Feminist perspectives of the family

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  • Feminist perspectives on the family
    • Feminists argue that family oppresses women, which they also say is created by society.
    • Liberal feminism
      • They argue that women's oppression is being gradually overcome through changing people's attitudes and through changes in the law such as the Sex Discrimination Act (1975), which outlaws discrimination in employment.
      • They believe we are moving towards greater equality, but that full equality will depend on further reforms and changes in the attitudes and socialisation patterns of both sexes.
      • In terms of the family, they hold a few similar views to that of the 'march of progress' theorists such as Young + Willmott.
        • Although liberal feminists do not believe in full gender equality, they argue that it has had a gradual progress.
          • For example, men doing more domestic labour. Parents now socialise there children to follow up a more equal society.
    • Marxist feminism
      • Marxist feminists say men aren't to blame for women's oppression, capitalism is.
      • Women reproduce the labour force through their unpaid domestic labour, by socialising the next generation of workers and maintaining and servicing the current one.
      • Women absorb anger that would otherwise be directed at capitalism. Fran Ansley (1972) describes wives as 'takers of shit' who soak up the frustration their husbands feel because of the alienation and exploitation they suffer at work.
        • Marxist feminists see the oppression of women in the family as linked to the exploitation to the working class.
          • Women are a 'reserved army' of cheap labour that can be taken on when extra workers are needed. When no longer needed.
      • Women are a 'reserved army' of cheap labour that can be taken on when extra workers are needed. When no longer needed.
    • Radical feminism
      • Radical feminists argue that all societies have been founded on patriarchy - ruled by men.
      • Men are the enemy, they are the source of women's oppression and exploitation.
      • The family and marriage are the key institutions in patriarchal society. Men benefit from women's unpaid domestic labour and from their sexual services, and they dominate women through domestic and sexual violence or the threat of it.
      • Radical feminists believe that the only way to achieve an un patriarchal society by complete separation of men and women.
      • They argue for 'political lesbianism' - the idea that heterosexual relationships and inevitably oppressive because they involve 'sleeping with the enemy'.
    • Difference feminism
      • The feminist approaches we have considered so far all tend to assume that most women live in conventional nuclear families and that they share a similar experience of family life.
        • However, difference feminists argue that we cannot generalise about women's experiences this way.
      • They argue that lesbian, heterosexual, white and black women, middle-class + working-class etc.. have very different experiences of the family from one another.


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