Socially Constructed Scholarly Literature on Sex and Punishment

face of a prisoner

As Foucault’s genealogical work anticipated, numerous examples exist of socially constructed scholarly literature on sex and punishment. The vastly disproportionate imprisonment of men throughout history has prompted literature analyzing how the historical oppression of women has affected women prisoners. Works such as Dobash, Dobash, Emerson, and Gutteridge (1986), The Imprisonment of women; Zedner (1991), Women, crime, and custody in Victorian England; and Rublack (1999), The crimes of women in early modern Germany cannot be understood without appreciation for the social construction of lack of concern for the vastly disproportionate numbers of men imprisoned throughout history.

Highly disproportionate imprisonment of men has generated relatively little concern about men. In contrast, highly disproportionate imprisonment of men has generated much ponderous analysis of the effects of patriarchy on women in the criminal justice system. Here is a representative scholarly program:

  • Feeley, Malcolm M. and Deborah L. Little (1991). “The Vanishing Female: The Decline of Women in the Criminal Process, 1687-1912.” Law & Society Review vol. 25(4): 719-57.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. (1994). “The Decline of Women in the Criminal Process: A Comparative History.” Criminal Justice History: An International Annual vol. 15: 235-74.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. and Hadar Aviram (2008). Where Have All the Women Gone? The Decline of Women in the Criminal Justice Process. 3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. and Hadar Aviram (2010). “Social Historical Studies of Women, Crime, and Courts.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science vol. 6: 151-71.

Walker (2003) organizers her work in relation to the patriarchy master narrative, but daringly provides some critical perspective on it. Forsythe (1993) deferentially discusses weaknesses of some of this literature and emphasizes discrimination against women prison officials. Campbell (1999) oddly unites evolutionary analysis with an interpretation of the cultural implications of patriarchy. That work seems oblivious to the social and cultural dimension of the criminalization of male physical aggression. Lack of public concern for criminalizing and punishing men is a pervasive feature of the social construction of gender and punishment.

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