Women in Control? The Role of Women in Law Enforcement

Women in Control? The Role of Women in Law Enforcement

Women in Control? The Role of Women in Law Enforcement

Women in Control? The Role of Women in Law Enforcement

Synopsis

How far have women progressed in the "unfeminine" career of policing? How far do they want to go? How far will their male colleagues and the public let them? Women in Control? breaks new ground by discussing the role of women in relation to controlling crime and disorder. Women have struggled to gain influence in policing, progressing only slowly until the 1970s, when equal opportunities legislation brought integration and some measure of success. Based on a series of interviews with British and U.S. officers, this work examines their experiences in dealing with crime, vice, and everyday incidents--including hostility and harassment by their male colleagues. It highlights the role of women in law enforcement in Great Britain and the United States and the importance of gender in social control.

Excerpt

Social scientists can learn much from the study of images. In the early 1990s, for instance, it was possible to collect a striking series of pictures of women from western mass media. Margaret Thatcher, Britain's Prime Minister for more than eleven years, resigned. World-wide she was shown not only departing in dramatic style, but her premiership was portrayed and analysed at length. A few months later, Edith Cresson became the first female Prime Minister of France. Between these two political events, women serving in the Coalition Forces in the Gulf War were depicted in combat gear and with weapons and also embracing their children as they left for the war. The most senior woman police officer in Britain claimed that she had been sexually discriminated against and was suspended while a disciplinary charge was brought against her. Fictional portrayals of women as detectives, especially in television series, are not new, but the 1990s saw new departures with films such as Nikita, Blue Steel, and The Silence of the Lambs in all of which the pursuing officer is a tough, armed female.

What all these have in common is that they show women in real or imaginary situations of control or command. Now these phenomena can be interpreted in many ways. Gun-toting women can be seen as male fantasy figures (indeed, this is the basis of the plot of Blue Steel) and close to forms of pornography. However, in this book I shall contend that these selected snapshots do record events and changes of a deeper and more significant kind. In particular, I shall argue that the part played by women in various forms of social control has altered considerably during the twentieth century; it has done so only slowly and jerkily, but the process continues and is now sufficiently notable to repay careful study. It is a process worth the attention not only of those interested in women and their position in our society and in the consequences of any shifts, but also of a much greater audience of those concerned about broader questions of social order and social change, about . . .

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