Feminist Family Theory
Feminist family theory has its roots in the feminist movement. Feminism can be defined as the search for rights, opportunities, and identities women believe they deserve (Thomas 2000). Feminism in the United States might be said to have begun with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought for the right to vote, a battle that was not won until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
Often we see that several extreme philosophies are presented, and after a time, a middle ground is reached that incorporates elements of each philosophy but is not as extreme as any individual one. This is ...view middle of the document...
When male power dominates families, they said, males benefit but females do not, thus leading to two types of marriages. Feminist family theorists recognized that male power and dominance were the result of socialization and challenged the concept that male power was natural and inevitable, as suggested in structural functionalism. Feminist scholars examined how the family was influenced by social institutions and politics and how it was affected by the wider system of social norms.
Feminist understanding was furthered in the 1980s by the groundbreaking work of Carol Gilligan, who analyzed the psychological and internal development of women’s sense of self as being different from that of men’s. In her book, In a Different Voice, Gilligan (1982) explored how women defined their identities and understood reality through relationships, particularly intimate relationships. Their experiences must be taken into account in the analysis of their development, she noted, particularly as they internalized their senses of self and their moral codes. She further clarified that, for women, nonviolence and caring for others dominated their views of justice and equality.
In the 1990s, feminist scholars sought to combine both the societal and individual perspectives of oppression, paving the way for a third wave of feminism, which is still a work in progress. This perspective focused on the multiple forms of oppressions. A “matrix of domination” (Hill Collins 1998) could include oppression based on gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or physical ability. For example, although all women experience relatively less status than men, White women experience relatively more status than women of color, middle-class women have more status than poor women, and heterosexual women have more status than lesbian or bisexual women.
Feminist family theorists begin with the question “What is the perspective of women?” Other theories have investigated the...