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AS Sociology


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									A/S Sociology
                                Feminism and the family

Marxist Feminism
The key aspect of Marxist feminism is that the overthrow of capitalism and the
establishment of a socialist society will result in a changed family structure where state
involvement in the provision of childcare will result in equality for women alongside men
in the economic sphere.

Women not only provide domestic labour and childrearing in support of capitalism, but
are also a readily available source of cheap labour and exploitable labour. – low paid, part
time, flexible hours.

Margaret Benston (1972) - ‘The amount of unpaid labour performed by women is very
large and very profitable to those who own the means of production…At present, the
support of the family is a hidden tax on the wage earner – his wage buys the labour
power of two people.’

Fran Ansley (1972) - ‘When wives play their traditional role as takers of shit, they often
absorb their husbands legitimate anger and frustration at their own powerlessness and
oppression. With every worker provided with a sponge to soak up his possibly
revolutionary ire, the bosses rest more secure.’
Criticisms of Marxist feminism

Morgan(1975) – Both Functionalist and Marxist theories of the family ‘presuppose a
traditional model of the nuclear family where there is a married couple with children,
where the husband is the breadwinner and where the wife stays at home to deal with the

Radical Feminism
This is essentially ‘a theory of, by and for women’ (Valerie Bryson) Radical feminism
tends to be novel rather than adapted form other theories such as Marxism. It sees the
exploitation of women as the most fundamental and universal form of domination.
Society is seen as patriarchal, or male dominated, rather than capitalist, and women are
held to have different interests to those of men.

Christine Delphy and Diana Leonard (1992) – Familiar exploitation
Delphy and Leonard have some similarity with Marxist feminist theories, in that they
talk about material factors leading to women’s exploitation. However, they see
themselves as radical feminists since they believe that it is men, rather than capitalists or
capitalism, who are the primary beneficiaries of the exploitation of women’s labour.
Laura M. Purdy(1997) – Baby Strike

             Purdy believes that women are disadvantaged largely by childcare
              responsibilities, rather than material inequalities.

Criticisms of Radical Feminism

Liberal Feminism

Ann Oakley 1974
Oakley points to the way that gender roles are socially constructed. She claims that the
division between male breadwinners and female housewives began as a result of
industrialisation when the home began to be seen as the domain of women. Oakley
claims that this has been supported through gender socialisation.

Liberal feminists point to the fact that these traditional gender divisions are now
beginning to break down. Children’s books and toys are now less gender stereotypical
and the education received by males and females is more equal. Liberal feminists believe
that these developments are beneficial to both males and females.

Criticisms of Liberal Feminism
Some feminists argue that different forms of family life are appropriate for different

Barrett and McIntosh (1982) – Anti social family
They claim that the family is anti social because it makes everything that it outside of it
seem pale and unsatisfactory. Members are so wrapped up in family life that they neglect
social contact with others.

Linda Nicholson (1997)-The myth of the traditional family
 Nicholson is an American sociologist who claims that the ideology of the traditional
family, devalues alternative family structures.

Cheshire Calhoun - Lesbians as family outlaws
  Lesbians and gays introduced the idea of chosen families.

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