'Prove me the bam!' Victimisation and agency in the lives of the young women who commit violent offences

Batchelor, Susan Ann (2006) 'Prove me the bam!' Victimisation and agency in the lives of the young women who commit violent offences. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the social meanings attached to violence committed by young women. It challenges dominant discourses on young women's violent offending by describing and analysing the multiple motives and meanings that 21 women in prison gave to their violent behaviour when they were interviewed by the author in 2001. Examination of the criminological literature on women who offend suggests that discourses relating to violent young women fall under four main headings, each of which draws upon an essentialist framework underpinned by fixed dualisms of masculine/feminine and/or victim/agent: female violence as a failure to conform to the feminine (the pathological violent female); female violence as a result of femininity (women as emotional, irrational and 'out of control'); female violence as the result of patriarchy (the cycle of abuse); female violence as the result of women's liberation (equal opportunity violence). The central argument of the analysis of the interview materials is that young women's accounts embody persistent conflicts and tensions, which defy simple classification. These include: ambivalent feelings about their families and their localities; complex attitudes regarding risk and risk-seeking behaviour; contradictory views about the use of violence; and a confused sense of gender identity. Within the interview setting young women attempted to make sense of these contradictions by either (a) challenging the definition of their behaviour as violent by drawing on (sub)cultural norms and values to demonstrate the normalcy of their activities, or (b) challenging the notion that they themselves were violent by attributing their offence to experiences of victimisation and the intoxicating effects of drugs and/or alcohol. Taken together, these findings provide a powerful and sophisticated challenge to essentialist arguments about the emergence of a new breed of 'girl thugs' who simply seek to emulate the violent behaviour of young men. Criminally violent young women are not liberated young women, but young women who are severely constrained by both their material circumstances and attendant ideologies of working-class femininity and kinship. They are not determined by these circumstances, however. By pointing to the risk-seeking nature of young women's violence, the study demonstrates the positive contribution violent behaviour can have in terms of young women's sense of self and self-efficacy. By illustrating the rule- governed nature of much of the violence committed by young women, it challenges images of female offenders as emotional, irrational and 'out of control.' Finally, the thesis questions pathological discourses by demonstrating how young women's violent offending can fulfil both traditional familial and (sub)cultural norms. In short, the study acknowledges that subordination and agency are simultaneously realised in young women's lives, and thereby demonstrates that there is no such thing as the essential violent young woman.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Advisers: Michelle Burman; Bridget Fowler
Keywords: Clinical psychology, Criminology
Date of Award: 2006
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2006-71123
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 10 May 2019 10:49
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71123

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