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Girls’ Crime and Woman’s Place: Toward a Feminist Model of Female Delinquency

This article argues that existing delinquency theories are fundamentally inadequate to the task of explaining female delinquency and official reactions to girls’ deviance. To establish this, the article first reviews the degree of the androcentric bias in the major theories of delinquent behavior. Then the need for a feminist model of female delinquency is explored by reviewing the available evidence on girls’ offending. This review shows that the extensive focus on disadvantaged males in public settings has meant that girls’ victimization and the relationship between that experience and girls’ crime has been systematically ignored. Also missed has been the central role played by the juvenile justice system in the sexualization of female delinquency and the criminalization of girls’ survival strategies. Finally, it will be suggested that the official actions of the juvenile justice system should be understood as major forces in women’s oppression as they have historically served to reinforce the obedience of all young women to the demands of patriarchal authority no matter how abusive and arbitrary.