Examine the contribution of feminists Essay

Submitted By Julia-Toms
Words: 1152
Pages: 5

Examine the contribution of feminist sociologists to an understanding of family life.

The first wave of feminism began in the 1890s, when women began to fight for the right to vote. Feminists then were women who desired sexual justice and were concerned about women’s’ welfare, in a patriarchal society which oppressed them. In the 1960s there was a second wave of feminism. This wave had far more impact on the way we live and the way we perceive feminists today. Feminists today are classified as ‘anyone who seeks equality between men and women. In this wave, women demanded more sexual freedom, and as contraception was becoming more available and popular, they were gaining that. Women were also being torn between work and the home, as many woman wanted to attend higher education and have a career, however were oppressed by their expected role as a full time wife and mother. These desires challenged the traditional roles of women. There are three different types of feminism, Radical feminism, Marxist feminism, and Liberal feminism, all under the same branching title of ‘feminists’ however all believing slightly different things. Whether a feminist or a woman or not, the influence that this pressure group has had on society is huge.

Radical feminists believe that family life is affected by patriarchy alone. A patriarchal society is defined as a society in which males hold power over women in all aspects of life, for example, family, work, and government. Radical feminism is the most extreme form of feminism, their prime belief is that women do not need men to function in society, and that eradicating men would not be an extreme disadvantage to society. Kate Millet is a radical feminist and has some very strong beliefs. She believes that men will use any means available to control and oppress women- even violence, and that the family is not a positive institution for women. She was also very critical of the functionalist views of the family, and is very opposed to the traditional expressive and instrumental roles that Parsons suggested. Purdy was also opposed to functionalist views, as she disagrees with Murdock’s functionalist views of the functions of the family, such as reproduction. She believes women should go on a ‘baby strike’ as men only consider them as ‘baby making machines’. These views are relatively useful, as they are more relevant to the modern day family structures; because many families are lone parent, or same sex couples, and the functionalist roles of the family only apply to a nuclear family.

Marxist feminists believe that family life is affected by both capitalism, and patriarchy. Marxist feminism was developed as a response to classical Marxist views. Marxist feminists such as Benston state that, by looking after their husband will make him a more productive worker and that the main role of women is to product the future work force, both feeding capitalism. Functionalist such as Parsons are opposed to this view as they believe that women must carry out the expressive role in the family, involving cooking and cleaning, and looking after the children. Feeley, another Marxist feminist, stated that the family is a patriarchal unit that teaches passivity, not rebellion. This means that women are taught to be passive and accept their roles in the family and not to defy their husbands- subscribing to Ansley’s statement ‘women are the takers of shit’. This view is more useful than the radical views as it takes into account the political climate we live in, as it is a capitalist society, however it also does not take into account modern family structure, such as lone parents or same sex couples, and mainly refers to nuclear families- so it is outdated.

Liberal feminists believe solely in equality between men and women, and believe that both genders should have equal opportunities, equal pay, roles, and household chores. They believe that these changes should be made through changes in law and social policy and