Usefulness of Feminism in Understanding Society

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Assess the usefulness of Feminism to our understanding of society.

Feminism is a structural theory that explains society as a conflict between men and women. The men exploit the women in nearly every aspect of their lives. This is done through a culture geared towards the maintenance of a hierarchy where women are below men; patriarchy. Feminists define patriarchy as ‘a system of social structures and practises in which men dominate, oppress and exploit’. Feminism has broken up into many different branches. The main four being radical feminism, Marxist feminism, liberal feminism and black feminism. Radical feminism says that the exploitation of women is due to exploitative family relationships. Marxist feminists say that the exploitation is due to capitalism; that the bourgeoisie culture contains patriarchal elements. Liberal feminists argue that although the exploitation is part of the culture it can be equalised through reform. Black feminist theory has combined racism and sexism in society to explain exploitation for people from different backgrounds. Feminists criticise mainstream sociology for being 'male stream'. By contrast, feminists examine society from the viewpoint of women; they see their work as part of the struggle against women's subordination. However, although all feminists oppose women's subordination, there are disagreements among feminist's theories about its causes and how to overcome them.

Liberal feminists:

• Liberalism aspect: Concerned with human and civil rights and freedoms of individuals , and maintain that all human beings are entitled to having equal rights

• Reformism aspect : is the idea that progress in equal rights= achieved by gradual reforms (without revolutions)

• When analysing liberal feminists it is important in acknowledging the contribution the group has made to society as a whole. In terms of their campaigning of laws and policies against sex discrimination in employment etc.

• They also seek cultural change – traditional prejudices/ stereotypes i.e. women are less rational and more dominated by emotion -> used to legitimatise exclusion from high decision analysis roles- confinement to domestic setting

• Sex and gender peaceful

1) Sex refers to biological

2) Culturally constructed identities of masculinity and femininity roles

• While sex differences=fixed. The gender associated differences varies between culture+time. Thus what is considered a proper role for women in one society may be disapproved of in another. MILLETT= cultural differences can make women more inferior e.g. women in China used to get their feet binded to make them walk better, arranged marriages, wearing the veil... all oppressing. Oakley’s (1974/1981) study in particular is useful to our understanding of why there is male dominance in society today. She says that the position of women varies greatly between societies and over time. Women have always worked, but during the industrial revolution, married women and mothers were taken out of the paid workforce. Before this time, both men and women worked inside and outside the home producing agricultural goods or cloth. During the 1800s, children started to work in factories along with men after moving from the countryside to towns. However, the Factory Act 1819 banned children under 9 from being employed. Because married women and mothers were already taken out of the workforce previously, it meant that the women were more likely to stay at home to care for the children, leading to their primary role becoming a ‘housewife’, while the family became reliant on the wages of the husband alone. Although historically, the reliance on men for finances was only short lived, it had a long lasting psychological effect, as today’s women are still socialised into the role of housewives. This helps us to explain the gender differences between roles.

3) EVAL: Too optimistic fail to look at underlying causes of...
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