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Using Material from Item 2B and elsewhere, access the view the view that gender roles and
relationships have become more equal in modern day life?
Some sociologists would argue that a number of changes have taken place in gender roles
and relationships within families. On the other hand there are some sociologists that there
have few if any changes in gender roles and relationships within families.
In 1973 Young and Willmott carried out some research and came to the conclusion that by
the 1970's the roles of the husbands and wives in the family have become more
symmetrical. During their research they found out that in 72% of cases men actually did
housework other than the washing up every week. Young & Willmott seen this a positive
move and described it as a "march of progress." By this they mean that men in the past had
been lagging behind women in terms of domestic labour and gender roles but now have
caught up and are more or less equal or symmetrical.
Feminists have severely criticised the work of Young &Willmott, one feminist in particular
Ann Oakley claims that, "housework is exclusively allocated to women." She describes
housework as, "non work unpaid, isolated and makes women economically dependent on
men." Hobson takes this a step further by saying "housework is repetitive compulsive and
endless often with no physical separation between work & Leisure for the housewife."
Oakley claimed that full time housewives spent an average of 77 hours per week on
housework. Oakley argued that although 72% of men do housework was impressive this was
only based on the question "do you help at least once a week with the cleaning for example
making the bed or ironing? The problem is a male who ironed a jumper once a week would
be included in this 72% even though they are hardly making a contribution to the housework
at all. Oakley also found that 76% of employed women and 93% of unemployed women
were housewives. This research suggests patriarchy is still in existence.
Conjugal Roles simply means the roles played by each person in a marriage. Elizabeth Bott
(1957) done a lot of research into conjugal roles and came up with the term joint conjugal
role this means where the couple share the housework and the childcare. This type of
relationship has become very common since 1970's this suggest more equality between
men in women in domestic labour and gender roles. On the other hand Bott talked of
segregated conjugal roles this is where the couple have separate roles. The instrumental role
this is usually played by the man this basically means the men goes out to work and earns
the money for the house and the women play the expressive role this is where they cook
and clean and look after the children. Functionalists and New Right agree with the
instrumental and expressive role saying that it been the traditional way for years and it
should remain the same also that it is natural for men to be the breadwinner and women to
be the housewife because women have more caring characteristics. Feminists disagree with
the instrumental and expressive role saying in today's society you need two wages to
maintain everyday lifestyle. Feminists also argue that men need to take more responsibility
for their share of housework and childcare.
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Many people argue that decision making in the family has changed for example Hardill (1997)
stated that there was evidence that there was more equal decision making taking place in
the family particularly between middle class couples. This is because middle class women are
socialised to believe that they too should work and not just do housework and look after
the children.…read more