When we think of gangsters, most of us visualize Marlon Brando smoking a cigar or Al Pacino shooting up. But are women involved with illicit activities in these illicit operations as well?
Criminal organizations rely heavily on intermediary figures who play important roles in the underworld. Let’s take a look at some of them more closely.
The role of a girl in a gang
While organized crime tends to be male-dominated, there have been notable female infiltrators into its ranks – most notably Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame, known for bank robbing and killing opponents within opposing gangs; she became an iconic folk hero during what’s referred to as the “public enemy era.”
Moll is the common term for women associated with criminal organizations who serve as companions or conspirators with them, such as Al Capone’s wife Mae or George “Baby Face” Nelson’s girlfriend Helen. Gun moll is another term often applied to this group due to their love of guns.
The role of a girl in a drug gang
Girls and women are increasingly being recruited into drug dealing gangs known as county lines, subjecting them to violence, danger, exploitation and often sexual violence – yet society largely fails to acknowledge and address their situation. This issue must no longer go ignored – now is the time for us to support these vulnerable young women rather than blaming gangs!
Research indicates that girls and young women join gangs for similar reasons as boys and men do, including protection from other gangs or neighborhood violence, income generation opportunities, preexisting social or familial ties to the gang, respectability, etc. Unfortunately, many practitioners working with children involved with gangs interpret their behaviors using traditional, androcentric interpretations of gang involvement which frames their behaviour either as perpetrators or victims-perpetrators, perpetuating myths such as domestic violence being cultural and exploiting only poor communities (Casey 2015).
Many interviewees noted that being part of gang “families” provided them with security from violence from both within their gang as well as violence from outside, particularly within romantic relationships. Furthermore, being part of these ‘families’ allowed access to resources they otherwise couldn’t get their hands on such as jewellery, cars and clothing that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible.
Women were also informed they could join a gang by either being physically assaulted or prostituting themselves, with beatings serving as an indicator of strength, honour, and courage that could earn them great respect in the group; prostituting themselves would lead them simply into becoming known as ‘hittas’ – female shooters.
Recent UK government report by Local Government Association warned of girls and women being intentionally recruited into gangs for exploitative drug dealing gangs that often engage in acts of sexual violence and torture on victims. Though more young women than ever before are involved with these gangs, their experiences rarely surface in academic research or media reporting – in fact Thrasher’s Survey in 936 completely ignored female members!