Feminist perspective of the family

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Liberal Feminism

Liberal Feminists are the most postive type of feminists, who campaign against sex discrimination and for equal right, believe that gradual progress is made. 

  • They argue that womens oppression is being gradually overcome through changing peoples attitudes and through changes in the law
  • They believe that we are moving towards greater equality ( However, not full equality though).

                      Their views on the family:

They hold a similar view as 'march of progress' theorists such as, Young and Willmott. They believe that although full gender equality has yet to be achieved, there has been gradual progress. For example, there is still dual burden, triple shift etc but men are helping around the house more than they used to. For example, men are doing more domestic labour, according to some studies.


  • Fail to challenge the underlying causes of womens oppression
  • laws etc. wont bring  about equality( mainly because not everybody will follow them).

    Practice questions:

Explain the difference between marxist feminism and radical feminism (6 marks)

Suggest two ways in which women have gained more equality in the last 40 years (4 marks) 

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Marxist Feminism

Marxist feminists believe that capitalism- bourgousie expolits the proletariat- opresses women, not men. Marxists feminists do not like the family. They have three main reasons why:

  • Women reproduce the labour force through their unpaid domestic labour, by socialising the next generation of workers and maintaining and servicing the current one. (What it means by this is that, through doing the housework and making meals etc. a woman helps her children also by teaching them the norms and values of society and helping the male overcome his stresses of that days work etc. e.g. helps with the emotional side of things aswell as everything else which reinforces capitalism).
  • Women absorb anger that would otherwise be directed at capitalism. Fran ANSLEY (1972) describes wives as 'takers of ****' who soak up the frustration their husbands feel because of the alienation and exploitation they suffer at work.
  • Women are a 'reserve army' for cheap labour that can be taken on when extra workers are needed. When no longer needed, employers can 'let them go' to return to their primary role as unpaid domestic labour.

In other words, the family only helps in growing capitalism, which means more inequality.

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Radical Feminism

Radical feminists are the least positive of all the different types. They argue that all societies have been founded on patriarchy- rule by men.

They think that:

  • Men are the enemy 
  • The family and marriage are the key institutions in a patriarchal society. Men benefit from womens unpaid domestic labour and from their sexual services, and they dominate women through domestic and sexual violence, or the threat of it.

They argue that the only way to achieve this is through 'seperatism'- women must organise themselves to live in independently of men. Many radical feminists argue for 'political lesbianism' - the idea that hetrosexual relationships are inevitably oppressive because they include 'sleeping with the enemy'. 

Germaine GREER (2000) argues for the creation of all female or 'matrilocal' households as an alternative to the hetrosexual family.

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Difference Feminism

Difference feminists argue that every different type of woman , whatever sexuality etc. has very different experiences of family from one another so cannot generalise that all women live in a nuclear family and share a similar experience of family life. 

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