“Guns don’t kill people, men do”
More men are convicted of crimes that women. Females only make up 6% of the prison population. According to a social trends survey (1996), only 17% on known criminals were female. Statistics also show that men are 22 times likelier to commit an act of burglary than a woman.
A number of sociologists have offered explanations as to why this is so, although the area of gender and crime remains one that is largely understudied and neglected in the sociological world.
“Complete and utter Pollacks”
Otto Pollack (1950) argues that official statistics on gender and crime are extremely misleading, and do not account for the true extent of female criminality. He proposes a number of crimes that females are more likely to commit than men. He suggests that nearly all shoplifting offences and criminal abortions are carried out by women, suggesting that such crimes are not reported in official statistics because they are less likely to come to the attention of the authorities. He also argued that many unreported crimes were carried out by female domestic servants, and even went as far as to say that female’s domestic roles gave them the ability to hide crimes such as the poisoning of their relatives or the sexual abuse of their children.
Pollack offers two explanations this apparent under-reporting of crime:
- Law enforcement officials tend to be men, who are brought up to be chivalrous. As a result, they tend to be more lenient towards female criminals, so fewer females appear in criminal statistics.
- More importantly to Pollack, women are particularly adept at hiding their crimes as a result of female biology. Women have become accustomed to deceiving men because traditional taboos prevent them from revealing pain and discomfort resulting from menstruation. Also, women can fake orgasms and “lie” about their sexual interests, whereas men can’t.
“What a load of bullshit”
Heidensohn – highlights a number of flaws in Pollack’s argument. She points out that later research shows that many shoplifting crimes are committed by men, and evidence suggests that men are more likely to commit violent and sexual offences in the privacy of their own home, which counters Pollack’s claims. Also, she argues that changes in the law have reduced the number of illegal abortions, and claims that even at the time when Pollack was writing, there was a large reduction in the number of female domestic servants.
Such evidence makes Pollack’s proposal that females are more likely to commit certain crimes questionable. In further criticism of Pollack’s argument, Heidensohn argues that Pollack’s claims are based on an unsubstantiated stereotypical image of females, and notes his unwillingness to attribute male criminality to a biological predisposition to aggression and violence.