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Have you ever tried to convince yourself you’d act a particular way in a given situation only to later find yourself in this position and taking a different course? You may purport to hold beliefs that would govern your actions and guide you down one path or another, yet realise that in reality, what you would actually do is something else, entirely.

Shocked by the hike in public transport fares that came into effect on January 1, perhaps you jump on a train without touching on your Myki, taking your chances with Metro’s ticket inspectors. You decide – honest citizen you are – that if you’re unlucky enough to be caught, you’ll fess up and give the officer your details, ultimately acknowledging there’s a small chance you quite literally, will have to pay the price. But, you’re feeling lucky. The likelihood of an officer jumping on board your carriage in the middle of the day is low, and you’re wearing your lucky pants, so ‘let’s rebel and defiantly assert a position against the rising fares’.

Only two stations later, three officers are there, ready to dock you a couple-o-hundys. But, instead of speaking out against the hike while simultaneously remaining a good and honest Melbournian, you jump to say you were rushing for the train and simply had no time to Go Directly Pass Go and Collect $200, or pass the Myki machine at your home station.

While this example may be somewhat unrealistic, the principle holds. The path of action you would like to think you’d take is what Chris Argyris calls your espoused theory, the theory of action to which you give allegiance. However, what governs your actions in reality Argyris names your theory-in-use. If the consequences of your approach match your intended outcome, the theory-in-use is confirmed. But, Argyris proposes that if consequences are unintended/do not match/work against your governing values, they can be viewed as part of single or double-loop learning.

In coming to understand these theories, I drew on the Networked Media blog and came across a post by my tutor that led me to a former student’s comprehension of the same work. Combining my own extensive dot-pointing from the reading with the explanation on my peer, I will explain single and double-loop learning like this:

  • Single-loop learning exists when things are taken for granted and where strategies for managing error remain within governing variables.
  • Double-loop learning involves questioning the governing variables themselves, and subjecting them to scrutiny, thus allowing space for alteration and a shift in the way strategies and consequences are framed.

Here’s a diagram that might help, as really, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Argyris' Double-Loop Theory

Argyris also proposes two models that describe features of theories-in-use that either inhibit or enhance double-loop learning:

  • Model I involves making inferences about another person’s behaviour without checking whether they are valid, and is shaped by an implicit disposition to winning and avoiding embarrassment.
  • Model II includes the views and experiences of participants rather than seeking to impose a view on a situation, is dialogical, encourages open communication and participation, and emphasises common goals and shared leadership.

According to Argyris, Model II increases the likelihood of double-loop learning while Model I inhibits it. Furthermore, he asserts most people will espouse Model II. Argyris then contextualises the models using Organisational Learning Systems, and proposes Organisational II Learning System (O-II) as preferable to Organisational I Learning System (O-I), where the former seeks to maximise client participation with a methodology based on rationality and honesty over the latter, (self-reinforcing, inhibiting, defensive, and acts against long-term organisational interests).

Perhaps, what I will take away from analysing these learning theories, the size of these loopholes and the models above, is the importance of noticing how open we are to change, how we deal with unintended outcomes, and a greater understanding of the extent to which our values actually govern our actions as opposed to the extent to which we espouse them to have done.

Happy learning.

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Apart from having the pleasure and privilege to continue my internship at artsHub and publishing articles there each week, last week I also had two other quite different pieces published.

My poem The Station was published as part of an anthology of poems displayed on a map. The title of the anthology is Impressions of Banyule and was published by Poets@Watsonia. I attended the launch of Impressions with my parents and was asked to read my poem. It was my first experience of a poetry reading, and it was interesting and enjoyable.

In addition, a while back I submitted a reflective piece for the next issue of Ricochet Magazine. After a selection process and contact with lovely members of the Ricochet team, my piece, Friday Night, was published as part of The Flashback Edition, launched last Tuesday morning. It is available for free download. This work is dedicated to my family, and anyone who has been lucky enough to spend a Friday night at the humble abode of S, M & A.

Peruse and enjoy at your own leisure.

