U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

On Gang Girls, Gender and a Structured Action Theory: A Reply to Miller

NCJ Number
Theoretical Criminology Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2002 Pages: 461-475
James W. Messerschmidt
Date Published
November 2002
15 pages
This article discusses the contention that structured action theory is tautological (needlessly repetitive) because it converts into gender difference.
Citing selected evidence from a study of gang girls, “One of the Guys” (2001), and using the concept of gender crossing, it was previously suggested that structured action theory is capable only of conceptualizing differences within femininities and crime and is unable to recognize the commonalities across gender. Much research on gender and crime has neglected the combined importance of social situations, the fluidity of gender, and structured relations of gender, race, and class. When different contexts are examined, situations can be conceptualized where gender difference is highly prominent when compared to those situations in which gender difference is relatively diminished. The case of gang girls exhibits a unique fluidity of gender in which different gender practices are emphasized or avoided depending on the social setting. Occasionally, gang girls engage in behavior, such as physical violence, that is similar to behavior usually associated with gang boys. More detail and analyses are required on why gang girls engage in crime, how gang girls “do” crime differently, what the different meanings of crime are to gang girls, under what circumstances gang girls engage in crime, and how their crimes relate to masculinities and femininities. Structured action theory does not convert gender difference, but rather acknowledges that both gang boys and girls are capable of “doing” masculinities and femininities. What is essential for understanding these various forms of gender construction and their relation to crime is conceptualizing how social action is structured by specific gender relations (and race and class) within particular gangs. 11 notes, 24 references