Families and the household

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Marxist Feminism

Irene Beugal: Suggests that women are easy to hire and fire so therefore form a reserve army of labour. Womens unemployment is more easily disguised than mens unemployment

Ansley: The family functions to stabilise adult personalities. She sees the wife as the safety valve for the frustrations produced by working in the capatalist system (workers are alienated) 

Veronica Beechey: Women are largely dependent on men becayse on their own waged are not enough

Oakley: Women do most of the housework, men only do 15% of housework. 

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Liberal Feminism

Mary Wollstonecraft: argued that women should be equal partners in marriage. Women live in a metaphorical bird cage- Trapped in a patriachal society and unalble to fulfil their potential.

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Radical Feminists

Adrienne Rich- "compulsory sexuality" women are forced into heterosexuality as the only acceptable form of sexuality. Lesbianism is the only way women can experience sexual pleasure that is not oppressive.

Firestone   'men are the enemy' and child bearing is a burden which has put women at a disadvantage in the past. She is pro seperatism. 

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Domestic Violence

1 in 8 women have been repeatedly abused 

Mirlees- black- There are 6.6 million domestic assaults a year about half of these involving physical inury.

Dobash and Dobash- Carried out interviews which are carried out by female research assistants all the interviews were taped . 88% of women left at some stage but had to go back due to their financial situations or kids, 

Millet: Domestic violence is caused by patriarchy. There is a division in society between men and women. Men are the oppressors of women

Wilkinson- Domestic violence happens more commonly in poorer areas due to the result of stress on the family members caused by social inequality 

Cheal- The dark figure- domestic violence often isn't taken seriously enough because it's the private sphere 

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Conjugal roles- Young and Willmott

Young and willmott take a march of progress view. They found that the family is becoming more equal and things have improved for women: 

  •  Women now go out to work- although it may be part time
  • Men now help with housework and childcare 
  • Coulples share their leisure time instead of seperately with workmates

The reasons for these changes are: 

  • Changes in the position of women- married women are working
  • Geographical mobility- more couples living away from communities they grew up in
  • Labour saving devices (dishwasher, hoover etc)
  • Higher standards of living
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Conjugal roles- Reeves

Richard reeves (2013) claims that we are half way through a revolution in the interaction between gender roles in a family. By 2043 if we are successful terms such as 'working father' or 'stay at home dad' will have lost their novelty 

Reasons for this: 

  • The gender pay gap is predicted to close by 2040
  • One in 5 women now earn more than their partner
  • The growth of the welfare state has included benifits for children
  • An increase in same sex relationships
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Conugal roles- Ann Oakley

Anne Oakley criticises the view that the family is now symmetrical 

Only 15% of husbands had a high level of participation in housework and only 25% had a high level of participation in childcare.

Husbands were more likely to share more pleasurable taks such as childcare 

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Conjugal roles-Gershuny

He argues that women working full time is leading to more equal division within the home. He found that these women did less domestic work than other women.

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Conjugal roles- Dunscombe and Marsden

Women have to perform a 'triple shift' which also involves emotion work, paid work and housework 

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Explanations for conjugal roles

Crompton and Lyonette describe 2 explanations

CULTURAL EXPLANATION OF INEQUALITY:- The division of labour is determined by patriarchal norms and values that shape gender roles in our culture

  • Kan: Younger men tend to do more domestic work which shows that gender norms are slowly changing
  • Dunne: Study of 37 lesbian, found that couples had more symmetry within their relationship as they did not feel the need to play out traditional 'gener scripts' 

THE MATERIAL EXPLANATION OF INEQUALITY:- Women earn less than men which means it is economically rational for women to do more housework.

  • Ramos: Found that where the women is the full time breadwinner and the man is unemployed he does as much housework as she does
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Conjugal roles- Resources and decision making


Identify two main types of control over family income:

. The allowance system- where men gives their wives an allowance 

. Pooling- where both partners have access to income

Pooling is on the increase and it is now the most common money managment system 


Edgell did a study of couples and found that:

Very important decisions such as those involving finance were made by men

Important decisions such as childrens education were taken jointly

Less important decisions such as home decor were made by the wife

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