Image

The word ‘buffet’ can only mean one thing…

You know you’re from Melbourne when:

  • You’ve spent Christmas day in the scorching heat, summer rain, and winter wind without having to leave your humble abode (and possibly all on the one Christmas)
  • You have no idea there is another ‘football’ final this weekend
  • You’ve experienced the fascination with Degraves St before realising there are equally as good if not much better cafes in other haunts around the city
  • You struggle to find a bookshop other than Dymocks and Readings
  • Your school excursions included at least one if not multiple trips to Sovereign Hill, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum and the IMAX
  • You hate mykis
  • You hate the train but you hate the bus more
  • You think St Kilda has a beach
  • You’ve spent family holidays somewhere along the Great Ocean Road
  • You holiday regularly in Queensland
  • You’re pretentious about Melbourne’s food and coffee scene
  • You endorse the city’s rivalry with Sydney
  • You connect with people by asking what school they went to
  • You understand the North/South of the river divide
  • You’ve never even considered having a dip in the Yarra
  • You’ve experienced water restrictions but have taken the longest showers anyway
  • There is always a new restaurant, cafe or bar to explore
  • Your childhood included trips to Smorgy’s (RIP)
  • And The Royal Melbourne Show
  • And the Drive-In
  • You refer to ‘our’ Cate, Rove, Kath & Kim, Hamish & Andy, Gotye, Kylie, Danni (to a lesser degree), Missy, ONJ, Bert and Geoffrey, regardless of whether they were born here, lived here once (for a day), or live here now
  • You know the difference between a good market and a tourist market
  • You’ve taken guests to parts of the city you’d never venture to alone such as the Aquarium and Luna Park
  • CHADSTONE
  • You appreciate multiculturalism (well, at least  you SHOULD)
  • You enjoyed and sent around the ‘How many (insert your school here) students does it take to change a lightbulb…’ chain email
  • You have no knowledge of rugby, soccer, or any kicking sport that doesn’t involve a silly shaped ball that bounces funny
  • You’ve been to the Australian Open during your summer holidays come rain, hail or shine
  • You know Ramsay St rules over Summer Bay any day
  • You live, love and will die in black
  • You don’t understand the novelty of trams
  • You consider your city to be European, and therefore more classy than any other Australian city
  • Knew who Steve Bracks was before a few weeks ago (and that he has a ‘model’ son, pun intended)
  • Wore a uniform to school
  • Have taken ‘fitspo’ pics at the bottom of the 1000 steps
  • Have been to Moomba/The Comedy Festival/any other of the million festivities our city hosts each year
  • Acknowledge that while 40 degrees is uncomfortable, it is not the worst it can get
  • You went to Buller, Lake Mountain or Falls for winter sports
  • Get confused as to the proper name of that station after Flinders St on the Loop (is it Spencer St or Southern Cross?)
  • You hate Docklands
  • You relish 10 minutes of sunshine
  • You have been to The Rooftop Bar/Cinema/The Toff/Cookie and can empathise with anyone needing a good drink and a lie down once getting to the top
  • Eat Yum Cha
  • Eat Frozen Yoghurt
  • Love Able and Game’s gifts and cards
  • There are only two acceptable pastimes for December the 27th – shopping or shouting (at the MCG)
  • You have been to the Races or at least appreciated the long weekend they bring
  • You turn off the news before the weather report
  • You worship Collingwood
  • Or Father Bob
  • Or WOULD if it meant Collingwood would lose their next game
  • You know Woolworths is actually just Safeway in disguise with some sheep
  • You can’t get a job, buy a house or afford rent
  • But will always be able to find new and exciting ways to spend your dwindling supply on money on the weekend
  • You use the underground tunnel that goes from the Belgian waffle place to the centre of Flinders St station
  • You have had Italian on Lygon, Chinese in Chinatown and something Middle Eastern on Sydney Rd
  • You went on school camp to the Murray
  • You know what and where The Edge is
  • You can say you live in the world’s Most Liveable City 

Player Three: Fee’s already dropped Ben off at school for swimming practice and Bec at before-school sports tennis training before getting on the 7:16 at Greensborough. She’s relieving at the moment which kind of suits her. The agencies usually call early in the morning when she’s already awake taking the kids off to their respective sports and she enjoys being with kids. As Ben and Bec grow up, Fee knows she’s going to struggle with letting go and so teaching has already been of help to her in this regard. When her ex, Buck, moved out three years ago, things were rough. Centrelink was contacted and unfortunately, thanks to the government at the time, were not all that helpful. But Fee’s thankful that she now has her life at least somewhat sorted.

