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Neither Villain nor Victim

Neither Villain nor Victim: Empowerment and Agency among Women Substance Abusers

Edited by Tammy L. Anderson
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Neither Villain nor Victim
    Book Description:

    Female drug addicts are often stereotyped either as promiscuous, lazy, and selfish, or as weak, scared, and trapped into addiction. These depictions typify the "pathology and powerlessness" narrative that has historically characterized popular and academic conversations about female substance abusers.Neither Villain Nor Victimattempts to correct these polarizing perspectives by presenting a critical feminist analysis of the drug world. By shifting the discussion to one centered on women's agency and empowerment, this book reveals the complex experiences and social relationships of women addicts.Essays explore a range of topics, including the many ways that women negotiate the illicit drug world, how former drug addicts manage the more intimate aspects of their lives as they try to achieve abstinence, how women tend to use intervention resources more positively than their male counterparts, and how society can improve its response to female substance abusers by moving away from social controls (such as the criminalization of prostitution) and rehabilitative programs that have been shown to fail women in the long term.Advancing important new perspectives about the position of women in the drug world, this book is essential reading in courses on women and crime, feminist theory, and criminal justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4463-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Claire M. Renzetti

    The images are familiar, not only in popular culture but in the social science literature as well. Thefemaledrug addict—the gendered adjective necessary because the images conjured are so different for women than for men—is villain or victim. She is a favorite target of derision for any number of the traits imputed to her: her promiscuity, her lack of will, her neglect of her children or others close to her, her selfishness, her self-pity and self-loathing. To test the pervasiveness of these images, I asked a group of students what comes to their minds when they hear...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Tammy L. Anderson

    Since the appearance of scholarship on women’s substance abuse in the last quarter of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century, academics, policy makers, and practitioners have been engaged in a vibrant and important discussion about how a historically neglected population has altered our understanding of and response to one of the most important social problems of our time. Gender-oriented substance abuse research in the 1970s and 1980s initiated this awakening with studies on women’s heroin, marijuana, and psychotropic drug use (Prather and Fidell 1978; Gomberg 1982, 1986; Rosenbaum 1981) and its impact on parenting, health, and well-being. This...

  6. Part I Empowered Negotiation of the Illicit Drug Economy

    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 11-14)

      Part I of this book includes chapters by Anderson, Ettorre, Baskin and Sommers, and Mullins. They focus on how women are involved in and negotiate the illicit drug world, mainly through drug selling or marketing activities. These chapters cover the modernized roles women now play in illicit drug world social and economic organization, and the styles these women use to complete that work. The various types of agency the women use can be quite empowering, earning them both structural and relational power, even though also yielding consequence.

      Over time, scholarship has been slow to acknowledge women’s participation in illicit drug...

    • Chapter 1 Dimensions of Women’s Power in the Illicit Drug Economy
      (pp. 15-32)
      Tammy L. Anderson

      The purpose of this chapter is to advance our understanding of the gendered social and economic organization of the illicit drug world by articulating several dimensions of women’s power.¹ A central premise is that females routinely perform four core activities (providing housing and other sustenance needs, purchasing drugs, subsidizing male dependency, and participation in drug sales) that not only demonstrate their power in and contribution to the illicit drug world, but also emphasize that its organization is fundamentally gendered. Thus the paper offers an important alternative to the leading “pathology and powerlessness” narrative in the “drugs and crime” discourse. Articulating...

    • Chapter 2 Seeing Women, Power, and Drugs through the Lens of Embodiment
      (pp. 33-48)
      Elizabeth Ettorre

      The emergence of the body as an academic concern is a relatively recent development within the social sciences. Specifically, feminists working on women’s health during the 1970s helped to demonstrate the body as a key area of theoretical interest—albeit their views tended to draw attention to the constraints and/or inequalities of the body culture. In recent years, feminist scholars offered critiques of these earlier views and introduced the notions of agency and subversion into feminist scholarship on the body (Davis 1997,12). Within feminist sociology, bodies have been viewed as cultural and social entities where we shape normal as well...

