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Analyse And Assess The Contribution Of Feminist Research To Our Understanding Of Society. (40 Marks) January 2003

1182 words - 5 pages

Analyse and assess the contribution of feminist research to our understanding of society. (40 Marks) January 2003Feminist research is a relatively modern concept in terms of the length of time sociology has existed. Original theories developed by Comte and Durkheim looked at society in terms of which functions each part of society carried out. It was a very malestream way of looking at things as it looked at how norms and values were passed on in different parts of society. The role of women was seen as mother, carer and seen as not having a particularly obvious, important, influential part in society. Marx also saw society from a male perspective. He wrote about the proletariat and ...view middle of the document...

They enjoyed new sexual freedoms in the 'permissive' age yet at the same time they were still treated as little more than sex objects. They were also pulled between work and home; more married women were joining the work force but the attitude still prevailed that a woman's place is in the home. Tensions such as these created the need for a movement to help women make sense of their situation. Finally, Mitchell notes the effects of social trends on women's lives. Women were entering higher education in greater numbers and they were much more interested in developing careers. Moreover, the contraceptive pill gave them better control over family size and the spacing of children. So the new opportunities of the 1960's challenged the 'traditional' roles of women.Although feminists are united by their common desire for sexual justice and their concern for women's welfare, there is actually quite a wide spectrum of feminisms (Mitchell and Oakley, 1986). These can be divided into four sub-groups, radical feminists, Marxist/Socialist Feminists, Black feminism, and Liberal Feminists.Liberal feminists stress the importance of equal rights. They argue that people should be treated according to their talents, efforts etc rather than on the basis of their alleged sexual characteristics. So, instead of society imposing separate roles for women, they should be allowed to compete freely with men and they should enjoy the same privileges and opportunities. The liberal approach has had legislative success (e.g. the equal pay act of 1975). But some critics say that it does not go far enough. It seems to imply that a society like Britain is basically sound and good and all that is requires is the removal of several discriminatory barriers so that women can achieve the rights that men already have. Socialist and radical feminists insist that the problem is deeper than this and so more critical analysis is needed.Radical feminists argue that society is 'patriarchal'; in other words, it is dominated and ruled by men. Radical feminists believe that women have always been under 'the thumb' of men and if men feel threatened, they may resort to violence in order to maintain and exert their power.This form of feminism and also a few other perspectives believe that patriarchy is the reason for war, conflict, damaging the environment etc. Feminists believe that patriarchy is taught and learned in every generation, the terms valued, control, privilege, domination, power, ideology and culture, all...

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