 

She’s started seeing a guy called Bill (how many Bs can a girl have before it’s bad luck?) a few months ago. He’s a sports teacher at one of the local primary schools Fee temps at and he’s a really good-hearted guy with a sweet, personable nature. He’s slept over a couple of times and gets on well with the kids. He’s helped take them to practice early in the morning when Fee’s wanted a sleep in too, which always goes down well.

 

Fee’s working this morning at a local secondary college just a few stops down the train line. She’s mainly a maths and junior-secondary science teacher, but every now and then she gets asked to cover a music class or two. Music works well with maths and science, her mind likes the logic, the rhyme and reasons behind each of her crafts (or sciences, depending on how you look at it). She loves counting out the bars, clapping rhythms and beating her palm against a drum, getting some control over her thoughts and her emotions.

Fee takes her lunch usually as staff rooms at public schools aren’t known for their generous hospitality. Today’s package (prepared “incasa” as Bec used to always say) includes a vegemite sandwich, some celery sticks with peanut butter for dipping, a slice of camembert cheese for desert and an apple and banana for the train rides to and from home.  Fee savours that thick swab of Camembert like you’ve no idea. Thank goodness for the French.

 

But she’s made her train just in time. Who knows what naughty children the day holds for Fee, but she’s settled and contented with her life at that point, and that’s all that matters. 

Player Two: The train arrives at Diamond Creek Station at 7:02 and leaves less than a minute later. Cherrie recognises the remnants of the recent Diamo Fair that have left their litter-filled marks across the oval and the local area. McDonalds is already buzzing, each blue-collar tradie getting his morning fix of Bacon and Egg McMuffin to chew on as he hygienically chuffs his cig at the same time, that signature blend of a flat white with a dash of bacon-y dope.

 

Cherrie’s made sure the kids lunches were done the night before. After a big barbeque weekend with too much off too little spent on fairy floss and cheap show rides, leftovers are piled into slices of wonder white sandwiches slathered with Flora margarine and Coles salad mix. We make do in the Taylor household. Mr Taylor is one of the aforementioned tradies and he runs his own life, and as it seems to be increasingly, his own finances. He brings in what he brings in and he spends it at the races, the TAB, on silly greyhound bets and on drinks and grub. Add tobacco on top of that and thanks-so-much-for-contributing-to-the-family, Billy.

 

But having the family over on the weekend was nice. Big family, close neighbourhood, big families within big families living in big courts and big (cheap) standard housing. You get more for what you pay for out here. Why else do you think we chose out here?

 

Leftover pulled pork with mustard and salad greens for Danny, still young enough to actually eat the lunch his mother packs him. Johnny wants four dollars for a Four-n-Twenty meat pie from the tuck shop. I told him those four dollars will be coming out of his weekly pocket money and the response is always just the same ‘yeah yeah’ and is gratified, when it never does. Katheryn likes vegemite on wonder white but I try and put in some pulled pork on the side to give her a bit of a midday protein hit. She needs it at her age. So young, still growing, so vulnerable…

 

But up at 6:30, out of bed after one snooze at 6:35, a quick dressing routine into casual flats and a black business-y-looking Savers suit and an Up & Go on the way out the door. Strawberry flavour today. She’s up at the station in time to add another $10 to her myki pass and settle into a forward-facing four-seated allotment, ready with her iPod in ears and phone in hand incase one of the kids has a crisis on the way to school and need her helps figuring out whose lunch is whose, where the clean undies are or something of the sort. 

Player One: To get in the car to drive to the station to find the park to buy the ticket, to top up the myki to touch on and get on the train at 6:54am, Jack gets up at 5:50am. He’s an early riser. Catches a whiff of the fresh, mountainous air and he’s out of bed. His wife, Lydia, sleeps idly by, a housewife with a life as far from his as any could imagine. Who knows how she keeps herself occupied during his time at work? Jack sure doesn’t know. Sure, when the kids were younger and at home she at least had driving duties – to soccer, to the slumber party, to the calisthenics club based at the Eltham YMCA. But, now? No idea.

