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Women in American society are subjected to the ideology of patriarchy, which emphasizes male domination and the oppression of women (Johnson, 2014). In this type of society women are con- sidered second-class citizens. Gender roles and positions are established based upon male dominance, which creates a power hierarchy that places men at the top. Men are therefore the powerbrokers who control society through policymaking. To this end, men tend to determine cultural ideas that are identifi ed as the “norms” in society while also maintaining a superior position over women and controlling a large portion of income and wealth in society. Characteristics in men such as strength, control, and the ability to think and be logical, though, are not valued in women. Instead, women are expected to be objects of beauty for men and their pleasures as well as objects to be controlled. When women step outside the realm of their established female identity and gain power, it is not viewed the same as a man gaining power in society, since in some instances, their work is not valued. The oppres- sive nature of patriarchy seeks to maintain women as second-class citizens even though not all women experience oppression the same (Johnson, 2014).

 

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For example, fathers have always been viewed as the rulers of their homes, and sons occupied a position over their mothers because of their sex (gender). In the home, daughters were on the bottom of the hierarchy scale by virtue of their sex (gender). In the past, women were considered property of their fathers or husbands, and some males still believe this today (Morgan, 2012). Male dominance in society dictated and continues to dictate the laws of society in both the private and public sectors. Laws are created and passed by legislative bodies composed mainly of rich, white men and persons who share their interests. As a result, our laws refl ect and protect their interests (Price & Sokoloff, 1995). Cases such as Reed v. Reed (1971); Frontiero v. Richardson (1973); Craig v. Boren (1976) provided small legal gains for women in regard to constitutional law issues. Research by Hoff (1991) suggests that the Supreme Court issued several gender-biased decisions that failed to provide equality for women.

Additionally, the court has ruled against gender-specifi c criteria in employment decisions that limited opportunities for women ( Dothard v. Rawlinson , 1977; International Union v. Johnson Controls , 1991). These latter cases show a shift in the chivalrous protections that had been afforded women in previous rulings, instead, women have been given a minor voice in decisions that affect them. As we turn our attention to criminal law, we must note that there may be constitutional issues that arise as a result of criminal cases that can only be addressed if raised in criminal court. There is a confl ict in values; chivalry says do not kill women—protect them, but they cannot be violent. Historically, women were not executed as a general rule. With liberation came accountability, so we now are more likely to sentence women to death, with a slight residual effect of second-class status in that women who kill their “owners” (the most serious offense) can be put to death.

Women Offenders

Criminal offending is basically a male-dominated phenomena; however, women do commit crimes, just not at the same rate as men. The extent of crimes committed by women appears to have increased over time, but is it due to more criminal activity or is it the result of a change in policy and practices within society today? The types of crimes committed by women and girls vary with age and duration. Women and girls quite often commit the crime of theft, which includes larceny, forgery, embezzle- ment, and fraud. Women and girls who engage in shoplifting tend to steal personal items that they believe are needed, such as jewelry, clothing, makeup, and food. Many of the women who engage in these activities are living in poverty but are still trying to maintain a societal image of a beautiful woman and, in some instances, merely to feed their families, while, on the other hand, women in the workforce focus on different types of crimes.

With increased roles in the workplace, the types of crimes committed by women began to change. For example, crimes of embezzlement and fraud rose among women as more women had access to large sums of money and bookkeeping accounts. Although these women had good-paying jobs, they were often paid less than men for the same positions. So when they experienced fi nancial diffi culties, they simply “advanced money” and/or paid false invoices in order to get money from the company, thinking that the company had plenty of money and would not miss it. Women also commit the crimes of robbery and burglary to a somewhat lesser degree than men. Women who commit these acts report that they most often work with others when committing burglary and that they were on drugs at the time of the bur- glary (Decker, Wright, Redfern, & Smith, 1993). Yet women robbers tend to work alone and, ironically, target female victims. However, women robbers will also lure men with the promise of sex or join with a male in order to rob other men (Belknap, 2015). Several robberies committed by women are drug related.

Having been introduced to drugs by male associates, girlfriends, and in some cases parents, women drug users struggled to support their habits. Many of these women exchanged sexual favors for drugs or the money to buy drugs. In some instances, women drug users allowed themselves to be prosti- tuted by drug dealers as a means of supporting their drug addiction. Unfortunately, many drug-using

 

 

Etta F. Morgan

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