Feminist theory - detailed notes

Detailed notes on the feminist theory. Specifically relevant to AQA A2 Sociology Unit 4 students, but will be of use to students studying other exam boards. The notes include:

  • Millet (1970)
  • Walby (1990)
  • Firestone (1972) - Radical Feminist
  • Ortner (1974) - Radical Feminist
  • Rosaldo (1974) - Radical Feminist
  • Engels (1972) - Marxist/Socialist Feminist
  • Coontz & Henderson (1986) - Marxist/Socialist Feminist
  • Oakley (1974) - Liberal Feminist
  • Mirza (1992) - Black Feminist


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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Feminist notes
Feminists said that women's social experience was different from that of men
Women were treated as inferior and therefore saw life differently from men
Radical feminists: All men are bad
Marxist/socialist feminists: Class elements might be involved & only some men
are bad
Liberal feminists: Men are merely misguided and that society could be changed
Although there are many different types of feminists, they all consider the concept
of patriarchy
Belief that society is dominated by men
Most people now agree that patriarchy is merely a belief and not a biological fact
Millet (1970)
Men may be biologically stronger, but the strength of patriarchy lies in ideological
Both sexes are socialised into their superior/inferior roles through the family
Women of all classes are subordinate to the men in their class, although they
may be superior to men from a lower class
Education is an agent of socialisation that helps to maintain this situation, as
girls were treated differently from boys
Millet suggests men's patriarchal power over women is psychological and
ultimately physical
Few women commit sexual offences
Male violence against women (And other men) is much greater than female
Walby (1990)
Key elements of patriarchy are pay inequality, unequal household roles, sexuality,
male violence and the state itself
Despite legislation such as the Equal Pay Act 1970, women's wages still lag
behind men's
Women are still less likely to be found in positions of power and influence
However, position is gradually improving:
o Welsh Assembly has more women than men
o Women are now reaching highlevel posts in medicine and surgery
Work within the household remains largely gendered, although there is slow
Male violence is still much in evidence
Chris Cartwright

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Walby argues that legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 has tried
to reduce patriarchy, but that many state policies still suggest that women and
men have different roles:
o Differences between maternity and paternity rights
o Statutory maternity pay for women far outweighs the 10 days of statutory
paternity pay allowed to men
o This would suggest that is the role of the women to be the main carer for a
Walby points out that patriarchy is…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Ortner (1974) ­ Radical Feminist
Culture is the basis of differentiation between the sexes, as it is always valued
more highly than biology and is controlled by men
Whereas women are seen as being close to nature because they give birth
Ortner Criticism
Ortner fails to consider wide differences between societies and over time
There is little clear evidence that culture is always more highly prized than nature,
or that women are not involved in the creation of culture
As…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
When a woman moved to live with her husband's family, she was more likely to
lose control over the foods produced
As a result, men became more powerful
Most societies appear to have been patrilocal
Marxist Feminists see the family as playing an important part in the
maintenance of capitalism:
The family produces the next generation of workers for the owners, at no cost
Women and children act as a brake on revolutionary ideas ­ the men cannot
afford to…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
During the 1800s, men, women and children began to work in factories, moving
to towns from the countryside
Factory Act 1819:
o Banned children <9 from being employed
o This meant women were more likely to have to stay at home to care for
o This led to their primary role becoming a `housewife'
o Family became reliant on the wages of the husband alone
Although historically, the reliance on men for finances was only short lived, it had…read more


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