    • Chapter 3 Demonstrating a Female-Specific Agency and Empowerment in Drug Selling
      (pp. 49-64)
      Deborah R. Baskin and Ira Sommers

      In the late 1980s through the early 1990s, we engaged in research to understand women’s participation in the drug economy. We did in-depth life history interviews with 156 women who sold drugs in two New York neighborhoods: Washington Heights in Manhattan, and Bushwick in Brooklyn. Both neighborhoods had active heroin markets in the 1970s and were the flash points for the growth of cocaine and crack markets a decade later.

      Women were contacted in two ways: as street samples recruited through “snowball” procedures, and through active caseload lists of women incarcerated for drug sale convictions at state and city correctional...

    • Chapter 4 Negotiating the Streets: Women, Power, and Resistance in Street-Life Social Networks
      (pp. 65-84)
      Christopher W. Mullins

      Drugs and violence are inextricably connected on the streets of U.S. cities. Much work has established the association of drug use with other forms of criminal behavior, including violence. This symbiosis is a product of personal, neighborhood, subcultural, and systemic factors, making it nearly impossible to isolate the individual influences of these factors (Baumer 1994; Baumer et al. 1998; Conklin 2003; Goldstein 1985; Goldstein et al. 1991; Grogger 2000; Ousey and Lee 2002; Wright and Decker 1994). In this chapter, I will follow Wright and Decker’s (1994) characterization of criminal embeddedness as inseparable from a culture of desperate partying. Participation...

  7. Part II Exercising Agency in Managing Drug Dependencies

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 85-88)

      Part II addresses the more interpersonal matters related to women’s substance abuse. It focuses on the ways women use agency and power in managing or dealing with drug dependencies and with the relationship complications that arise from these.

      As we have noted, past research has stereotyped women substance abusers as having been introduced to drugs by men and forced to support their own drug habits through prostitution, which subsequently exposes them to more violent victimization. This stereotype is based on presumptions of women’s subordination and of an inability to control their own actions or destinies. In short, women have been...

    • Chapter 5 Women’s Agency in the Context of Drug Use
      (pp. 89-101)
      Yasmina Katsulis and Kim M. Blankenship

      This essay derives from our ethnographic case studies and life-history interviews with thirty-seven female sex workers living in New Haven, CT, who were addicted to crack cocaine, heroine, or both.¹ Framing the interviewees’ stories as performance narratives, we use the content derived from these interviews to illustrate how women process their sense of agency over time, and how it is expressed and shared through narratives about their everyday lives. This agency occurs within the context of multiple social constraints, including their experiences as women coping with issues leading to their substance abuse, their current addictions, and the consequences of their...

    • Chapter 6 Facilitating Change for Women? Exploring the Role of Therapeutic Jurisprudence in Drug Court
      (pp. 102-116)
      Christine A. Saum and Alison R. Gray

      Drug courts are the result of innovative case management and treatment strategies designed to break the drugs–crime cycle for offenders and alleviate problems characteristic of overburdened judiciary systems. Branded a judicial experiment, drug courts were conceived by criminal justice practitioners and treatment providers as promising alternatives to incarceration and probation for drug offenders (Drug Strategies 1999). Because the traditional adversarial methods of the criminal justice system failed to meet the challenge of curtailing drug abuse and drug-related criminal activity, a different approach to dealing with substance-using offenders was imperative. As a result, the drug court model has sought to...

    • Chapter 7 Negotiating Gender for Couples in Methadone Maintenance Treatment
      (pp. 117-134)
      Margaret Kelley

      Women and men have been shown to experience drug treatment differently. My primary research goal here is to examine the experiences of seventeen drug-using couples in methadone maintenance treatment. The data provide a unique opportunity to follow the progress of couples over time as they struggle with drug addiction and gender differences in treatment. In this analysis, I seek to answer the following two questions:

      How do injection drug using couples manage their drug use and treatment?

      How are issues of gender and power negotiated by couples as they move in and out of treatment?

