Responding to female gang affiliation, an analysis of gender construction

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Nimmo, Melanie R
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This research is based on twenty-four interviews with representatives of different agencies in Manitoba (including criminal justice, inner-city schools, social services and community groups) whose job it is to intervene in the lives of gang women. In depth interviews explored the differences and similarities among various agency members in terms of their experiences with, understandings of, and responses to gang women. These second hand accounts of female gang affiliation contribute to the important task of making the female gang member more visible by giving us a better understanding of the material conditions surrounding female gang affiliation. This research also explores how agency representatives make sense of 'gang women' and 'female violence.' In making sense of this issue, do they locate female gang affiliation in a structural context, constructing the women as 'survivors,' as studies which have contextualized female gang affiliation would advise? Or, do they reflect popular stereotypes found in themedia and traditional criminology which construct 'gang women' as 'mad and/or bad'? By critically assessing how these agencies deal with gang women and by unpacking the various discourses surrounding gender and violence, this research identifies policy implications which can inform strategies for responding to gang women. In particular, this research suggests knowledge and resource sharing amongst the various agencies who come into contact with gang women. We must also address the fact that, currently, all of the gang strategies and programs in Manitoba are created with the male gang member in mind. Further, we must provide alternatives and choices for gang women by listening to them and what they describe as their needs.