Examine the contributions of feminist sociologists to the study of family life. What Is Feminism?

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Sociology Essay.


Examine the contributions of feminist sociologists to the study of family life.

What Is Feminism?

"In my heart, I think a woman has two choices: either she's a feminist or a masochist." - Gloria Steinem

There are three types of feminism - Marxist, Radical and Liberal. All feminists believe in gender socialization, although they all blame different groups of people for women being treated the way they do.  Marxist feminists blame society or capitalism, radical feminists blame men, and liberal feminists blame nobody; they just want equal opportunities for women.

Marxist Feminists.

"We still live in a world in which a significant fraction of people, including women, believe that a woman belongs and wants to belong exclusively in the home."  - Rosalyn Sussman

Marxist feminists believe that women are oppressed by society and are being used to help capitalism.  Capitalism is a system that helps the rich people stay rich, and the poor people stay poor.  This is done by rich people handing down valuable possessions where as the poor people have nothing of value to pass on to the next generation.

Engels said the nuclear family is like an institution – the women are expected to stay at home and do housework whilst the men go out to work.  

Veronica Beechey argues that women, as housewives, perform two key functions for capitalism by staying at home.  By doing so, she believes women provide free care for current and future workers by looking after her husband and children.  This helps the capitalist system because if the workers are in good health they can work harder and for longer hours.  The second key function housewives provide is by acting as a cheap reserve army of workers that can be sent back to their homes when they are not needed.  

Barret and McIntosh suggest that the nuclear family is an ideological instrument and that most people are bought up to believe that they should live as a nuclear family.  Because of this, other family structures are seen as inferior and blamed for anything that goes wrong.  They also suggest the nuclear family is anti social as they do not socialise with anyone outside their family network.

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Marxists have contributed to the study of family life by showing us how women are being exploited in the world of work.

Radical Feminists.

"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race." - Susan B. Anthony

Radical feminists believe that women are oppressed by patriarchy – this is where men are the head ...

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