Social Control of Girls Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1099 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Social Control of Girls -- the prisons of institutions

Policing female sexuality in the guise of rehabilitating fallen women and punishing female criminals has been virtually synonymous since the birth of the institution of the prison. In Victorian England, "a female penitentiary was not a penal institution for the punishment of crime, but a charitable enterprise" (Mumm 1996:1). It was supposedly entered voluntarily by fallen women who were prostitutes. The purpose of these institutions, and more religiously based institutions like the Anglican Magdalene Houses, run by women who had taken a vow of chastity, was to teach the prostitutes the error of their ways, and to reeducate them in their roles as 'proper' women. The women were lower class, their patrons were usually middle or upper-class men, but only the women were regarded as fallen, or outside of the pale of society. By reforming the women, these institutions hoped to create a more moral society, but it was women's bodies and minds that had to be controlled and reformed, not the sexual desires of men.

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Early institutional education of girls had a similar function of rooting out and punishing faults -- in one famous literary account, based upon the author's life, the young Jane Eyre is forced to wear a placard around her neck proclaiming herself a liar for the supposed sin she has committed. By doing so, he is being educated how to prepare for her role of service, as she is not of the upper classes, and thus might likely 'fall' if not appropriately humbled. Another of her classmates, an attractive girl, has her natural curls cut off for fear that her hair making her vain and presumably, when she grows older, will attract male sexual attention.

Term Paper on Social Control of Girls Assignment

If these 19th century examples of institutional control of young women seem extreme or too far removed from our own era, consider that in 1950s and 1960s America, many unmarried young women who became pregnant were sent away to reformatories or religious schools when their pregnancy became visible. Torn away from their families, often unable to graduate high school, they were penalized for sexual activity and made examples of for other girls, while the fathers of the children were not. The young women were often not allowed to decide if they wanted to keep their children. It was assumed that having made a 'wrong' decision, that they should abdicate all social control over their own bodies to their elders, including their parents and the people who ran these houses (Fessler 2006). The notion of pregnancy as a 'confinement,' supposedly for the women's health, or the girl's social standing in this case indicates the societal anxiety and shame attached to the obvious result of female sexuality -- a baby. But young women who did not conform to expectations that they only engage in sexual activity until they were married were punished. Until quite recently, high schools would ban obviously pregnant girls from going to class or participating in extracurricular activities, for fear of encouraging other girls to follow suit (Verhoven 1994: 1)

Within the formal juvenile justice system, girls made up 60% of defendants charged with crimes they would not be accused of, were they not juveniles. These crimes include appearing running away from home, or loitering. Despite the fact that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Social Control of Girls" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Social Control of Girls.  (2007, October 12).  Retrieved February 25, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Social Control of Girls."  12 October 2007.  Web.  25 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Social Control of Girls."  October 12, 2007.  Accessed February 25, 2020.