 

Up at 5:50. Jumps on the stationary bike for halfa’ at 5:52, breaking a sweat by 6:06 thanks to Les Mills and his pre-programming of a man’s programed morning. Jumps off and straight into the shower at 6:22, out by 6:25. Always one for water saving, especially when you’re living on such luscious land as Jack is. A good 10 minutes are dedicated to donning on a clean, freshly pressed – ah, there’s something Lydia does well during their mutually exclusively-lived lives – navy blue business suit. Pin-striped pale blue shirt and straight, thin, navy tie. Finished off by freshly polished and dusted black Jack London tie-up work shoes. Who said Jack London’s only for the young? Not Jack.

 

In the car by 6:36. Down the long, greenly decadent driveway that circles their semi-mansion before traversing down the long track to the automatic gates at the opening of their private estate.

 

Down the road, a few rights and a left turn. A park, perfectly timed and just waiting for his sparkling Beemer. A perfect trip.

 

A myki topped up thanks to online automatic transfers a la internet overnight works and the briefcase picked up by the door just beside the garage and the car is filled in files and piles of sheets necessary to complete the tasks of the day, just like a CEO of a major rural transportation company should be. Lunch will be provided at desk and a breakfast meeting in the CBD’s lawyerly Queen/Elizabeth Street end at one of the nice newly opened organic constructions. A perfect day, all thanks to the 6:54 from Hustbridge station. 

Anyone can be a victim of violence. From petty crime to theft, domestic violence, physical or verbal abuse, emotional trauma, as well as rape, and murder. The list goes on and none of it is pretty. Violence can lead to physical and mental ill health, homelessness, feelings of shame, embarrassment, and acts of retaliation. The severity of violence is vast, and each case is unique. I am fortunate enough to live a life where I feel cared for, loved and safe. But too often, I take these life essentials for granted.

Three stories have featured in tonight’s news headlines, each involving women and acts of violence. Without going in to too much detail, Adrian Ernest Bayley was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum jail term of 35 years, for the rape and murder of Melbournian Jill Meagher. Ms Meagher’s father said ‘justice has now been done’. But, nothing will bring back the innocent woman who found herself in that eventually fatal position in Brunswick last September.

St Kilda footballer Stephen Milne was yesterday convicted of four counts of rape of a 19 year old female, dating back to 2004. Victoria Police say they have ‘implemented substantial reforms and improvements to [their] sex crimes investigative processes which has enabled a number of older investigations to be reviewed, offenders identified and charges laid’. Yet one may beg to ask why it has taken so long for the truth to come out. There has been deception and what one party involved called a ‘sabotaged investigation’. However, the AFL have now disputed Milne’s suspension based on the presumption of innocence. I find it hard to believe that in any other workplace or sector that an organisation would speak out against an employee’s suspension when accused of rape, but is it not both troubling and fascinating to hear the different arguments in play?

The third news item is undoubtedly less severe but just as intriguing in its own way. In recent months there have been numerous reports of abuse on Melbourne and Sydneys’ public transport system. On Monday evening, a customer was physically and verbally assaulted on an Eltham-bound train out of Melbourne’s CBD. The difference in this case though, was that the victim was a 56 year old man, and his abusers, two 15 and 16 year old girls. While the girls have been questioned and the victim’s story has been told and retold, the emphasis has certainly been placed (at least by commercial and tabloid media) on the age and gender of each of the three involved. Yes, it is terrible and unjust, the man was victimised and abused in a public situation that should have been safe. Yes, others should have stepped in to prevent the action or assist the man (hello, PSO officers?). But the focus is on the two girls. Journalistic reporting also shifts: words chosen are inherently more feminine, soft, and possibly, forgiving. The teens are described as ‘feral’ rather than violent or brutal.

So, why do we find female criminals so, do I dare say, inviting?

I took a subject over the summer called Women and International Justice that asked this very question. Through exploration of the way women are treated in court, in society, and in prison facilities, I gained a great deal of knowledge, and began to form my own perspectives on these issues. Women can be both victims and perpetrators of violence, and there are many factors – biological, environmental, psychological – that play a part in each case. For my final essay, I focused particularly on the case of Aileen Wuornos, America’s most infamous female serial killer. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield made two documentaries on Wuornos, and a blockbuster film Monster, starring Charlize Theron was produced in 2003. I highly recommend all three of these films, and for you to watch the documentaries first, to gain the ‘facts’, and then Monster, as a testament to and so as gain fully appreciate Theron’s incredible acting. She physically embodies Wuornos’ character and personality in a way I’ve never seen an actor do so, before.

