SPFB #5 Perspectives on Family Social Policy: Feminism

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  • Perspectives on Family Social Policy:                     Feminism
    • In effect this creates a "self-fulfilling prophecy" making it more difficult for people to live in other family types than the one that policy-makers assume they live in
    • Feminists take a conflict view, they do not share the functionalist view that society it built of harmony and consensus. Conflict theories of the family and social policy have two key features:
      • They see society as based on a conflict of interests between social groups with unequal power - for example rich and poor or men and women
      • They see the state and its policies as serving there interests of these powerful groups in society. State policy's shape family life and define what counts as a "normal" family in ways that benefit the powerful
    • In turn, the effect of the policies is often reinforced that the type of family at the expense of other types
    • Feminists see society as patriarchal (male dominated), benefiting met at women's expense. They argue that social institutions including the state and it's polies, help to maintain women's subordinate position and the unequal gender division of labour in the family
    • For example if the state assumes that "normal" families are based on marriage and offers benefit sand tax incentives to married couples that are not available to married couples, then these polices will encourage marriage and discourage cohabitation
    • Conflict theories in the family include Feminism, Marxism, and Jacques Donzelot's Surveillance theory
    • In the case of social policy, the way this often works is that policies are based on assumption about what the "normal" family is like
    • Land (1978)
      • Argues that social policies often assume that the ideal family is the patriarchal nuclear family with a male provider and female homemaker, along with dependent children
    • Leach (1967)
      • Calls the "ceral packet norm" because it is the kind of family that often appears in  advertise-ments for breakfast cereals
    • The norm of the family therefore influences the types of policies created and so patriarchal roles are reinforced
      • Tax and benefit polices may assume that husbands are the main wage earner and that their wives are their financial dependents
      • This can make it possible for wives to claim social security benefits in their own right since it is expected that their husbands will provide
      • This then reinforced women's dependence on their husbands
    • Leonard (1978)
      • Stresses that some polices are meant to support women but instead reinforce patriarchal issues for example maternity leave for women is lover than paternity for men which suggests that the care for the infant is the responsibility of the mother rather than the farther
    • Allan (1985)
      • States that these policies assume that one family member will choose childcare over work; families will take care of the elderly and sick relatives and that wives will be dependent on husbands
    • Johnson (1982)
      • States that school hours and holidays often mean it is difficult for single parents and dual-earner households to effectively combine domestic responsibili-ties and employment
    • Gender Regimes
      • Drew (1995)
        • Uses concepts of "gender regimes" to describe how social polices in different countries can either encourage or discourage gender equality in the family and as work. She identifies two types
          • Familistic Gender Regime:
            • For example, in Greece there is little state welfare or publicly funded childcare
            • This idea focuses on the husband supporting the family while the wife stays at home and does the housework, childcare and care of family members
            • Women have to rely heavily on support from their extended kin and there is a traditional division of labour
          • Individualistic gender regimes
            • For example, in Sweden polices treat husbands and wives as equally responsible for breadwinning and domestic tasks
            • This involves the idea that husbands and wives are treated the same, they are separate and independent of each other
            • State provision of childcare, parental leave and good quality welfare services mean that women are less dependant of their husbands and have more work opportunities
          • These difference between European countries show that social polices can play an important role in promoting or preventing gender equality in the family


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