Assess the contribution of feminist sociologists to an understanding of family roles and relationships.

Topics: Feminism, Sociology, Feminist theory Pages: 4 (1343 words) Published: April 21, 2014
Assess the contribution of feminist sociologists to an understanding of family roles and relationships. In this essay I will explore the different schools of feminism such as Marxist, liberal and radical feminism, who share the view that women are oppressed in a patriarchal society but differ in opinion on who benefits from the inequalities. Each school of feminism has their own understanding of family roles and relationships which I will assess through this essay. Firstly one must look at the division of domestic labour and conjugal roles. Conjugal roles refer to the roles performed by men and women in relation to housework, childcare and paid work. Traditionally men had the instrumental ‘bread-winning’ role which the women had the expressive role (childcare and primary socialisation). Feminists say that the traditional division of labour is neither natural nor beneficial to women as their expressive role is unpaid and taken for granted. However different feminist views disagree on who benefits from this unpaid labour. Marxist feminists would argue it is capitalism that benefits most as wives keep their husbands happy and therefore they are left with a content workforce. On the other hand, radical feminists would argue that men are the main people to gain from women’s oppression as we live in a patriarchal society. A functionalist view from Wilmott and Young says that there has been a ‘march of progress’ in which the family has become more symmetrical with more joint conjugal roles (where both partners share the household labour). However feminists reject this view with Oakley arguing the family still remains patriarchal and Boulton saying the evidence to support the alleged rise in symmetry is weak, and that the responsibility for childcare still lies with women. Furthermore, Oakley describes how the housewife role has become dominant for women in a marriage since the industrialisation in the 19th century. Although women started off as part of the work force...
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