Charlize Theron in 'Monster'

Charlize Theron in ‘Monster’

 

I’ll also post my essay below, for further interest.

***

Meanwhile, I’ve had another week at artsHub and here are the links to this week’s work:

The End of the Educational DVD

$12,000 Playwright Commission Available

International Artists Bolster Competition in Stencil Prize

Record Breaking Box Office for Melbourne Jazz Fest

Penguin Kicking Goals with the AFL

60th Sydney FIlm Festival Award Winners

***

Compare and contrast two major theories to explain the offending behaviour of women.

Gender is a socially constructed idea, and unlike sex, which is biologically determined, is reflective of the culture in which it is located. The definition of ‘gender’ changes as what is considered ‘acceptable’ for a male or female is both rooted in tradition, and crafted by new thinkers and philosophies. Whether male or female, a person’s life course is affected by conditions including race, social class or socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and physical ability. Much traditional thought expresses women as inferior beings to their male counterparts, and feminist theory sees many women criminals to be stuck in a patriarchal bind, where “women have no civic identity separate from their husbands or fathers” (Goodstein, 2000). This struggle to pronounce themselves as separate individuals leaves many women relying upon men for representation in the public sphere, money, and other resources. Such dependence was not always held respectfully, as what males chose to do to their ‘property’ behind closed doors was off limits to those enforcing justice (Goodstein, 2000).

In Western countries a ‘rule of thumb’ operated, with a literal meaning that men could freely beat their wives so long as the instrument used was no thicker than their thumb. In a culture of male privilege and female service, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse and wife battering were not considered ‘real’ crimes until the 1970s (Goodstein, 2000). While some consider those violent towards women as having ‘sick personalities’ or a ‘psychological illness’, these practices are likely to have been founded more concretely as reflections of structural gender dynamics, in keeping with the traditional roles assigned to a man and woman. Ferraro (2000) argues social institutions of religion, kinship, the economy, and media, normalize hierarchical gender relations and enforce male power and privilege, leading some males to exercise emotional and physical control through abusive means (Goodstein, 2000). In broad terms, feminist criminologists agree with this sentiment, with radical feminism defining women’s oppression as originating in the categorization of women as an inferior class. Similarly, socio-cultural feminism sees the patriarchal structure of society perpetuating sexual violence against women which is particularly evident in some middle eastern nations, where rape has not been criminalized in marriage, and domestic violence is a pervasive problem.

Attachment Theory

The Attachment Theory suggests that abuse and offending behaviour is a cycle, passed through generations, perpetuated by childhood abuse and offending as a result of insecure and anxious attachment to a primary parental figure. Both boys and girls growing up in violent environments have higher propensities to model such behaviour (Chesney-Lind & Pasko, 2004), yet girls must also negotiate gender oppression, where yearning for someone to be close to them, they feel powerless and are left with limited options for change, where thus, they are met with continued abuse and violence.

Many girls abused as minors try to flee violence and trauma, leaving them without a home, education, or access to a steady income and daily necessities. Widom (2000) attests that victimized girls who enter delinquency as a result of this continuum, and “often with deficits in cognitive abilities and achievement and few positive relationships or social controls”, end up on the streets with very few survival skills (cited in Chesney-Lind & Pasko, 2004, p. 106). Furthermore, they may experience lowered self-esteem, a lack of sense of control over their lives, and thus show tendencies towards criminal behaviour. Chesney-Lind and Pasko (2004) state that consequently, these girls grow into women “with few social or psychological resources for successful adult development” (p. 106), and are likely to become involved with others who have walked similar paths. Group affiliation penetrates crime-ridden neighbourhoods and some women feel compelled into illegal behaviours through their menfolk or other associations (van Wormer, 2010). Geography is significant in determining the influence of crime and drug use (van Wormer, 2010), with areas populated by those of lower socio-economic status often reporting higher levels of crime, gangs and drug abuse. This supports the evidence in favour of the Attachment theory, and reinforces one’s experiences during childhood as a key determinant of one’s ability to grow into a law-responsive adult.

