• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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

Extracts from this document...


Assess the usefulness of feminist contributions to our understanding of society today (33 marks) Feminism is a conflict theory that sees religion as an instrument of patriarchy - a set of beliefs and practices responsible for women's subordination. There are different types of feminism and the types I will be evaluating in this essay are Liberal, Radical, Marxist and Difference/poststructuralist feminist. Feminists criticise mainstream sociology for being 'malestream'. 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.


Consciousness-raising is where women share their experiences in women only groups, this way woman can see what other women face and may have the same problem and this may lead to collective action. Lastly 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. Radical feminist are criticized on the basis that they offer no explanation of why female subordination takes different forms in different societies. Similarly, it assumes all women are in the same position and ignores class and ethnicity. Marxist feminist see religion as another tool of women's oppression alongside capitalism and one which reinforces their social and economic status. They claim that capitalism reinforces women's inferior social status; women can provide free domestic labour (cook, clean, rear children). Capitalism benefits from this, as husbands are able to work longer hours. There is also the false belief that women will be compensated for their sufferings in heaven. This is very similar to Marx's false consciousness. For Marxist feminist, women's subordination performs a number of important functions for capitalism. Firstly, women absorb anger, Ansley (1972) describes wives as 'takers of shit' who soak up the frustration their husbands feel because of the alienation and exploitation they suffer at work. Secondly, women are a reserve army of labour that can be moved into the labour force during economic booms and out again at times of recession. ...read more.


She also argues that white, Western, middle-class women who dominate the feminist movement have falsely claimed to represent 'universal womanhood'. She further argues that feminists are wrong to believe they can adapt the Enlightenment project so that it somehow includes all women, because women are not single entities who all share the same 'essence'. Butler claims that postructuralism offers advantages for feminism, it enables feminists to 'de-construct' different discourses to reveal how they subordinate women. On the other hand, Segal criticises postructuralist feminism for abandoning any notion of real, objective social structures. Functionalism is a structural perspective that sees social order as based on value consensus and performing positive functions for society and individuals. Parsons see society as a system of interdependent parts such as sub-systems, institutions and status roles. The function of each part is to help meet the needs of the system. Individuals are integrated into the system through socialisation into the shared culture and social control, ensuring that they perform the roles expected of them. However critics argue that functionalism is a conservative ideology that neglects conflict, exploitation and change. Another conflict theory similar to feminism is Marxism. Marxism is a structural perspective that sees society as based on class conflict. In capitalism, the bourgeoisie exploit the labour of the proletariat. They maintain their position through control of the repressive state apparatus and through ideology or hegemony. However, Marx believed that ultimately, revolution leading to a classless communist society was inevitable. Marx has been criticised for being too deterministic as there are differences between Marxists. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This is a very detailed essay with lots of really good explanations on the variety of different Feminisms. At times the paragraphs feel a little list like rather than all linking and flowing. In particular the last two paragraphs do not really link to the rest of the essay and leave the essay feeling unfinished.

Marked by teacher Matthew Wilkin 04/04/2013

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. The education system is meritocratic

    The myth of meritocracy sets up a way of making the working class accept that they are working class and will always be working class this is where legitimising comes in they believe that the few working class kids that go to university make the rest of the working class

  2. Is sociology a science?

    Kaplan is suggesting the idea how scientific is natural sciences and this then has an impact on whether sociology is or not scientific. In contrast, Kuhn would argue that sociology is not scientific as it is pre-paradigmatic. He challenged the objectivity of science when he claimed that science passed through paradigmatic shifts which were similar to ideologies in sociological term.

  1. Can and should sociology be a science?

    the world, therefore sociology can be a science as it studies social facts. Positivism aims at discovering patterned and regular events in the social world whose occurrence is either caused by another event, or correlated. Therefore sociology can be a science as correlation and causation can be established in sociology

  2. "Compare and contrast modernisation theory and dependency theory as explanations of development and under-development"

    In addition to these criticisms Kiely made O'Donnell also made the following criticisms; the theory is ethnocentric and has no consideration of some underdeveloped societies cultures, its blueprint feel lacks historical reality, theorists ignore possible conflicts which may occur due to development and the assumptions made in the classical theory are now redundant e.g.

  1. How has the family changed over the last 100 years

    a nuclear family at first because everyone has got a mother and a father. Bettleheim also argued that this does not fit Murdock's definition, on two grounds, the first ground is family do not have accommodation and secondly families do not have economic co-operation.

  2. Assess the usefulness of Postal Questionnaires

    However, although there are many good points about postal questionnaires, there are also some bad points for example, the format of questionnaire design makes it difficult for the researcher to examine complex issues and opinions. Even where open-ended questions are used, the depth of answers that the respondent can provide

  1. Autobiography - I am going to write about the first day at secondary school.

    tights, when I got on the bus it was empty unlike my first day where it was packed and I had to stand, when I got to the play ground I was told by a teacher to go to the hall for the leaving assemble, when I got to the hall every one was crowding around the class photos.

  2. Discuss the similarities and differences between conflict of Marxist theories and functionalist theories in ...

    the economy is the base of all aspects in society and how the superstructure develops according to how the economy develops. Furthermore, Functionalism and Marxism are sociological theories developed in Europe. Functionalism was founded by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist and Marxism was founded by Karl Marx, a German philosopher.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work