The topics of gender and race are considered and explained to be the core themes which attract much curiosity and controversy among many scholars particularly their works that focus on delinquency. The relationship of race and crime is one core themes raised concerns among academics and anxiety among the public and in particular, young black males as it can be suggested that historical events of slave trade and the Jim Crow era in the US and negative assumptions made about young black males as “trouble makers”, “unintelligent” and prone to violence which intensifies the degree of moral panic within the public sphere. Gender is another issues it appears to be obvious that offending is more of a masculine activity although women are just as capable of offending which is masked by stereotypes.
Literatures on gender particularly by the works of Messerschimdt and R.W Connell provide useful explanations of the link between gender and youth crime. On regards to the theme of masculinity, his book, Masculinities and Crime (1993), demonstrated that masculinities are relation to power and the division of labour (1993 cited in Silvestri and Crowther – Dowey 2008: 63). He further argues that crime is a way of expressing their masculinity, gaining a masculine identity because they are unable to achieve masculinity through legitimately particularly academic success and obtaining employment (1993 cited in Silvestri and Crowther – Dowey 2008: 63), which is similar to Willis who argues from his book Learning to Labour (1977) that young men develop forms of criminality in order to achieve a sense of power and achieve simultaneously suppress their feelings of social oppression (1977 cited in Maguire, Morgan and Reiner 2007: 388). Connell provided a hierarchy of masculinity including, hegemonic masculinity. Based on the Gramscian model of hegemony which illustrates dominance of all forms of masculinity (1971 cited in Silvestri and Crowther – Dowey 2008:61) and this form of masculinity is shared among all men of society. Connell (2000 cited in Silvestri and Crowther – Dowey 2008: 61) that those who conform to hegemonic masculinity opposes the other form of masculinity subordinate masculinity where homosexual men and heterosexual men who exhibit traits associate with femininity are categorised and marginalised masculinity, where men from racial and ethnitic minority backgrounds and men with disabilities are categorised. Hegemonic masculinity associates with heterosexuality, aggression, strength, power, dominance and competition. He (Connell 2000 cited in Silvestri and Crowther – Dowey 2008: 62) argue that those who conform to hegemonic masculinity reject other forms of masculinity, which can be argued that ignores the possibility they exhibit unconscious hostile prejudicial against men from other racial ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, class and those with disabilities. additionally, it mainly reflects the aspirations held by white heterosexual males from middle and working class backgrounds.
Masculinity is arguably to have manifests during the socialisation process, particularly in schools as playing truant and throwing aggressive outbursts towards fellow pupils and teachers. However, it had been argued (Bowles and Ginitis 1976, Greenberg 1977 and Messerschimdt 1979 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 88) that although white middle class youths employ greater weight and control in schools than youths of lower working class and racial backgrounds, research on secondary schooling unmasks that adaption to social order of the school requires that all students, regardless of their class and race, surrender to solid authority relations in which students are in fact, castigated and punished for creativity, autonomy and independence. In clarity, school boys experience school life which revolves around being restricted by institutional authoritarian schedules. Tolson (1977 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 88) noted that white middle class boys accept school values and hence, the school implement prominent and influential restraints on these youths and also setting boundaries and moral guidelines. It can be argued that masculinity is viewed as a behavioural reaction to particular conditions and circumstances which all men participate. For example, in the case of white middle class boys, they express their masculinity in education institutions in a way that mirrors their position in the class and race divisions of labour and power (Newburn and Stanko 1994: 89).
They (Newburn and Stanko) further noted that their white middle class status which is both constrains and enables them to monitor their actions which agree with those constraints and opportunities. However, having to find the idea of school emasculating which agrees with Mazerolle (1998 cited in Agnew 2006: 131) who argues that males are less excelling academically than females and often have negative relations with teachers. As a result, white middle class boys engage in youth groups to restore and compensate hegemonic masculine ideas which were discourage in schools (Newburn and Stanko 1994: 89). West and Zimmerman (1987 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 89) argue that in a process of ‘doing gender’ boys simultaneously assemble age – orientated forms of criminality. Messer (1989 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 89) argue that youth crime within a social context of the youth group outside school serves as a resource for masculine realisation and facilities. Newburn and Stanko (1994: 89) noted that playing successful pranks, engaging in minor theft, vandalism and drinking outside school authenticate a boy’s nature and such behaviours are committed in order for boys to establish a public masculine identity, to some extent, lessens in the school environment.
