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Discuss Carlen's perspective on women, crime, and poverty.


Crime and Deviance

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Carlen's Perspective on Women, Crime, and Poverty

This essay will explore Pat Carlen's perspective on women, crime, and poverty. It will analyze her key concepts and examine the strengths and limitations of her approach.


Introduce the topic of women, crime, and poverty. Briefly mention the traditional theories of crime and deviance and their limitations in explaining women's offending.

Carlen's Theory of Crime and Gender

Introduce Carlen's theory of "the class and gender contract" and its emphasis on the intersection of class and gender in shaping women's offending.

The Class and Gender Contract

Explain Carlen’s concept of the "class and gender contract" and its two main components: the "material" and the "ideological" contracts. Discuss how these contracts shape women's experiences and choices.

Women's Crime as a Response to Contractual Violations

Explain how Carlen conceptualizes women's crime as a response to violations of the class and gender contract. Provide specific examples of how women might break the contract in response to material or ideological deprivation.

Strengths of Carlen's Theory

Discuss the strengths of Carlen's theory, including its focus on the intersection of class and gender, its recognition of women's agency, and its ability to explain the gendered nature of crime.

Limitations of Carlen's Theory

Discuss the limitations of Carlen's theory, including its potential oversimplification of women's lives, its lack of attention to other forms of oppression, and its limited scope in explaining all types of female offending.


Summarize Carlen's perspective, highlighting the key points of her argument and its strengths and limitations. Conclude by suggesting further areas of research and discussion.

Free Essay 

Caught in the Web: Carlen's Perspective on Women, Crime, and Poverty

Pat Carlen, a prominent feminist criminologist, offers a compelling and nuanced perspective on the relationship between women, crime, and poverty. Her work, unlike traditional criminological theories, challenges the assumption that women commit crime for the same reasons as men. Instead, Carlen argues that women's criminal behavior, particularly within the context of poverty, is deeply intertwined with their social roles and the constraints imposed by patriarchal structures.

Carlen's central concept is the "web of control," which she describes as a complex network of social and economic forces that regulate women's behavior. These forces include:

⭐Material Control:⭐⭐ This refers to the economic dependence of many women on men, making them vulnerable to poverty and limiting their access to resources. This dependence can lead women to engage in criminal activities to survive or to compensate for the lack of economic opportunities.
⭐Social Control:⭐⭐ Carlen recognizes the powerful social pressures placed on women, particularly those living in poverty, to conform to traditional gender roles. These roles often restrict their autonomy, limit their education and career paths, and enforce strict moral codes. This pressure, coupled with the lack of support and resources, can push women towards criminal activities as a form of rebellion or escape.
⭐Ideological Control:⭐⭐ This refers to the internalized beliefs and expectations that women hold about themselves and their roles. These beliefs, often shaped by patriarchal ideologies, can limit their aspirations and lead them to accept their position within the web of control, sometimes even perpetuating their own oppression.

Carlen's analysis is particularly relevant to understanding why women engage in "non-utilitarian" crimes, like shoplifting or drug use, that may not directly result in economic gain. She argues that these actions can be understood as acts of defiance, resistance, or attempts to reclaim agency and satisfaction denied by their societal roles.

However, Carlen's work goes beyond simply blaming social structures. She acknowledges the complex interplay of personal agency and structural constraints. She highlights that women's choices, even within the web of control, are still personal and often influenced by their individual experiences, desires, and capabilities.

Carlen's perspective offers valuable insights into the experiences of women living in poverty and provides a framework for understanding the ways in which social control and limited opportunities can contribute to criminal behavior. Her work emphasizes the need for social and economic interventions that empower women and challenge patriarchal structures, ultimately contributing to a more just and equitable society.

In conclusion, Carlen's "web of control" theory provides a powerful explanation for women's involvement in crime, particularly within the context of poverty. It underscores the importance of recognizing the intersection of gender, class, and social control in shaping individual experiences and choices. By understanding the complex web of factors that influence women's lives, we can develop more effective strategies for addressing poverty, promoting social justice, and creating a world where women are empowered to live free from the constraints of patriarchy.

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