Examine the ways in which feminist sociologists have contributed to our understanding of family
Many of the contributions to this debate have come from radical feminists who have tended to focus on the following aspects of relationships:
How domestic roles are divided between men and women, the nuclear family as an ideological construct and domestic violence.
Femenism is a sociologicalpersctive and political movement that focuses on womens oppression and how to end it. There are several types of feminism,and they differ in term of what they see as the cause of womesn oppression and the ways to tackle it.
Delphy and Leonard studied mainly working-class nuclear families between the 1950s and 1980s. They argue that the type of work women do in the family is the primary cause of their oppression. For example: 9 out of 10 of the households they studied had a male head of household as the main decision maker, with the women and children being defined as his dependents or ...view middle of the document...
Willmott and Young claimed that the symmetrical family, characterised by joint conjugal roles, was becoming more and more common. In this type of family, husbands are much more involved with domestic labour and childcare. These tasks are increasingly shared more or less equally between both partners. They found that 72% of men helped out with domestic labour.
However, as Anne Oakley points out, this was based on simply asking if husbands helped out at least once a week with domestic chores, which means that even men who did very little around the house would be included in this 72%.
Greer, radical femist, argues that the main causes of women’s oppression is patriarchy. They argue that women will always have a low position in the heterosexual nuclear families, as men will alwys try and dominate women in the relationship and make two suggestions for women to ‘escape’ patriarchy
However, Sommerville argues that the radical feminist perspectives above fail to acknowledge that women have made significant advances in modern Britain and as a result they have much more control over their working lives and relationships. They are more free to shape their identities than ever before. For example:
Women are free to choose to embark on careers, which is especially likely given their higher achievement levels at GCSE and A Level. It is increasingly the norm for women to delay entering long- term relationships and parenthood until their late twenties to early thirties. Women are increasingly likely to give up on men who expect a one sided, traditional relationship.
Many feminists point out that although women are more likely to do paid work, they still have to do more than their fair share of domestic labour. They talk of the dual burden, or the double shift, faced by women as they are required to do paid work and then domestic work at home.
Feminists have done much to shine a light on the darker side of family life and to raise our awareness of the inequalities that often lurk behind closed doors. Although modern families do tend to be much more egalitarian than in the past, feminist research still remains relevant to this day as inequalities still persist even if they are not as pronounced as in previous decades.