Images of deviant women

  • Frances Heidensohn
Part of the Women in Society book series (WOSO)


Probably the most important single contribution made by modern sociologists to the study of deviance has been their emphasis on the need to study public descriptions of, and social reactions to, deviant behaviour. Becker’s famous definition:

Deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’. The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label (Becker, 1963, p. 9)

has been much criticised (see, for example, Plummer, 1979, pp. 87–9). Nevertheless, the ‘labelling’ approach with its emphasis on the reactions of others has had considerable significance in helping to focus research and develop important new understandings well beyond the adherents of that particular approach.


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Copyright information

© Frances Heidensohn 1996

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  • Frances Heidensohn

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