Thinking About Gender, Vulnerability and Fear of Crime

Heather Schramm, University of Toronto

: In "Doing Gender", West and Zimmerman describe gender as a 'routine, methodical and recurring accomplishment' (1987:126). Stanko applies this constructionist perspective to women's practices of crime prevention. In "Safety Talk" she asserts that being a woman means being aware of one's vulnerability to crime and incivilities (1996). Hence, doing gender means doing safety. Recent work by Hollander has further explored the construction of gender around issues of danger (2001). She found that femininity and vulnerability are strongly linked in conversations about violence. However, femininity need not always be constructed as vulnerable. Women do overcome fear of crime in public spaces (Koskela 1997) and can reconstruct femininity to include aggressive behaviour (McCaughey 1998). To more fully understand the gendered nature of fear and vulnerability, intra-gender diversity on this topics must be examined. Therefore, this paper will explore the variation in women's fear of crime and the differing responses to it. Using data from the 1999 Canadian General Social Survey on Personal Risk, structural variables will be examined in tandem with routine activities to account for the different ways women deal with their fear of crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006