sociologists to an understanding of family roles and relationships. (24 marks)
Different feminists have different views on family roles and relationships. Radical feminists believe that families maintain the oppression of women in a patriarchal and male dominated society. Germaine Greer (2000) argues that even in marriages today women are still subservient to their husbands. She has the belief that single women are happier than married women; this is reflected on by the high divorce rates instigated by women. Greer also claims wives are more likely to suffer physical and emotional abuse than husbands, and daughters are more frequently victims of abuse from other male members of the family. Radical feminism has been criticized for exaggerating the extend of abuse that goes on within the family, and fail to acknowledge the increasing equality between men and women.
Marxist feminists also help to formulate an understanding of family roles and relationships. They believe that the family benefits the capitalist system and in doing so exploits women. Margaret Benston (1972) claims wives are a ‘reserve army of labour’ and give birth and nurture the next generation of labourers. Women are the ‘slaves of the wage slaves’. Marxist feminist views have been criticized because of the exaggeration of the extent to which women are exploited within the family and oversimplifying by taking little account of other women’s circumstances, such as class and ethnicity.
Liberal feminists such as Jennifer Somerville (2000) believe that women are still disadvantaged in families, but then criticize radical and Marxist feminists for failing to accept some progress that has been made. Women now have much more choice about whether to marry, whether to take paid work or whether to remain married. This has created greater equality in marriage and sharing of conjugal roles within the family, such as males being the child carers and women becoming the main worker. Jennifer Somerville (2000) still agrees there are still inequalities within marriage that need to be dealt with. A criticism of Liberal feminism can be over exaggeration if inequality or exploitation within the family.
The different feminists ideas are all constructed on a conflict basis. Functionalists would criticize their contribution to the understanding of the family for not including positives of society and giving credit to these positive factors of the family.