Chivalry Thesis and Gender Diffs in Crime

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Date Submitted: 09/23/2012 09:29 AM

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Pollak (1950) argued that official statistics on gender and crime were highly misleading. He claimed that statistics underestimated the extent of female criminality. Pollack claimed to have identified crimes that are usually committed by women but which are likely to go unreported. According to him, nearly all offences of shoplifting and all criminal abortion were carried out by women. Many unreported crimes are committed by female domestic servants. Pollack accepted official definitions of crime when he pointed out all the offences of prostitution that were not reported. He also suggested that women domestic roles gave them the opportunity to hide crimes such as poisoning relatives and sexually abusing their children.

Pollak argued that the reason why females are often underrepresented in statistics could relate to a concept known as chivalry. Police, magistrates and other law enforcers tend to be men who are bought up to be chivalrous – they are usually more lenient with female offenders meaning that fewer women appear in the statistics. One other important factor, according to Pollak, is that women are particularly adept at hiding their crimes due to their biological make-up. Women are accustomed to deceiving men due to traditional taboos such hiding pain during menstruating and misleading men during sex.

Pollak claims and assumptions were criticized by Heidensohn (1985) who pointed out that researches indicates that much shoplifting is committed by men. He had failed to take account of changes in the law against abortion in several of the countries he studied. She regards his work as being based upon an unsubstantiated stereotypical image of women. However, Pollack study was important for being the first to suggest that statistics greatly underestimate female criminal activity.

Pollak’s chivalry thesis which claims that women are left off relatively lightly by the predominantly male police, judges, magistrates etc in the criminal justice system is...