Public Feminist Criminologies: Activist-Scholars in Violence Against Women Policy

Ms Ruth Liston1, Dr  Anastasia  Powell1
1Rmit University , Melbourne, Australia

Engaging with the public and seeking to influence policy on behalf of women who experience violence is an integral part of the work of many feminist criminologists. In this paper we will reflect upon our role as public feminist criminologists seeking to address, and ultimately prevent, violence against women. In so doing we will draw on specific examples from our own working lives, which we suggest are indicative of a more common experience and set of tensions for the public feminist criminologist. We will discuss the nature of public engagements and impact of feminist criminologies on violence against women policy. Then, we will consider the opportunities and problematics of emotional appeals in violence against women policy activism, which can easily be co-opted to support penal populist policy agendas. Next, we discuss the challenges of backlash, which is increasingly apparent in response to public feminist criminologists (as indeed it is for other public feminists). Finally, we consider a further potential identity of the public feminist criminologist, that of the survivor-scholar. We suggest that there is a triple-burden facing the public feminist criminologist in VAW policy: as one who is simultaneously engaging on issues of inequality publicly, as well as often within the academy itself, whilst also having either direct or indirect experience of gendered violence and inequality in their professional and personal life. Ultimately we argue that there are experiences inherent to the feminist criminologist working on violence against women that are different from many other policy advocacy fields in criminology.


Ruth Liston is a lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University. Ruth’s research is focused on teaching criminology, youth justice and preventing gender-based violence. Her research career has extended beyond the academy through her previous role in government policy and research, as well as undertaking commissioned research for the violence against women sector.

Dr Anastasia Powell is an Associate Professor in Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia). Anastasia’s research lies at the intersections of gender, violence, justice, technology and digital culture. Recent books include: Digital Criminology (Routledge, 2018 with Drs Stratton and Cameron), and Sexual Violence in a Digital Age (Springer, 2017 with Dr Henry).




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