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Gabe Morales
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Female Gangs
  

Female GangsFemale gangs are an interesting phenomenon and females have been involved in gangs since gangs have ever been documented. As the female population being incarcerated has gone up slowly in recent years so has the very slight rise of incarcerated female gang members. The most common reason given by girls for joining gangs is "protection", usually from other girls, but sometimes from sexual or physical abuse by the father. Another big reason was rebellion by girls towards their parent(s). They didn’t want to have to follow the rules or stated they didn’t get along with their parents. Many times they just wanted the power and freedom to do whatever they wanted and gangs provided that need to have fun. Their gang friends often replaced their family and provided a sense of belonging. Many times an older female(s) take on the role of the mother and advisor to the younger ones.

In the past, females have been associated with their male counterparts in such acts as holding weapons or drugs for the male members. They may also be used to lure gang rivals to certain locations so they can be victimized or to gather intelligence on rivals and sometimes even on police. Sometimes they run gang websites or are on "Facebook" to run gang communications.

They are often seen as "tools" by male members. Many times females are "sexed into a gang". They do not get much respect and are usually only recognized as associates or even worse as "ghetto rats" and not members at all. They’re often treated as sex objects and may only be allowed to hang around in crash pads and gang houses as long as she puts out for the males. She may see many examples of how other girls in the gang do this and feel it is ok for herself.

Although it has happened on occasion, it is very rare to see female leaders of predominately male gangs. Females are becoming increasingly more active in their gang role and may have large gang tattoos, teardrops, and battle scars just like the guys. There have been documented cases of all female gangs, but usually the females are a faction of the larger male gang. For instance, the female Sharkettes were part of the larger male Pomona 12th Street Sharkies gang, and Playgirl Surenas (PGS) are a sub-clique of Playboy Surenos (PBS), but there may be standalone female gangs such as Surena Maldita Locas (SML) that may align with other male gangs and act as "Party Girl Crews". Mexican gangs usually use the word "clica or clique" to describe their gang or varrio. Black gangs and other groups usually use the word "set". A female gang epidemic never happened as some predicted.

One common problem females face in the community, and even when they are locked up, is that the system and assistance programs are often geared towards males. Females may be directed to "Arts & Crafts or Sowing Programs" while the males are taught a more marketable job skill. It is just the opposite on the street, outside service providers often will meet the needs of females, especially those with children, while males often lack services. In jail and prison, girls usually make up less than 5-10% of the total gang membership, but many are known gang associates.

  
Female Gang Violence
  

There are some female gang members today that are initiated by "beating in or crimed in" like the males. As described in “Girl Heroes: The New Force In Popular Culture” (Susan Hopkins-2002), young females growing up today have seen more "role models" doing violence in movies like "Charlie's Angels" and Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill". After the movie, some females even used the term, "You got Uma'd!" (Your Butt Kicked!) Violence is growing amongst females and female gang members but is often greatly exaggerated. A review of female arrests from 1984-93 showed murder was up 78%, robbery up 89.4%, and aggravated assault arrests up 108.9%.

At first look, these statistics may appear alarming; however, the vast majority of violent crime committed in America is still done by boys. Girls made up a small percentage of the overall numbers of violent crime in 1984 and still do today. Girls are 3 times more likely than boys to be involved in "property offenses" and larceny. (Curry, Ball, and Fox 1994).

According to a recent survey of the criminal records of 100 female gang members who have been incarcerated in major urban juvenile facilities, jail, or prison, the most common felony convictions were for Drugs, Theft, TMV’s, Assault, and Robbery. Females often start out their criminal careers shoplifting with other girls or joyriding with guys, they also start doing drugs which was their most common conviction, and may eventually turn to prostitution to support their habit if they remain on the streets. Most females do not stay in gangs, many respond quite well to counseling, and later raise families. Many times, a bulldog female or aggressive females will attempt to control the housing unit by intimidating weaker inmates and demanding sexual favors for protection. (Morales 2003)

One common problem females face in the community, and even when they are locked up, is that the system and assistance programs are often geared towards males. Females may be directed to "Arts & Crafts or Sowing Programs" while the males are taught a more marketable job skill. In jail and prison, girls usually make up less than 5-10% of the total gang membership, but many are known gang associates. Whether they are members or associates they are often subject to violence. (BEST-Barrio Eighteenth Street, Mara Salvatrucha, and Other Sureno Gangs Across America-Eways/Morales 2012)  

In prison or jail, they may be subject to violence but less than they may see on the street. They may actually feel safer in jail and often clean up their drug habit. Many come into custody with ugly sores and abscesses all over their body from drug abuse. Many times they leave looking much better physically than when they were booked in. They may be suffering from severe emotional and mental problems, which if left untreated, will likely cause them to return to custody.
  
Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community (G.C. Morales 2000)
  

In the past, females have been associated with their male counterparts in such acts as holding weapons or drugs for the male members. Pachucas, Rucas, Cholas, or Homegirls, they were sometimes voluntarily sexed in as an initiation process to become a member. Most gangs have been traditionally been very sexist in that the gang members believed a macho guy’s job is to "gang-bang" (fight) while a woman’s job is to stay home and have children. (14) Sometimes the girls are tolerated within the gang for sex or to act as lookouts or to spy on rivals for the males. Many times fights over females are a big reason behind gang confrontations. If disrespected, the males may retaliate. (15) Recently, females in some Hispanic gangs have requested to be "beaten or jumped in" just like the males sometimes operating with independent female gangs. (16) Common names may be "Las Chicanas", "Las Locas", or "Thee Sadgirls", etc. There are a few documented cases of females having a strong leadership role in male-dominated gangs.' (17)

(14-17 Exerts from Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community 1998, 2000, 2006, 2012)

Fight or Flight?

Many times disputes between females will be verbal but they may be ok to co-exist after a short "cooling off period". Males tend to hold grudges and will get into a physical confrontation or a "Code Blue" situation often months after a perceived insult. They may not tell authorities they had a problem with another male. The "fight syndrome" is stronger with the males. The "flight syndrome" is more common with females. They are more likely to communicate with a third party and ask for help to avoid conflicts and try to hash them out. Still, females have been generally found to have a higher number of Keep Separates From or Enemies in Custody. Many times these are disputes over males or with other females over issues that have not been worked out yet. This compounds problems in that there are very few female units to begin with and a shortage of deadlock or Administrative Segregation space for female offenders.

Female STG’s/gang members can disrupt the entire unit. They generally have foul mouths, many times even worse than the guys do! They may scream out loud and use the words "Bitches and Ho's". This is really a "defense mechanism" from other females and many times they have been called these names in the past by abusive males. The word "Jaina or Hyna" does not mean "Bitch", it is a Calo or Chicano Slang word that means "girlfriend" just like "Wuisa or Ruca" means, but "Cabrona or Puta" are put downs that means "Bitch" and "Ho". Many of females are really scared and fearful of what others may do to them based on past experiences of violence. They usually prefer to wear pants on the streets, not dresses, and don't consider themselves to be "lady-like". Again, many females whether gang or non-gang affiliated came from dysfunctional families. Many times females are addicted to drugs or alcohol and will have a harder time withdrawing or detoxing than the guys. But, they can be helped!
  
  
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