Few studies of gangs have explored both ethnic and gender variations in the experience of gang membership. Based on an analysis of interviews with 48 youth from a number of ethnic gangs in Hawaii, this article explores boys' and girls' reasons for joining gangs. The results suggest that although gang members face common problems, they deal with these in ways that are uniquely informed by gender and ethnicity. The interviews also confirm that extensive concern about violent criminal activities in boys' (...) gangs has distracted researchers from exploring the wide range of activities and experiences gangs provide their members. Girls and boys growing up in poor and violent neighborhoods turn to the gangs for many reasons, and the gangs themselves take on a variety of forms in response to the diverse challenges facing their members. Most important, the interviews reveal that girls and boys, even those in the same ethnic groups, inhabit worlds that are heavily influenced by gender. As a result, male and female gangs tend to provide different sets of experiences, skill, and opportunities to their members. (shrink)
This commentary focuses on the role played by constructions of women's violence in the maintenance of male control over women. While actual women's violence tends to be denied, pathologized or minimized, cultural constructions (particularly in the media) of women's violence tend to demonize it. Both of these androcentric cultural processes fail to illuminate the actual sources of the gender gap in violent behavior and instead tend to normalize male aggression and to cultivate female passivity.