Sociology- Feminism

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  • Created on: 28-04-13 19:56

Feminist Views

Like Marxism feminism is a conflict view of society as it focuses on the inequalities between two groups, in this case men and women, and the struggle for power between them. Feminists challenge:

  • patriarchy, the dominance of families and society as a whole by older males;
  • womens exploitation as unpaid domestic workers and carers;
  • low exceptations of female capabilities outside the home;
  • male control over family decision making and finance;
  • domestic abuse;
  • socialisation of girls into stereotypically feminine roles;views that traditionalgender roles are natural and inevitable

Feminists disagree with:

  • functionalists such as Mrdock and Parsons, who claim that the division of labour between men as breadwinners and women as housewives and carers is the most efficient way of organising family life;
  • sociobiologistssuch as David Barash (1979), who suggest contrasting male and female temperaments are virtually fixed because they evolved from hunter-gatherer societies, where man had to be agressive to hun, while women were gentler and less adventerous asthey spent most of their lives having and feeding babies. 
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Feminist explanations of gender socialisation

Ann Oakley in Housewife (1974), suggested that children learn gendered behaviour 'canalisation'. Boys are channelled into assertive outdoor play and given construction toys and weapons, whereas girls are encouraged to help their mothers with cooking, play with dolls and miniature household appliances and are expected to read and draw quitely. Appellation, the way they are addressed, also differs, with phrases such as 'brave boy', 'pretty girl'. 

Angela McRobbie's study of working-class teenagers (1975) described girls' bedroom culture. They spent free time at each other's house trying out hairstyles and cometics, influenced by the ideology of romance, with little interest in careers. Boys, in contrast, played games such as football in bigger groups in the streets, reflecting their future, more public roles.

Sherry Ortner (1974) claimed that traditional gender roles are absorbed from many aspects of Western culture. Our myths, literature,art and religon tend toassociate women with 'nature', childbirth, nuturing, flowers, sensitivity, dependencyand intuition. Men are linked with 'culture', public life, leadership, machinery, science and rationally. This polarisation of expectations makes it difficult for women, and indeed men, to adopt roles associated with the oter sex. 

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Feminist explanations of gender socialisation

Evaluation

Some parents may try to avoid canalisation of their children now, as Oakley's study has been so influential. Likewise, the feminist movement has influenced teenage girls to give greater priority to education and careers, and they tend to marry and have children later then in the 1970s. 

Ortner's study is useful as the Western images she describes are still part of our cultural heritage. Studieslike hers have made thinking people more aware that gender roles are socially constructed (built up by societies, not natural), and so they can be challenged. 

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Feminist movements

The first large- scale feminist movement in Britian began late in the nineteenth century, when women campaigned for university degrees, married women's property rights and the vote. 'Second wave'  feminism began in the 1960s in the USA and was influential in Britain and Europe by the 1970s. 

Liberal Feminists

Betty Friedman 

BettyFriedman's book The Feminism Mystique (1963) was one of the first to raise awareness that many American housewives felt dissatisfied with their lives, asking themselves 'Is this all?' Yet they had been socialised into 'the feminine mystique', the notion that looking after children and a man wa totally fulfilling, and felt guilty if they longed for the intellectual stimulation ofacademic study or a career.

Evaluation

Friedman's book expressed that many women secretly felt and it encouraged them to come together in consciousness-raising groups,in which they shared experiences and rethought their lives. 

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Liberal Feminists

Ann Oakley 

Oakley (1974) presented a similar picture in Britainto Friedan's. She calculated thatwomen spent an average of 77 hours a week on domestic duties 

Evaluation 

Oakley's questions to housewives have been described as loaded, but others, such as Hannah Gavron (1966) and Jessie Bernard (1976), also found many house-wives isolated and bored by repatitive, unpaid chores. 

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Liberal Feminists

Ann Oakley 

Oakley (1974) presented a similar picture in Britainto Friedan's. She calculated thatwomen spent an average of 77 hours a week on domestic duties 

Evaluation 

Oakley's questions to housewives have been described as loaded, but others, such as Hannah Gavron (1966) and Jessie Bernard (1976), also found many house-wives isolated and bored by repatitive, unpaid chores. 

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Liberal Feminists

Ann Oakley 

Oakley (1974) presented a similar picture in Britainto Friedan's. She calculated thatwomen spent an average of 77 hours a week on domestic duties 

Evaluation 

Oakley's questions to housewives have been described as loaded, but others, such as Hannah Gavron (1966) and Jessie Bernard (1976), also found many house-wives isolated and bored by repatitive, unpaid chores. 

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Radical Feminists

Many view radical feminists as more 'extreme' than liberals, but they believed changing laws would make little fundamental difference to men's domination over women. Fundamental changes in society were needed, including the dismantling of the family.

Kate Millett

Politics entails power over others and in Sexual Politics (1970) Millett suggested that men dominate women in the family and every other sphere of life, just as politicians rule countries. She supported this by reference to well known works of literature and popular phrases that celebrate male aggression and reinforce female docility. However, the family is the most influential institution as it socialises children into different behaviour and roles so that both sexes accept the ideologies of romantic love and male domination. Examples of patriarchy around the world include:

  • women not being paid for housework;
  • girls gravitating towards less pretigious scholl subjects, leading to lower-paid jobs than male-dominated professions
  • adulteresses being stoned to death, while adulterers go unpunished;
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Radical Feminists

  • women having no legal standing in some countries, unable to keep their own earnings;
  • male control of the law and medicine, driving some women to die of illegal abortions;
  • porngraphic media exploiting women;
  • domination of world religions by male figures;
  • domestic violence;
  • women afraid to go out at night for fear of ****, and blamed if they are ****d.

As male power is taken for granted as normal in most societies, Millett suggested that the specific legal changes, campaigned for by groups such as NOW, would be insufficient. Instead, a sexual revolution was needed, dismantling the family as the main source of sexist ideology.

Evaluation

Millett's generalisstions about aggresive and dominant men and submissive women are sweeping. However, Home Office statistics show that at least 101 women died in the UK in 2009 at the hands of a husband, boyfriend or ex-partner. Marsha Jones (2006) commented that the sentences in such cases were normally lighter than for other murders, as courts tended to sympathise with the assailants if the women had been unfaithful or nagging.

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Radical Feminists

Russell Dobash (2006) found that men who murdered their partners tended not to have history of violence against pther people but viewed women as their possessions and felt justified in taking reprisals if thewomen ended the relationship.

Shulamith Firestone

Firestone, in The Dialectic of Sex: The Case For Feminist Revolution (1970), said women must be freed 'from the tyranny of their reproductive biology' to be no longer dependent on men during pregnancy, nursing and child- rearing. Her recommended changes were:

  • abolition of marriage and the family;
  • freedom of sexual expression between people of any age or either sex, cohabiting or living singly as they wished;
  • households of about ten adults applying for a licence to live together for seven to ten years to raise children;
  • creating children using the test-tube method, so women could remain independent of patriarchy;
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Radical Feminists

  • all the household adults and older children caring for each child, with none totally responsible as 'mother' or 'father'. Inheritance from parents would therefore cease, eliminating class divisions;
  • children having education in basic skills and then specialist training at any time of life, so they become financially independent earlier;
  • chidren transferring out of households they disliked or staying in touch indefinitely where relationshipswere fulfilling.

Evaluation

This imaginative attempt to elimate patriarchy and inequalities of wealth has many pratical difficulties.

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