Published on December 15, 2013
There’s a lot of different feminist theory about the family – its generally left-wing and anti-traditional. Recent rightwing pro traditional ideas and the postmodernists.
Like functionalists and Marxists, the family helps to maintain the existing social order. What order do you think Marxists and functionalists mean? For feminists, this social order is patriachy.
The combination of systems, ideologies and cultural practices which make sure that men have power. Women are oppressed because they’re socialised to be dependent on men. How? The family has a central role in this socialisation, male and female roles and expectations are formed in the family.
Marxist feminism – The exploitation of women is essential to the success of capitalism. Women do unpaid work inside the home. Radical feminism – Highlights housework as an exploitation of women. This is because women are dominated by men in society. Men will always oppress women Delphy and Leonard (1992) see the family as a patriarchal institution in which women do most of the work and men get most of the benefit. Liberal Feminism – The cultural norms and values which are reinforced by the family and by other institutions in society. The family is only sexist because it supports mainstream culture which is sexist. Liberal feminists believe that social change is possible. They try to put pressure on institutions such as the legal system and the government to change laws and social policies which discriminate against women.
Marxist feminism – The exploitation of women is essential to the success of capitalism. Women do unpaid work inside the home. Benston (1969) – If housework was paid at minimum wage, capitalist profits would be damaged. Ansley (1972) – Men take out their frustration and stress from work on women, instead of challenging capitalism.
Portrays women as passive, plays down the ability of women to make changes and improve their situation Doesn’t acknowledge that power might be shared within a family. Doesn’t consider lesbian and gay relationships, single parent families. Black feminists assert that feminist theory doesn’t address the fact that women from different ethnic backgrounds have different life experiences.
New Right theory developed in the 1980’s. They believe the nuclear family is the bedrock of society Social polocoes on family, children, divorce and welfare have undermined the family. Charles Murray (1989) stays that welfare benefits are too high and create a ‘culture of dependency’. New Right theorists are concerned about welfare benefits for single mothers. Lone parent and reconstituted families and the easier access to divorce have led to a breakdown in traditional values. This causes social problems such as increased crime.
Diversity in family structures is a good thing There is a much wider range of living options available due to social and cultural changes. New family forms e.g.____ Judith Stacey (1990) asserts there will never be one dominant type of family in Western culture again. Western family types are fluid, diverse and unresolved. A person can move from one family structure into another. Contemporary living is flexible, this is positive as individuals have choice depending on their needs and lifestyle. Not hemmed in by tradition.;
O’Brien and Jones (1996) concluded that there was less variety in family types than Stacey reported. Most individuals experienced only one or two different family types in their time. How would other perspectives critique the postmodernist view?
1. Identify three different strands of feminist thought about the family 2. Give two characteristics of patriarchy 3. what does Murray mean by ‘a culture of dependency’? Why do postmodernists think there will never be one dominant type of family in Western culture again?
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