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Essay on The Contribution of Feminists to the Sociology of the Family

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Feminists have played a major part in the ideology of the family, as they provide an alternative view to the traditional sociology of the family. There are many different types of feminists; the main ones are Radical feminists, Marxist feminist and liberal feminists. Although they are categorised separately, they fundamentally believe in the same idea, which is the dominant functionalist assumptions are inaccurate and should therefore be challenged. Functionalists believe that in the family, the role of the woman is functional when she plays a necessary ‘expressive’ role, providing care and affection for members in a more subordinate role than that of the breadwinner husband.

HOUSEWORK/POWER RELATIONS

One of the functionalists, Wilmott and Young, (1973), claimed that 72% of the married men in their sample help their wife in some other way than washing, even though they do fail to specify what this help is. They believe that the family is symmetrical and both husband and wife have joint conjugal roles, which makes the family a functional institution. However, the radical feminist, Anne Oakley, points out that the fact that they say ‘helps their wife’ implies that the primary responsibility is still the wife’s. Oakley also points out that the creation of the housewife role is a social construction and is not inevitably linked to the female role. This housewife role ensures that women stay subordinate to men, making it difficult for them to pursue careers and this role which is exclusively allocated to women, has no status, is unpaid and alienating, and yet it takes precedence over all other roles. Her conclusion is that the only way women will gain freedom and be able to develop fully as individuals in society is for the ab...


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...xt. Radical feminism has been criticised as it over emphasises the extent to which women share common experiences of exploitation. Following from this, it down grades class and race relations. It also cannot account for the changes in the position of women over time and could only do this with a wider structural framework.

Feminists generally believe that the family has a key role to play in the relationship of the individual to the wider society. They believe that the family is the fundamental site of the exploitation and oppression of women, both within the family itself and in relation to society. Marxist feminists stress that the exploitation of women in the home serves the needs of Capitalism, whereas Radical feminists stress that this exploitation is based on patriarchy. Liberal feminists also believe that patriarchy is the main cause of gender inequality.


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