Psychology provided useful explanations on the area of masculinity in youthful offending particularly, the Oedipus complex defined by Sigmund Freud, the founding fathers of psychoanalysis. He explains that boys are torn between craving for the love and affection from their mother concurrently, seeking approval from their tough, macho talking father (Maguire, Morgan and Reiner 1997: 537). However, McInnes (1998: 84) criticised Freud’s notion for providing explicit details because it gives the readers the feeling that he discusses about incest. It had been criticised (Maguire, Morgan and Reiner 2002: 537) that Freud views masculinity on the constitution and idea of constitutional bisexuality. Alder’s notion of masculine protest provides another useful explanation and understanding in explaining masculinity. The notion of masculine protest sees that young males compensate the feelings of powerless, vulnerability and humiliation in past experiences by displaying aggression and resentment (1927 cited in Goodey 1997: 404).
On regards of sexuality and masculinity, it can be argued that various literatures and research which centres on patriarchy and the exploitation of women in that society. Anne Campbell’s ethnographic research on lower ethnic minority youth groups in New York indicates gendered social compositions of power and divisions of labour shape interactions in youth groups, giving men the advantage to prioritise their social lives (1984 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 82). These opportunities arguably to vary by individual status of race, gender and class. Campbell (1984 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 89) also reported from her study, that heterosexuality in one specific group was so vital in a young woman’s group to an extent that if homosexual women were discovered, they would be subjected to gang rape by male members and be excluded from the group. Schwendingers (1985 cited in Newburn and Stanko: 89) similarly reported that exploitation on the basis of sexism is considered to be common to all divided patterns ranging from middle and working class youths. It had been suggested (Newburn and Stanko 1994: 83) that jealousy and suspicion are seen as being one often the most disruptive common practices in youth groups, serial monogamy is required and obligatory. A young man’s feeling of jealousy is often interpreted by a young woman who can be indicated not of his lack of self – control but his emotional and physical attachment to her (Campbell 1990 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 83 -4).
She (Campbell) also discusses that the beatings and the abuse at his hands when he believes that she has been unfaithful are often rendered to express his love her but his disloyalty and infidelity is often blamed upon his desire of other women. Similar research indicates that heterosexuality is essential to subordinate and suppress the sexualities of young women and simultaneously, aid men to form age – orientated styles of masculinity (Newburn and Stanko 1994: 84). Feminist writers argued that women are used by men for sexual purposes which can be masked by their emotional and passionate needs, which reflects to the Oedipus complex, mentioned by Freud where boys under pressure of making same-sex identities during the phallic stage with their fathers simultaneously yearning the love and affection from their mother, which whom they strongly identifies with. As a result, it created ambivalence among boys where they result in growing up to suppress their feminine sides in order to live up society’s expectations of manliness and hence express their hatred towards women through carrying out physical and sexual violence preferably rape. This symbolizes Adler’s definition of masculine protest (1927) to punish and degrade women because of their negative experiences with women particularly during the socialisation process, such as child abuse, matriarchy and rejections from potential girlfriends.
On regards of race and crime which were addressed by Messerschmidt (1993 cited in Maguire, Morgan and Reiner 2007: 389), many scholars provided similar work on race and crime. Tony Sewell’s book Black Masculinities and Schooling: How Black Boys Survive Modern Schooling published in 1997, who illustrates from a case study of teachers in inner city schools that one teacher, Ms Patel an Asian female who is unsympathetic towards black boys and another teach Ms Allen and sees her liberalism as hiding her causes of racism triggered by physical intimidation and assaults by a student (1997 cited in Mirza 1999: 140). She also argues that Sewell sees black masculinity as symbol of mixed cultural identity which embodies with the postmodern black Diaspora in Britain. Jean – Paul Sartre (1963 cited in Messerschimdt 1993: 102) argues that social constructions of race, class and gender division of labour hampers an individual’s chance of self-improvement. He also argues that ethnic minority youths endure a subjective impoverishment which it is rooted from class and race division of labour. As a result, he (Jean – Paul Satre cited in Messerschimdt 1993:103) argues that ethnic minority youths turn to street crime activity because they see it as opportunities of self – improvement which would provide them with economic and materialistic needs.
