Edexcel Govt. & Politics Feminism Mark Scheme & Exam Reports

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What is patriarchy, and why is this important in feminist analysis? (JAN 2010)
Patriarchy literally means rule by the father, and refers to the domination of the husband/father
within the family in the subordination of his wife and children. However, the term is usually used in
the general sense of `rule by men', drawing attention to the totality of oppression and exploitation
to which women are subjected. Patriarchy thus implies that the system of male power in society at
large both reflects and stems from the domination of the father in the family.
Patriarchy is important in feminist analysis because it highlights the extent to which relations
between women and men are structured by unequal gender power. Whereas conventional political
theory treats gender relations as natural, feminist theorists, through the notion of patriarchy, view
them as part of the political institution of male power. Radical feminists use patriarchy to draw
attention to the systematic, institutionalised and pervasive character of male power, present in all
social institutions and every society. Patriarchy thus expresses the belief that gender divisions are
deeper and more politically significant than divisions based on nationality, social class, race and so
How and why have feminists been critical of the `public/private' divide? (JUNE 2010)
Feminists are concerned about the public/private divide because of its role in upholding sexual
inequality. Patriarchy operates through a sexual division of labour, through which women have
traditionally been excluded from the `public' sphere of work, art and politics, and been confined to
an essentially `private' sphere centred on family and domestic responsibilities. Feminists have
therefore sought to challenge the divide between `public man' and `private woman'.
However, feminists have not always agreed about what it means to break down the public/private
divide. Radical feminists have been its keenest opponents, arguing that the `personal is the
political'. They have sought to fundamentally reconstruct family, domestic and personal life, in the
belief that this would make patriarchal oppression in the public sphere unsustainable. For liberal
feminists, these issues are of less central concern.
There were some highly impressive answers to this question, as is the case in relation to many feminism
questions. The general, and sensible, approach was to consider this from the perspective of radical
feminism, and explain how and why radical feminists have believed that the `public/private' divide has
traditionally served to conceal the realities of patriarchal power and female oppression. Those that
recognised that this question was linked to the idea that `the personal is the political' generally developed
sound or better responses. Other candidates, not unreasonably, looked at the issue from the perspective of
liberal feminism and socialist feminism as well, contrasting these positions with that of radical feminism.
However, when candidates started to explain how and why liberals have emphasised the importance of the
`public/private' divide, they tended to be moving away from the question set, thus restricting the marks they
were able to achieve.

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This answer covers both aspects, explaining both the how ­ 'their personal is political', but also (eventually)
the why all women's oppression emanates from the private sphere. It also effectively uses the socialist
feminist view as a contrast to the radical feminist position. Paragraphing would have been very helpful in
making the argument clear and effective.(15)
Explain the difference between androgyny and essentialism within feminism. (JUNE 2010)
Androgyny means the possessions of both male and female characteristics.…read more

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Weaker responses to this question tended to provide only a generalised
understanding of the terms or failed to offer an explicit definition in either case, relying instead on a
discussion of their supposed implications for feminism. Only a very small number of responses seemed to
identify androgyny with liberal feminism and essentialism with radical feminism.
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This answer provides clear defi nitions of both concepts, drawing out the contrasts. Having done this, it
moves on to the ideological consequences in terms of their vision of the ideal society, with relevant and
effective examples. This moves the answer to the top of Level 3. (14)
How and why have feminists emphasised the difference between sex and gender? (JAN 2011)
Feminists had usually emphasised key differences between sex and gender.…read more

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In successful cases, this led to an examination of the critique of gender equality
advanced by difference feminists in particular, with some, helpfully, considering also the ecofeminist version
of this critique. This was suported in some cases by an account to contrasts between androgny and
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This is an example for a very good response, which received 13 marks out of 15. It contains an account of
the concerns about `male identification', although the term does not feature. The prowoman stance and its
relationship to essentialism is also highlighted. The final paragraph contributes little to the answer.…read more

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Explain the key features of socialist feminism. (JUNE 2012)
The key features of socialist feminism include the following:
Patriarchy can only be understood in the light of social and economic factors. This implies that the system
of male domination and female oppression is linked to the workings of the capitalist system.…read more

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