Looking for ‘Ms Big’

Date01 April 1994
Publication Date01 April 1994
AuthorAlison Tupman
SubjectAccounting & finance
Looking for 'Ms Big'
Alison Tupman
Alison Tupman
is a lecturer in qualitative research
methods at the Centre for Police and
Criminal Justice Studies at the University
of Exeter. In addition, she lectures on
Criminology, Sexual Crimes and Women,
Crime and Criminal Justice.
Recent criminological attention has tended
to focus upon those areas from which direct
policy proposals can be made, whether it be
to improve the ways in which the criminal
justice system treats victims or the specific
measures that can be taken to prevent
specific types of crime and criminal. Two
areas in particular have proved fruitful: the
'broken windows' thesis of Kelling and
Wilson has led to studies of crime preven-
tion strategies, including ways in which
communities can be encouraged to self-
and the work of
McBarnet and others has focused attention
upon the attitudes of those involved in the
financial services sector towards financial
and business crime. It is argued that the
issue of gender has been largely ignored in
the consideration of financial crime; that
aspects of the 'broken windows' thesis lend
themselves to consideration in the context
of financial crime, and that to investigate
attitudes towards female criminality in the
context of the financial services sector to
look for 'Ms Big' may throw unexpected
light upon the reported incidence of both
male and female criminality in this area.
Since the inception of criminology the
issue of the involvement of women in
crime has been problematic. Theories
about women's criminality have fre-
quently taken a basically biological
stance; although more recently this view
has been challenged by (female) crimin-
ologists,1 nevertheless there has been a
tendency cither to ignore the question of
whether there arc different attitudinal
factors at play, or to assume that the best
explanation for the persistence of the
ratio of
to female crime must lie in
women's biology and psychology.2
Of course, originally biological and
psychological explanations for criminal-
ity were not given solely for women
alone. Yet whereas the general failure of
criminology to provide a causal theory
for criminality led to a change of
emphasis in the nature of its concerns,
moving on to consider specific types of
criminal and criminal activity, such as
delinquency, the behaviour of gangs,
rational choice-making by burglars, and
the like, the exploration of gender in
specific types of criminality has largely
fallen by the wayside. Yet the positivist
notion, that the difference in recorded
criminality rates for the sexes reflects
reality, can still be detected in the per-
sistence of the question 'Why do women
commit less crime than men?' The idea
that reported and recorded crime rates
can be safely taken as 'true' has been
abandoned otherwise, and indeed the
way in which crime statistics arc pro-

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