4 Tutorials that teach Race, Gender and Deviance
Take your pick:
Race, Gender and Deviance

Race, Gender and Deviance

Author: Zach Lamb

This lesson will discuss how race and gender are related to deviance. Gender is discussed using the feminist perspective. The lesson also discusses how racial hostility motivates hate crime.

See More
Introduction to Sociology

Want to study the effects of an affordable education?
Our Intro to Sociology course for only $329.

Sophia's online courses not only save you up to 80% over traditional college**, but are also eligible for credit transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.* Start a free trial now.


Race, Gender, and Deviance

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. Thank you for joining me. In this lesson, we're going to discuss the intersection of sociological categories like gender and race with deviance. So how does and how do gender, so male, female, race relate to deviance?

Well, in virtually every society in the world, men have tried to control the behavior of women. And women face many more constraints than men do. So women's lives have remained more regulated, highly controlled, and even in the US today, this is still the case.

Women's lives have been centered around the home. And they face constraints trying to go outside the home. Whereas men, their lives are around the public sphere, around employment, around pursuing careers, around being seen, being out in public. Being in the world acting.

Whereas the opportunities for women to do this have been constrained by men. So we see then in things like the military, politics, and athletic pursuits, women are still constrained in opportunity relative to men today even. And constraints are society's way of attempting to regulate behavior, and control, and define what is right and what is wrong.

So if women are going to be facing a lot more constraints than men, they're likely to be labeled deviant a lot more often than men. Because they violate these constraints that men have forced upon them in society. And women have historically enjoyed less power than men.

So the behavior of women because of this powerlessness relative men has been much more likely to be labeled as deviant than the behavior of men. Because it reflects the power asymmetry of the two genders and the fact that society has tried to constrain the behavior of women.

So for instance in the 19th century, a woman wanting to get out of the house and pursue a career in the public space or even demand access to equal education, she ran the risk of being labeled as deviant. Because she was challenging the constraints that the male dominated society had set up. So thereby, she becomes labeled deviant.

You might remember this woman Harriet Martineau who we discussed in another tutorial. She was out there advocating for equal education and equal opportunity rights for women. Super early on. And so she was definitely running the risk of being labeled as a deviant.

She's not deviant by today's standards certainly and we would now say it was morally in the right and was not deviant. But because there was all these constraints set up on the behavior of women in her society, she ran the risk of being labeled deviant. There is no group out there that is more powerful than men.

So there's no one trying to constrain the behavior of men. Then like there are somebody trying to constrain the behavior of women. So men are much less likely to be labeled deviant.

Now fast forward to today. The act of prostitution typically involves both genders, a male and a female. And it typically involves the woman selling her sex to a male. Well, the woman, the one who's selling her sex is labelled deviantly as a prostitute. Whereas, the man often will escape any kind of deviant label or punishment.

So the power structure then sets up the fact that women are going to be labeled deviant much more often than men. The feminist perspective on deviance has recognized the constraints that women face and highlight the fact that women's behavior is often judged differently than men's behavior in society. And so this even extends into existing theories of deviance that are the subject of others tutorials in this course.

So, for instance, strain theory. Strain theory does not adequately address deviance of women, necessarily. Because Merton's strain theory, he defined cultural goals of financial success. And financial success is typically a male centric goal.

Meaning that males have historically been in the public space pursuing careers and financial success. And women have not. So this idea of strain between wanting to get financial success and not having the opportunities to do so, legitimately causing strain. That explains male deviance much better than it explains female deviance.

Little attention has been paid in strain theory to the strain that results from this ideal of cultural equality and the reality of gender inequality in society. So strain theory does is not address women's deviance as well.

Because women might be acting out deviantly because they're after this ideal of cultural equality. And they feel strain because they want equality, but then their gender still limits their opportunities. So Merton doesn't address this.

We can apply this lens of power differential to understand why people of color are more likely to be labeled as deviant, as well. So shifting categories a bit to race and the relationship of race to deviance, it's a similar story. In that white people have historically occupied a position of power relative to people of color and have attempted to control their behavior as much as possible.

And so somebody who is black is much more likely to be labeled deviant for their activity because of the power asymmetry in society. Indeed, the United States had a long history of racial discrimination. Because black people were systematically subjugated, their behavior's much more likely to be labeled as deviant.

And this has had sad consequences in an era when black people, for instance, could be lynched for petty offenses. And sometimes for no offenses at all. And whites never had this happen. Whites were the ones that were doing these atrocities. So black people then with this lynching example were used to define the boundaries of deviance.

It's like you could say, it was an example. Like don't you dare interact with them because you look what happens. It defines the boundary of deviance for the rest of the community. Even to this day, studies of the death penalty have shown that the death penalty is unequally applied racially.

So, for instance, if there are two similar crimes, crime a and crime b. On the one hand, if it's a black man who commits a crime against a white woman and a white man who commits a very similar crime to a white woman, the black man, the study had found, is much more likely to be put to death and sentenced to the death penalty than the white man.

So this is an example still of how the entrenched power structure in society is much more likely to label the behavior of racial categories of minorities as deviant. We're now going to shift gears a little bit and discuss an area where race and deviance intersect. And this is through a discussion of hate crimes.

Hate crimes are criminal acts that are motivated by race, sexual orientation, religion, or some form of bias. A few recent examples of hate crimes come to mind. You might remember a student at University of Wyoming, a gay student, Matthew Shepard, who was killed by another group of males for his sexual orientation. It's a really tragic story.

Recently, in the post 9/11 world, people who are Muslims in this country have been targeted as victims of hate crimes because of their religion. Earlier in the lesson, we discussed black people who were lynched. This is an example of a hate crime being perpetrated as a result of race. Too often when we think hate crimes though, we only associate with minorities.

But in 2008, 1 in 6 hate crimes were committed against white people for their white race. So hate crimes can go both ways. It's where biases induce criminal activity. Hate crimes result from the threat of difference. You need to stigmatize a group in society. And they can be held as an example of all the social ills, for example.

And especially the Muslim hate crimes after 9/11. People rally around this like a symbol of what they think is wrong, ill-founded obviously, but they get attacked for this reason.

Well, thank you for joining me and discussing hate crimes, and gender, and racial categories as they relate to deviance. Have a great rest of your day.

  • Hate Crime

    Criminal acts motivated by race, sexual orientation, religion of some form of bias.

  • Feminist Perspective on Deviance

    Emphasizes the subordinate position of women all over the world and draws attention to the fact that existing theories of deviance such as strain, social conflict, and labeling theory, have not adequately addressed the reasons women may become deviant.