this actually mean. We’re all guilty of trying to fill every minute with activity; some meaningful, some meaningless that we forget to stop, relax and let our minds wander. Similarly, writing becomes a barrier because we focus on doing rather than thinking. With this in mind what follows is not a reasoned academic argument but rather a stream of thought

As some of you will remember, a while ago Manos and I had a discussion around words in Criminology (Facebook Live: 24.10.16). In particular, whether words can, or should, be banned and if there is a way of reclaiming, or rehabilitating language. Differing views have emerged, with some strongly on the side of leaving words deemed offensive to die out, whilst others have argued for reclamation of the very same terms. Others still have argued for the reclamation of language, but only by those who the language was targeted toward.

All this talk made me think about the way we use language in crime and justice and the impact this has on the individuals involved. This can be seen in everyday life with the depiction of criminals and victims, the innocents and the guilty, recidivists and those deemed rehabilitated, but we rarely consider the long-lasting effects of these words on individuals.

The recent commemoration (27.07.17) of the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 brought some of these thoughts to the forefront of my mind.  This legislation partially decriminalised sex between men (aged 21 or over) but only in private, meaning that homosexual relationship were confined and any public expression of affection was still liable to criminal prosecution. This anniversary, coming six months after the passing of “Turing’s Law” (officially, the Policing and Crime Act 2017) made me think about the way in which we recompense these men; historically identified as criminals but contemporaneously viewed in a very different light.

I view the gist of “Turing’s Law” as generally positive, offering the opportunity for both the living and dead, to clear their names and expunge their criminal records. After all it allows society to recognise the wrongs done in the name of the law to a not unsubstantial group of citizens. For me, where this legal righting of wrongs falls down, is in the wording. To offer someone a pardon suggests they are forgiven for their “sins” rather than acknowledging that the law (and society) got it wrong. It does not recognise the harm suffered by these men over the course of their lifetimes; a conviction for sexual offending cannot be shrugged off or easily explained away and leaves an indelible mark. Furthermore, whilst the dead are to be pardoned posthumously, the onus is on the men still living, to seek out their own disregard and pardon.

What is wrong with Feminism?

Equality image blog

Jessica is an Associate Lecturer teaching modules in the first year.

During my undergraduate degree and my experience as an associate lecturer, Feminism has been a topic I have avoided; I thought I understood what it meant, and I wasn’t happy with it. For me, feminism meant female power and equality. What is wrong with that you may ask? Nothing in theory, however it was my experience of female power and equality that lead to my rather naïve and negative understanding of the term.

Having been raised in a male single-parent household, I have very defensive and clearly very biased views on single-parents and in particular on single-parent fathers. Where my misunderstanding and dislike for feminism stems is from how the courts treat cases of child custody. My father was told, way back when, that if my mother took him to court over custody of myself and younger brother then she would win. Despite my father having a well-paid job, the family home and the community in which we were raised. However, as he had not carried us for 9months (a task I feel, had he been given the choice, then he might certainly have) he would lose the battle. How does this link with feminism? If women want equal pay rights (something which I strongly believe we are entitled to) then they must also be willing to accept that men should have equal custody rights! For me this is not something feminism considered, and therefore, to me it is hypocritical. You can’t have equal rights for pay and not for childcare.

As it turns out, my view was misguided and uninformed. Feminism is not just about female power or women’s rights, as the name may imply, but rather it is about accepting and understanding that there is a gender imbalance within society, and that this imbalance, regardless of which way it falls, (albeit predominately not in favour of women) is wrong. Feminism is not only about women deserving equal rights, but rather it is concerned with all people having equal rights and acknowledging that this inequality, that still exists within society, needs to change.

Where does this fit with Criminology? Well, amongst other areas of the discipline it applies to the sub-discipline of Victimology. Feminism’s impact on Victimology has drawn attention to the needs of women as victims with regards to the domestic sphere, considering patriarchal society, and how this affects victims with regards to coming forward and reporting the offences in a predominately white and male Criminal Justice System and how we can learn from their experiences through adopting a qualitative methodology. Feminism also considers the impact of fear and vulnerability on men; how they are least likely to report being effected by victimisation, however statistically they are the largest group of victims for most crimes (with the exception of rape), Feminism encourages us to consider, why the majority of support services and coverage of victims by the media are focused on women and not both genders (Davies, 2017). Applied feminism within Victimology demonstrates that only certain voices in society are heard and addressed depending on the circumstances; this is something that needs to change.

So to return to the question at hand: what is the issue with Feminism? For me, the issue is the term. The negative connotation it appears to hold. Arguably Feminism represents equality, and the recognition that currently, not everyone is equal. So the question I leave you to ponder is why does Feminism appear to attract such negative attention? Is it a simple misunderstanding of the term (something I found myself guilty of), or is there something more?

References:
Davies, P. (2017) Gender, Victims and Crime. In: Davies , P., Francis, P. and Greer, C. (eds) Victims, Crime and Society. 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications.pp146-166.

Bibliography:
Davies , P., Francis, P. and Greer, C. (2017) Victims, Crime and Society. 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications.
Ngozi Adichie, C. (2014) We Should All Be Feminists. London: Fourth Estate.
Office for National Statistics (2015). Crime Survey for England and Wales, Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences 2013/14. London: NSO
Walklate, S. (2004) Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice. Cullompton:Willan.

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