The purpose of this essay is to describe four studies relating to gender each from a different perspective; functionalist, radical feminist, liberal feminist and Marxist feminist
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The purpose of this essay is to describe four studies relating to gender each from a different perspective; functionalist, radical feminist, liberal feminist and Marxist feminist. Anna Pollert's study on working class women's factory experiences from a Marxist feminist perspective and Dobash and Dobash's study of the phenomenon of marital violence against women from the radical feminist perspective will be evaluated. The constraints of all four studies also will be detailed with the intent to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective. Gender is contentious area of study and as such there are various competing theories, which attempt to extract the true essence of its meaning. When evaluating these theories, it is important to recognise that a collection of all four theories can be used together to gain an insight and understanding into gender. Gender can be described as the designated role allocated to males or females at birth in which, dependent on the sex of an individual and their culture, the individuals are expected to conform to. The expected roles of males and females differ from culture to culture. Gender is culturally learned behaviour and therefore culturally relative. A common sense assumption is that an individual's biological sex is intrinsic to that of their gender. However, some sociologists now base their analysis of sex and gender, on the supposition that there are distinct differences between the two. The sex of most individuals can be determined by the biological differences between the male and the female - physical characteristics such as chromosomes, hormones and genitals - which will categorise them accordingly. These characteristics are often mistaken to pre-determine the gender of an individual - the extent, to which these genetic characteristics actually influence an individual's behaviour, is unclear. Therefore, gender should not necessarily be predicted by the sex of an individual, as this could be a stereotypical assessment. (Moore, 2001, page 27)
Women on the other hand, are bound by the conventions and responsibilities of being selfless mother. Women often stayed in the relationship because of the children (keeping the family together), but left the relationship for the same reason (detrimental for the children). Low-self esteem, brought by the consistency of emotional abuse, often gives women a distorted view of themselves whereby they presume that they are worthless; this ensures the feeling of predetermined failure if they leave. (Handout, informal interviews, page 36) Dobash and Dobash argue that historically via legal, literary and religious writings, women have always been documented as 'mothers' 'wives' or 'daughters' and that as such, have never been extended the opportunity to become a significant individual in their own right. For example, in Leviticus, God told Moses that a man is worth 50 sheikels and a woman worth 30. Women were traditionally denied the opportunity to read, write and participate in politics. They have been portrayed as insignificant throughout history, and as a result gain prestige, not by their own achievements, but rather from the male figure, to which they are affiliated. Therefore, women have had little choice but to enter marriage and become the property of their husband. This process is still evident today, as after marriage a woman will assume her husbands name. (Marsh, 1998, page 210) Society has preserved this traditional attitude by ensuring the socialisation process persuades women to perform accordingly - promoting and accepting and their predetermined roles, as devoted wife and selfless mother. As such, escalating any further up the 'food chain' presents significant problems for a woman and would be perceived as unsuitable behaviour - especially if she has children. As many women themselves are opposed to women working after having children. Women have been and continue to be, weighed down by the socially constructed obligation to serve men first and foremost. Women, therefore become dependant on their roles as 'wife and mother' for recognition as an individual.
The constraints of this study can be viewed as Pollert's middle class background, as her perceptions of factory life could be tainted by her own set of values and norms from her middle class culture, which are inclined to vary throughout different classes. Situations, which were perceived as unacceptable by Pollert, may be understood and accepted by women from the working class background and this could induce an ideological bias from the researcher. Limitations were set by management as to who Pollert was allowed to interview and the questions that Pollert could ask the women who were allowed to be interviewed. Also under scrutiny would be the fact that only one factory, one class and one ethnicity were researched and this could present a problem when attempting to generalise the researchers findings. In conclusion, it would appear that gender does not automatically coincide with the biological sex of an individual. Displaying the traditional 'masculine' or 'feminine' characteristics of the male or female sex may be biological as the functionalists would suggest, but could have been created and reinforced via the socialisation process and with interaction in society as an adult. A significant portion of any individual's behaviour may be socially constructed which also pertains to the gender aspect of behaviour and therefore it is difficult to interpret - even in infancy - whether girls are naturally caring, considerate or emotional and boys inherently, active, unemotional and rational. The unequal nature of modern society continues to hold the male sex and gender characteristics in a superior light and until society changes to recognise and alter this perception, both males and females may continue to live in conflict, with neither given the opportunity to truly explore themselves and open up the possibilities of self-actualisation. Both men and women are confined to the rigidity of traditional Western culture, which imposes its guidelines upon society denying both the chance to test the 'greener grass'. When evaluating the theories, which attempt to ascertain the essence of gender; a collaboration of all theories should be taken into consideration to extend a fuller more balanced conclusion.
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