      There is substantial evidence that...

  8. Part III Improved Responses to Drug-Related Problems

    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 135-138)

      The final section of this book addresses how society can improve its responses to female substance abusers by moving away from formal and informal social controls that stymie females’ agency and their accrual of power. Hartwell, Malloch, and Berger, as well as Coontz and Griebel, critically evaluate existing efforts and offer ideas for alternative strategies located within an empowerment and agency perspective. These authors focus mostly on instrumental and political advocacy agency with highly stigmatized groups of women—dually diagnosed (mental illness and substance abuse), inmates, HIV-positives, and sex workers. Therefore, the focus of Part III is on the more...

    • Chapter 8 A Spoonful of Sugar? Treating Women in Prison
      (pp. 139-156)
      Margaret S. Malloch

      This chapter examines the increasing emphasis on criminal justice policy with regard to drug issues, and the implications and effects of this emphasis for women. In particular, it will focus on the expansion of imprisonment for women and the potential consequences of this expansion for the development of services within prisons. This chapter will consider the issues of agency (action that benefits self and others—see Anderson, this volume) and empowerment (ability and competence to influence and achieve desired outcomes—see Anderson, this volume), as experienced and applied by women in prison, through an examination of penal policies and responses...

    • Chapter 9 More of a Danger to Myself: Community Reentry of Dually Diagnosed Females Involved with the Criminal Justice System
      (pp. 157-173)
      Stephanie W. Hartwell

      Utilizing social support, social strain, and feminist perspectives, this chapter examines the quantitative and qualitative data on the reentry experiences of dually diagnosed (mentally ill and substance-abusing) females who have returned to the community from prison. Often treated as a sidebar in the analysis on community reentry experiences, females emerging from the criminal justice system have multiple problems. They also have distinct backgrounds from their male counterparts. After release from correctional facilities, they face numerous challenges but attempt to sustain themselves in the community through inhabiting multiple social roles in the context of complex social relationships. This suggests a highly...

    • Chapter 10 “Hustling” to Save Women’s Lives: Empowerment Strategies of Recovering HIV-Positive Women
      (pp. 174-191)
      Michele Tracy Berger

      A fundamental aim of this book is to situate women’s illicit drug economy experiences within a context of agency and empowerment. We know the familiar narrative of the isolated, despairing woman with HIV/AIDS who formerly used crack cocaine (or other illicit substances). Although a great deal has been written about HIV/AIDS, drugs, and prostitution, there exist few studies of stigmatized women from substanceusing backgrounds who are politically active. The ongoing community work headed by recovering HIV-positive women has, until recently, escaped the sustained attention of feminists, political scientists, and sociologists.

      The respondents I discuss in this chapter offer new examples...

    • Chapter 11 Drug Use, Prostitution, and Globalization: A Modest Proposal for Rethinking Policy
      (pp. 192-211)
      Phyllis Coontz and Cate Griebel

      After almost one hundred years of public debate about the evils of drug use and the immorality of prostitution, our policies remain consistently one-dimensional in their approach: we criminalize both.¹ What accounts for such persistence? Prohibitory legislation tends to grow out of fear, and is favored when a social majority objects on moral grounds to the conduct, value system, or culture of others and imposes regulations upon them (Hunt 1999). The Progressive Era and moral reformers of the early twentieth century led the charge to prohibit drugs and prostitution, because participants were fearful of changes brought about by rapid urbanization...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 212-216)
    Carol E. Tracy

    My first experience in working with women dependent on drugs occurred in 1989 when I was the director of the Mayor’s Commission for Women in Philadelphia. One afternoon, I came back from lunch and found a family waiting in my office: a grandmother, two adult daughters (one of whom was six months pregnant), and three grandchildren. The Johnson family had got off the elevator on the wrong floor, intending to go to Women against Abuse Legal Center, a domestic violence center. My secretary listened to their story and sent them on to me, realizing that they might need other assistance....

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 217-222)
  11. Index
    (pp. 223-226)