Assess the contribution of feminist perspective to an understanding of modern family life ( 20 marks)

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Candice Burton

Assess the contribution of feminist perspective to an understanding of modern family life (20 marks)

In this essay I will attempt to analyse three areas of feminism and apply it to the modern family life. Each area of feminism has different views on what or who has caused the oppression of women and why.

    The definition of feminism is a doctrine that advocates equal rights for women. Feminism is often considered to be a paradigm shift which is a major change in the way society forms its values and beliefs. The nuclear family which the government strives for is ‘advertised’ by its political, ideological and religious expectations. The nuclear family was the typical family in the post-war period was known as the ‘golden period’ where the mother stays at home to look after the children and the father goes out to work. These were very segregated roles where the male acted as the instrumental role and female the expressive role.

   To begin with liberal feminists blame society for the oppression and exploitation of women and began to be popular in the 1950’s and 60’s when civil rights movements were taking place. The idea behind liberal feminism is that blame is not put on structures and institutions within society, such as agencies of socialisation e.g. religion, education and family but rather with the cultures and attitudes of the people in it. They look at the oppression of women to be blamed on the patriarchal society that we live in, and the way that roles are defined by gender, therefore liberal feminists try to overcome the stereotypical views of roles that men and women should do and enable women to have equal rights as men. Much of the inequalities women face according to Ann Oakley is because the central role of the woman is still seen by a male dominated society to be childcare and housework. The problem with this is that this area of work and is often not seen as a ‘real’ job because it is unpaid labour and is not a 9 to 5 job. Women are continuously doing a ‘second shift’ by going out to work all day for one shift and then coming home to start the other shift as housewife.            Feminists say that the sexual division of labour is due to the roles in which women are segregated to, these include low paid, low status or part-time work, therefore the emphasis put on that women’s pay is merely a top-up for men’s pay and often only work to fill a space in the job area. By working part-time, it suggests that more time should be spent at home doing ‘women’s work’ which limits how much they can achieve in their lifetime.

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     Even in our contemporary society many of the jobs that are to do with waiting, serving, cleaning or caring are predominantly done by women. This tells us that government are trying to emphasize the importance of the nuclear family despite the fact that there are more women than men going on to university to gain higher degrees, suggesting that women now more than ever challenging for their independence. Gaining a high degree is not seen as ‘right’ for women because the top jobs are taken up by men therefore facing male prejudice. Many companies would not want women ...

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This essay doesn’t include any spelling or grammatical errors. I do like the use of including rhetorical questions, “what is a normal or typical family?” as it allows the examiner to see that the candidate is insightful, whilst providing elements of evaluation.

Feminist terminology is used, “oppression” and “exploitation” and the writer also refers to the Civil Rights Movement which shows that they have good historical knowledge of other events happening at the same time as the Feminist movement. They also mention particular sociologists, such as Firestone which is excellent. They also refer to the “modern” issue of the question by providing useful contemporary examples of the elements of modern family life. The essay fails to answer the “assess” element of the question somewhat. Although it thoroughly considers a great multitude of feminist contributions to our understanding of modern family life (liberal, Marxist, radical) the writer needs to consider what, for instance, Marxists say in contrast to feminists, in order to gain more evaluative points. For example they could state: “Feminist perspectives are more useful to our understanding, than traditional sociological theories such as Marxism, because feminists are studying society now whereas Marxists fail to account for the massive social change that has happened since Marx was writing”. The writer needs to be careful in confusing traditional Marxist theory with that of Marxist Feminism. For example: “Marxists believe that women are often the ones who form negative concepts of themselves” is incorrect, as that is a Marxist feminist belief. It would be useful if the candidate could mention that the key terms they are using are from a Functionalist origin, “instrumental role and female the expressive role”. This would just showcase that the writer has sociological knowledge from a range of perspectives.

This essay shows that the candidate has sound knowledge of the many different strands of feminism. The essay begins with a bold statement, “In this essay I will attempt to analyse three areas of feminism and apply it to the modern family life. Each area of feminism has different views on what or who has caused the oppression of women and why” which shows that they will indeed answer the specific question set. It then proceeds to define feminism as a whole which is useful. The candidate explains the three types of feminism in a list fashion, before diving deep into their evaluations, which actually works well, even though it is not the traditional format GCSE candidates are usually taught (Point, Example, Evaluation).