Feminism and the Family

feminism and family

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  • Created by: Melissa
  • Created on: 21-01-12 12:55

Basic Themes

  • social reproduction of labour - Rulng classhave a passive and obedient workforce. Women take care of workforce- ruling class wins
  • social control - parents put up with bad jobs for the sake of their children. family = safety valve against frustration. People expect the family to be a happy place
  • work by women in the home is unrecognised and performed freely
  • symmetrical family does not exist - women do the work. Triple shift = domestic labour at home, paid work and emotional support at home

Feminists argue it is mainly women who:

  • do the most childcare/housework
  • make sacrifices
  • less likely to make decisions
  • more likely ot be dependent
  • have to both work and look after the home
  • are more likely to be victims of domestic violence
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Marxist Feminists

"Capatilism is the main form of oppression"

3 main functions

  • women reproduce labour force through unpaid domestic labour, socialising next generation of workers and maintaining current one. Benston - family produces and rears cheap labour
  • Women absorb anger - Ansley - women are takers of **** - men forced to work to maintain home and dependants
  • reserve army of labour - do paid job when men are unable then return to unpaid labour

Cooper- children taught to submit authority and be obediant.

Family must be abolished at the same time as the socialist revolution, replacing capitalism with a classless society

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Criticisms of Marxist Feminists

  • too much of a tranditional picture of a family with dad working ect
  • ignore that women have fought back and become indepedant
  • ignore other factors that might effect the family ie racism
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Radical feminists

Society = patriarchal, men = enemy, family = main patriarchal institution

Delphy and Leonard - family is an economic system , members work for the head of the household. Wives meet husbands physical, emotional and sexual need. Work never stops and is unpaid. Men exploit women. Women perform 57 unpaid services.


  • assumemale head of the family
  • based on a small amount of evidence
  • ignore that power is sometimes shared
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Radical feminism pt 2

Greer - men and women should live should live separately. Only women equal. 'Political Lesbianism' - don't sleep with the enemy

Purdy - baby strike - babies are expensive, a big commitment and prevents equality in the labour force. Only way to get men to listen


  • too extreme
  • Somerville argues women's postion in the family has improved, with better access to jobs, divorce and contraception. Separatism is unlikely to work - heterosexual attraction
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Liberal feminists

  • Campaign against sex discrimination and for equal rights and oppurtunities. Women have come a long way with family friendly policy and sex discrimination acts.
  • Gradual march of progress - men doing more domestic work and socialisation of children is more equal
  • Somerville wants equal maternity and paternity rights and mpre flexible working hours


  • Not sure changes in the law will get rid of all inequality
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Overall Criticisms

  • Feminism may be out dated - women are educated, there has been a feminisation of the economy
  • Bulk of male/female relationships are based on love and respect - not exploitation
  • Many women find motherhood a rewarding and fufilling experience
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