Prostitution is commonly known to be the only crime in which women dominate numerically. Research has shown it to be part of a recursive cycle of victimization leading to criminality and then back again, where these women are knowingly both offenders and victims, in order to maintain their lives. Women arrested for embezzlement were often employed in low-paying clerical, sales and service positions, and were found to have pocketed smaller amounts than males involved in embezzlement. Women were less likely than men to be ‘commercial shoplifters’ (stealing for possible resale) and saw their criminal activity as being part of a ‘second shift’ of household management, rather than for extensive or personal gains (Chesney-Lind & Pasko, 2004). Where women are arrested for more serious crimes (such as robbery) they are more likely to have served as accomplices to men in various capacities, than to have masterminded the offense. Murders by women are likely to be domestic or inflicted upon someone they knew, to be carried out whilst the victim was asleep or incapacitated, and as an act of self-defense, with the women in fear of her (or a child’s) life. Female perpetrators of these crimes were less likely to have a criminal history, or to have a criminal history overwhelmingly dominated by prostitution.

Many studies of women’s crime focus on the events and circumstances women faced during childhood, with a specific emphasis on the importance of victimization and abuse. Heimer identifies, ‘Nearly all of the women discussed in the ethnographic literature on women’s poverty and crime find themselves living in disadvantaged, disorganized, and deteriorating communities with high rates of drug use, property crime, and violence’ (p. 26). Daly coined a subgroup of female criminals as “harmed and harming women” who experienced abuse as children in addition to economic hardship, invoking what Heimer calls a ‘quasi-psychological argument’, maintaining that as abused girls grew up, they were unable to contain their rage and were increasingly violent and committed violent crime. She adds that these felons are simply reproducing their experiences of abuse, and utilizing them as a coping mechanism when faced by confronting circumstances or situations. Moreover, women living in marginalized communities are more likely to encounter and become incorporated into criminal and deviant networks where family members may serve as the conduit between young women and criminal groups (Miller, 1986, cited in Heimer, 2000). Therefore, these women are easily initiated into groups of crime that then sustain their criminal involvement.

Economic Marginalization Hypothesis

The economic marginalization hypothesis suggests the gender gap in crime has narrowed as women have experienced increasing economic hardship relative to men. When this occurs, women’s rates of crime as compared with men’s rates will increase. The hypothesis emphasizes that economic circumstances and crime are a dynamic process (Heimer, 2000) influenced by social demographic and economic indicators. Importantly, gender ratios of arrests can increase when female crime rates are not rising if men’s crime rates are dropping off more rapidly (Heimer, 2000). Citing Blau and Blau’s (1982) argument about inequality and violent crime rates, Heimer notes that high levels of inequality can create a sense of relative deprivation, to which crime is a natural response. Similarly, Steffensmeier and Allan (1996) discuss poverty as a key factor driving changes in women’s offending.

Employment, or lack thereof, is a significant indicator when studying individuals or demographics at risk of criminal behaviour. Box and Hale (1983, 1984) reported that women’s rates of registering as unemployed had some influence on female conviction rates in England and Wales, for the period of 1952 to 1980, yet the percentage of unemployed women does not give information about levels of male unemployment, thus capturing absolute rather than relative economic status (cited in Heimer, 2000). In a study of women street hustlers in Milwaukee, Romenesko and Miller (1989) note previous jobs of women in their sample included work as cooks, housekeepers, store clerks, waitresses, and go-go dancers (cited in Heimer, 2000). Baskin and Sommers (1998) reported that employed women offenders in their sample worked mostly in unskilled jobs as factory workers, salespersons, and office clerks. In these positions, women are at greater risk of committing property crime when faced with financial hardship. Additionally, Daly (1994) observed that at the time of arrest, only 8 of 40 women studied worked in legitimate jobs, 16 were receiving welfare benefits, and the remaining 16 had “no clear means of economic support” (cited in Chesney-Lind & Pasko, 2004, p. 26).

