Feminist sociologists see it as their role to examine the position of women in society, and to uncover the ways in which patriarchy, or the power of men, has been used to control and oppress women. – Their choice of research tends to be influenced by this. There are four main types of feminist theory that attempt to explain the social differences between men and women: 1) Gender Differences: this examines how women's location in, and experience of, social situations differ from men's. Examples may include the sexual division of labor in the household, so women cooking, cleaning, looking after kids etc., then the men providing the income to the family, 2) Gender Inequality: These theories recognize that women's location in, and experience of, social situations are not only different but also unequal to men's. Many feminists point out that marriage is a site of gender inequality and that women do not benefit from being married as men do. Indeed, married women have higher levels of stress than unmarried women and married men. 3) Gender Oppression: These theories suggest that not only are women different from or unequal to men, but that they are actively oppressed, and even abused by men and that power is the key variable. 4) Structural Oppression: this shows how women's inequalities are a result of capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. They make the important insight that not all women, experience inequalities in the same way. White women and black women, for example, may face different forms of discrimination in the workplace. Different types of feminist approaches
1) Marxist – feminist views: Marxist feminists suggest that the nuclear family meets the needs of the industrial society. They have focused on the contribution of domestic labour, i.e. housework and childcare to capitalist economies. In other words they believe that capitalism exploits women. Margaret Benston (1972) suggested that:
The nuclear family is important to capitalism because it rears the future workforce at little cost Mothers and housewives are also useful reserve army of labour that can be hired cheaply as part time workers in times of economic expansion and then let go in times of recession. Women’s domestic labour and sexual services also help maintain the present workforce’s physical and emotional fitness. Capitalist class directly exploit women’s domestic labour by hiring women as cleaners, nannies and cooks. This enables the wealthy and of both sexes to pursue careers outside the home. The focus on women
2) Radical feminist views: They believe that the nuclear family mainly functions to benefit men because gender role socialization results in males and females subscribing to a set of ideas that largely confirm male power and superiority. They argue that the nuclear family is the main arena in which patriarchal ideology is transmitted to children.
The main effect of industrialization was that women were generally excluded from paid work, and therefore had an independent income. They were redefined as mothers and housewives dependent upon the family wage earned by the male breadwinner. Men came to dominate paid work and, consequently, political and cultural power, wheras women were restricted to the family. Radical feminists argue that the occurrence of the modern nuclear family meets the needs of men rather than the needs of all members of the society.