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Assess the usefulness of feminist contributions to our understanding of society today

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Introduction

´╗┐Catherine Du ToitSociology Assess the usefulness of feminist contributions to our understanding of society today Feminism sees society as mal dominated and it seeks to describe, explain and change the position of women in society. There are different types of feminism, Liberal, Radical, Marxist, Difference and Poststructuralist feminist. Feminists criticise mainstream sociology for being 'male stream'. By contrast, feminists examine society from the viewpoint of women; they see their work as part of the struggle against women's subordination. However, although all feminists oppose women's subordination, there are disagreements among feminist's theories about its causes and how to overcome them. Liberal feminist are concerned with the human and civil rights and freedoms of the individual, they believe that all human beings should have equal rights. In liberal feminism, the concept of society changing itself to adapt to women does not occur. Liberal feminists insist that all that is needed to change the status of women is to change existing laws that are unfavourable for women and that will open up more opportunities for women to prove themselves as equal to the opposite sex. Oakley (1972) distinguishes between sex and gender. She claims sex differences are seen as fixed and gender differences vary between cultures and over time. Therefore what is considered a proper role for women in one society or at one time may be disapproved of or forbidden in another. ...read more.

Middle

This has the effect of controlling all women, not just those against whom it is exercised. Brownmiller notes, fear of rap is a powerful detergent against women going out alone at night. Also radical feminists make light of the nature of sexuality. In general male stream sociology regards sexuality as a natural biological urge. By contrast radical feminists argue that patriarchy constructs sexuality so as to satisfy men?s desire. For example how women are portrayed in pornography as passive and submissive towards men. Rich argues that men force women into a narrow and unsatisfying heterosexuality, which becomes the only socially acceptable form of sexuality. Radical feminists have proposed a number of solutions for the problems women face under patriarchy, separatism, men and women living apart from each other and thereby creating a new culture of female independence, free from patriarchy, Greer argues for the creation of the all female or ?matrilocal? households as an alternative to the nuclear family. There is also consciousness raising, through sharing experiences with other women bout oppression, women come to see that thy are not alone, which may lead to collective action, such as ?reclaim the night? actions. And also, political lesbianism, many radical feminists argue that heterosexual relationships are inevitably oppressive because they involve ?sleeping with the enemy? and that lesbianism is the only non-oppressive form of sexuality. However radical feminists fail to have an adequate theory of how to abolish patriarchy, and that ideas like separatism are too vague and ...read more.

Conclusion

For example by seeing the family only as a source of oppression, white feminists have neglected black women?s experience of racial oppression. By contrast, many black feminists view the black family positively as a source of resistance against racism. Poststructuralist feminism seems to offer a theoretical basis for recognising the diversity of women?s experiences and struggles against oppression, critics argue that it has some weaknesses. Walby agrees that there are differences among women, but she argues that there are also important similarities, they are all faced with patriarchy. Similarly, celebrating difference may have the effect of dividing women into an infinite number of sub groups thereby weakening feminism as a movement for change. Segal criticises poststructuralist feminism for abandoning any notion of real, objective social structures. Oppression is not just the result of discourses it is about real inequality. The feminist contribution to our understanding of society is very useful because all of the different aspects of feminism help to explain women and their role in society even in they are oppressed by men, it still gives an understanding of women and whether life for them is getting better as the liberal feminists would say our if women need to resort to political lesbianism in order to escape the oppression of men. Also difference feminism offers theories for minority women, that the other aspects of feminists neglected , and how they contrast from essentialism, they say that all women are different and have different experiences to one another. ...read more.

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