Chesney-Lind and Pasko (2004) discuss a study done by Gilfus (1992) in which 20 incarcerated women were interviewed in exploration of the link between childhood injuries and adult crime. Gilfus found many likenesses between the 20 women, most of whom were single mothers who considered their illegal activities as work, economically necessary to support partners, children, and addictions. Three-quarters were intravenous drug users, 17 had histories of prostitution, 13 reported child sexual abuse, 13 ran away from home as girls, and only four completed high school. The women collectively recalled trying to care for and protect others, particularly younger siblings, from violence and abuse, and 15 had lived with violent men who expected them to bring in money through prostitution and shoplifting. These women saw their criminal role as a form of caretaking. Whilst this study consisted only of 20 women incarcerated in the United States, the social and economic conditions in which they were brought up are similar to those of women held in prisons across the globe. Baskin and Sommers (1992) note, “‘violence and drug involvement’ are adaptive strategies in underclass communities that are racked by poverty and unemployment” (p. 114). Chesney-Lind and Pasko support this statement that “women experiencing gender and racial oppression and social marginalization are particularly vulnerable to both abuse and victimization and involvement in illegal activity” (2004, p. 106).

Aileen Wuornos – A Case Study

American serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, embodied many facets of both Attachment Theory and the Economic Marginalization Hypothesis. She was arrested and charged with capital murder in January 1991. Wuornos was born to a broken family, where her mother left Aileen and Aileen’s brother to her own parents (Wuornos’ grandparents), and her father committed suicide in prison soon after. Wuornos’ grandmother was an alcoholic and it is alleged that her grandfather beat her, and his friend molested her. At nine years of age, Wuornos began work as a sex servant and became pregnant at the age of 13. After the pregnancy and subsequent adoption, Wuornos was told she could no longer live at the house and took to the streets, making money as a prostitute. Prior to the murders, Wuornos committed crimes of theft, robbery, assault and illegal possession of a firearm and had served short sentences in prison. Maher (1997) argues female sex workers robbed their clients as a way to build reputations for violence to help them divert potential victimization (cited in Heimer, 2000). Wuornos had experienced victimization from a young age and it is possible these crimes were an example of building her resilience, in addition to maintaining her lifestyle and her life. Wuornos also played the role of caretaker to her lover, Tyria Moore, who eventually got Wuornos to confess to the murders via telephone, tapped by police (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, 1993, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, 2003; Monster, 2003).

While Wuornos worked alone as an adult, during childhood, she was surrounded by drugs, rape and criminal behaviour. Often betrayed by loved ones, Wuornos was unable to trust anyone and learned to fend for herself at a young age. She was economically marginalized and often homeless, where hooking and stealing were her only avenues through which to obtain money and necessities. Unlike other female offenders, Wuornos was the key perpetrator of the crimes she was involved in. She was socially and economically marginalized, unemployed (save prostitution), sparsely connected to family or friends, and was victimized and abused as a child (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, 1993, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, 2003; Monster, 2003).

While her status as a serial killer may be uncommon amongst women, her traumatic childhood and marginalization from social, economic and familial realms stands to support the propositions of each theory. With a more supportive networking system and a stable income from an occupation not marred by such potential risk and violence, Wuornos may have found a life very different from the one she led. The Attachment Theory signifies the importance of a parental figure in a child’s life, and without this presence, Wuornos found herself to be detached from society. In turn, she held loose morals and became a victim of the social system, from which she was largely set apart.

Conclusion

A broad feminist framework is vital for understanding offending women, yet both the attachment theory and the economic marginalization hypothesis help shed specific and critical light on many of the underlying issues. Without these perspectives, our understanding of the reason why women offend would be much more limited, as would our capacity for generating legal reforms and social changes that might ultimately lead to a reduction in women’s crimes and their underlying causes.

References

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer 2003, documentary, Lafayette Films, Louisiana, USA, viewed 21 December, 2012.

Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer 1993, documentary, Lafayette Films, Louisiana, USA, viewed 22 December, 2012.

Baskin, D and Sommers, I 1992, Sex, Race, Age, and Violent Offending, Violence and Victims, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 191-201, Springer Publishing Company, New York, USA.

Chesney-Lind, M and Pasko, L 2004, ‘Trends in Women’s Crime’ in The Female Offender Girls, Women and Crime, 2nd edn, Sage Publications, Inc, California, USA.

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