This study uses observational, social network, and self-report survey data from a large study of male gangs in Chicago, 1959–62, to examine intragroup relationships and behaviors among their female auxiliaries, particularly the Vice Ladies and Cobraettes. Unlike descriptions of the female gang as forming a cohesive "sister-hood," our findings revealed frequent intragroup conflict and loosely connected friendship networks. Consistent with the bulk of contemporary literature, the Chicago gang girls appeared to maintain ties with one another less for affective reasons than for the benefits they provided in the streets (e.g., peer backup). Regarding their behaviors, the Chicago gang girls engaged in both socio-sexual and stereotypically male activities, including strong-arm robbery and purse-snatching. Although sex sometimes was used to gain favor with boys, we found no evidence of it being valued and rewarded with prestige among homegirls. Instead, the most sexually active girls tended to be the least popular in the gang. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of "bad girl femininity" performed by gang girls and gang involvement as a resource for "bargaining with patriarchy."


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pp. 493-517
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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