Feminism and the family

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  • Feminism and the Family:
    • What do they believe:
      • Most feminist believe that the family exploits and oppresses women.
      • From a feminists perspective the family helps to maintain the existing social order.
      • They call this existing social order patriarchy which is a combination of systems, ideologies and cultural practices which makes sure that men have the power.
      • Feminist theory argues that the family supports and reproduces inequalities between men and women.
      • The idea is that women are oppressed because they're socialised to be dependent on men- and put themselves in second place to men
      • Male and female roles and expectations are formed in the family and then carried on into wider society.
      • Feminists sociologists say that there's an ideology about men's roles and women's roles in the family.
    • Marxists feminists:
      • What they think:
        • They see the exploitation of women as essential to the success on capitalism
        • Benston
          • Argues that women are unpaid for a great deal of labour and to pay women for this would mean a redistribution of wealth.
          • This means that men who work for a wage are limited in their power because they cannot give up their job because they have others to support.
          • So not only does the family produce and rear cheap labour, it also maintains it at no cost to the employer.
          • Also within the family children learn their role and submit to authority without question.
          • The foundation is therefore laid for a submissive and obedient workforce required by capitalism.
        • Criticisms:
          • They view the family as one dimensional with no influence from factors like culture, class, or alternative family types like same sex
          • They do not recognise that women have fought back and family relationships are now changing, women are no longer victims of marriage
        • Overall:
          • The focus on women as mothers puts cultural pressure on them to have children and take time out of their careers and benefits capitalism by creating a new work force
          • The socialisation of children ensures the pattern of male dominance and female subornation is continued from generation to generation which capitalism needs to survive.
          • The social policies of the state support traditional roles within the home and women's responsibility for domestic labour i.e. women rights to maternity pay compared to men's paternity.
    • Radical Feminists:
      • Delphy and Leonard (1992)
        • Criticisms:
          • Evidence to back up there ideas is limited because they all focused on working class individuals, so they are not generalizable to all families
          • They do not take into account families without a main head or families headed by women
        • They argue that material factors adds to women's oppression and they believe that men benefit from this.
        • They key to this exploitation Is that family members work not for themselves but for the head of the household.
        • They identified features as the main characteristic of the family as an economic system:
          • the head of the family usually has monopoly over property and external relations
          • within the family payment is in kind and does not involve economic relationships do not usually involve contracts
          • every family based structure has roles the head (mainly men) and dependents
          • they type and amount of work family members have is usually sex related i.e. women do domestic work
          • the head of the household makes the final decsions
          • wives in work have to work and also work within the home
          • a man provides for his dependants and inherited money is not related to this
          • the head of the household provides maintenance, others work for him unpaid
        • Quite often women provide additional support i.e. doing business accounts, entertaining clients, support is also moral with work related problems
        • Also women do not get equal material benefits, men have more leisure time, access to the family car etc..
        • They believe that the family is patriarchal (male headed) through which the men dominate and exploit the women
        • In relation to domestic labour studies, men benefit from this situation because they do not help significantly with either domestic chores or childcare.
      • Purdy (1997)
        • Criticisms:
          • One factor of exploitation is highlighted, therefore the theory is incomplete
        • Purdy believes that feminism should try to couter the assumption having childred is necessarily desirable and somewhat expected.
        • She argues there are a number of disadvantages, they are expensive and increase commitment therefore making employment difficult in relation to competing for jobs with men
        • She proposes that inequalities come from child care responsibilities rather than from material inequalities.
        • She argues that women are taken for granted and that only a baby strike will men sit up and take notice.
      • Greer (2002)
        • Criticisms:
          • She underestimat-es the progress made by women and some of the statements are very sweeping
        • She goes on to argue that motherhood may be satisfying but it is not valued by society, mothers provide and nourish children when they then leave and are under no obligation to return this care in parents later lives.
        • The relationship is obviously unequal. Hugh divorce rates are due to women no longer being content with this oppression and women are no longer happy with unsatisfactor-y relationships
        • so the family does little to benefit women and therefore they should adopt a matrilocal family relationship, where the adults are female. If not then the woman can continue to accept the humiliation of conventional families
        • The role of Cherie Blair and Hillary Clinton for example show that such a role demands that the women must be at her husbands side on all formal occasions, she must also be seen to adore him and accept all that he does.
        • Women are expected to regain their figures, are rejected from restaurants etc., and are expected to return to work
        • There is a strong ideology suggesting that being a wife is the most important female role.
        • Finally society and children often blame mothers fro what goes wrong in their lives.
      • They see the oppression of women as fundamental and society is see as male dominated and that women are held to have different interests to men. They see the family as an important tool in maintaining male power.
    • Liberal Feminism:
      • Criticisms:
        • Greer argues that it fails to deal with the patriarchal structures within the family and society
      • Somerville (2000)
        • Women have greater freedom to work, they can choose to marry of cohabit, become single-mothers or have a gay relationship.
        • Proposes moderate reform and the progress that women have made.
        • However women are still resentful about men who do no do their fair share and that women should look for satisfaction in their children.
        • There is a need she argues for policies to help equality especially with working mothers in relation to flexible hours etc..
        • Only then will women feel that there is a significant movement towards equality
      • Liberal feminists are concerned with campaigning against sex discrimination and for equal rights and opportunities for women e.g. equal pay
        • They argue that women's oppression is being gradually overcome through changing peoples attitudes and through changes in the law such as the Sex Discriminatio-n Act 1975, which outlaws discrimination in employment
        • They believe we are moving towards a greater equality, but that full equality will depend on further reforms and changes in the attitudes and socialisation patterns of both sexes
    • Black Feminism:
      • Asian women may experience more patriarchy in their families that white women, and my have to do more house work and child care.
      • They have more religious and cultural    responsibility-es than other groups too, and are can be an issue.
      • African-Caribbean women, for example are more likely to be single parents n white or Asian women.
      • They argue most white feminists tend to group all women together and ignore the ethnic differences that exist between women.
      • Black feminists are often critical of other  feminists.
      • Black feminists argue their ethnicity is at least as important as their gender.
    • Difference Feminism:
      • They argue for example, that lesbian and heterosexual women, white and black women, middle-class and working-class women, and so on, have very difference experiences of the family from one another.
      • However feminists argue that this approach neglects the fact that, despite such differences, women do in fact share many of the same experiences
        • For example compared with men, they face a greater risk of domestic violence and sexual assaults, low pay and so on.
      • The feminists approaches that we have considered so far all tend to assume that most women live in conventional nuclear families and they share a similar experience of family life
      • However difference feminists argue that we cannot generalise about women's experience in this way.
      • Instead black feminists view the black family positively as a source of support and resistant against racism
      • For example, black feminists argue that by regarding the family solely as a source of oppression, white feminists neglect black women's experience of radical oppression.
      • For example compared with men, they face a greater risk of domestic violence and sexual assaults, low pay and so on.
    • Evaluation:
      • Some feminist theory has been criticised for not considering the house holds in society which don't feature a man and women partnership e.g. lesbian and gay relationships, and single -parent households. The power structure in them families don't get looked at
      • Feminist sociology doesn't acknowledge the power might be shared within a family
      • Some black feminists have pointed out that a lot of feminist theory doesn't address the fact that women from different ethinic backgrounds have different life experiences.
      • Feminist theory of all strands has been criticised for portraying women as too passive. It plays down the ability of individual women to make changes and improve their situation.
      • Feminist theory only looks at the negatives of the family and do not realise that many women may enjoy running a home and raising children.

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