Claire Alexander has her own perception of black masculinity, the Black macho status extracted from her book The Art of Being Black: The Creation of Black British Youth Identities (1996) where black young males use in order to resist against racial oppression and victimisation and it is rather seen to compensate the lack of power (Alexander 1996 cited in Mirza 1999: 144). Although Claire Alexander is not primary concerned with the crisis of black male identity , but rather concentrates directly on the shared cultural knowledge and situational symbols which associate with status and identity among black youths and discover and power is expressed through symbolic interactions (Mirza 1999: 138). This can be agreed with Newburn and Stanko (1994: 78) who argue that possessing a firearm illustrates the traits of masculinity, such as control, power and provides black males the confidence to shrewd in dangerous situations and preserve their macho pride. Spencer (1982 cited in Newburn and Stanko 1994: 72) argues that black young males who come from low-income backgrounds are at great risk of suffering from an identity imbalance because of their actual negative experiences of racism, such as the feedbacks they receive from members of a hostile environment and being exposed to the idealised values and goals which are held in schools and other social institutions.
Women have been treated differently from their male counterparts in the criminal justice system and are less likely to commit crimes than their male counter parts. It can be suggested that women were given more social control than men, fearing that if they were given less social control, they would become “doubly deviant”. Women are also participating in crime but in less serious crimes, such as shoplifting and not paying a TV licence (Coleman and Moynihan 1996 cited in Croall, 1998: 137). Patriarchal societies have hampered women’s spaces for crime as they stereotypically portrayed as mothers and housewives. However, it can be suggested that women engage into crime to express their resentment on the mistreatment they received from patriarchal societies as Pollak (1961) argued that women are clever at concealing their crimes bytaking advantage of their gender stereotypical roles like poisoning their spouses’ food to sexually abusing their children. Carlen (1983 cited in Croall: 146, 1998) explained that women resort to crime to escape poverty and provide welfare for their children rather than for selfishness rather than in revenge for ill – treatment in patriarchal societies
It has been augured (Campbell 1984; Messerschmidt 1995) that girls engage in gang culture to have a sense of belonging after experiencing exclusion and mistreatment from powerful institutions. It had been argued (cited in Silvestri and Dowey 2008) that the emergence of girl gangs and the birth of the “ladette” culture created a moral panic because girls are rebelling against the gender stereotypes. Instead of preparing for their roles as mothers and housewives, they engage in binge drinking, smoking and develop aggressive behaviour patterns. From the article The Trouble with Girls Today by Gilly Sharpe, published in 2009, illustrates that crime tends to be rooted from the low self – esteem among young girls (2009: 257). Another issue highlighted from her article are experiences of childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse and also girls having the deal with the emotional and psychological burdens from members of their families, poor parenting and strained relationships (2009: 255 – 6). It can be argued that female offenders are treated more leniently than men particularly those who are single mothers to small children which can be argued (Carlen 1983 cited in Silvestri and Crowther – Dowey 2008: 34) that Scottish sheriffs loathed the idea of incarcerating mothers and dreaded of children growing up motherless.
Academic research on gender and race provided useful and effective explanations that contribute to our understanding on youthful offending in contemporary society influenced by the works of Messerschmidt and Connell. Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity shifts reflect on Robert Merton’s revised version of anomie. However, it can be criticised that hegemonic masculinity is overly used and displays array of negative behaviours and tends to concentrate on crime rather than masculinity in a positive environment. The code of masculinity has been expressed in schools through truancy, deliberately excelling academically and bullying which this essay ignored, to compensate the feelings of powerless and emasculation held by rules in authority.
It is not only sociology that provides our understanding, psychology also provides a promising useful explanation particularly Adler’s notion of masculine protest which can be applied effectively in any area of masculinity, particularly the link between race and crime, where black young men engage in crime to compensate their experiences of racial discrimination and oppression by the white hegemonic society. The theme of masculine protest can be even applied on female offending where young women display aggressive behaviour to suppress any feelings of insecurities and the psychological and emotional effects of carrying family burdens and ro express anger and resentment on past experiences of childhood and domestic abuse and any other form of mistreatment in the patriarchal society at present.
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