The Contribution of Feminists to the Sociology of the Family

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Feminists have played a major part in the ideology of the family, as they provide an alternative view to the traditional sociology of the family. There are many different types of feminists; the main ones are Radical feminists, Marxist feminist and liberal feminists. Although they are categorised separately, they fundamentally believe in the same idea, which is the dominant functionalist assumptions are inaccurate and should therefore be challenged. Functionalists believe that in the family, the role of the woman is functional when she plays a necessary ‘expressive’ role, providing care and affection for members in a more subordinate role than that of the breadwinner husband. HOUSEWORK/POWER RELATIONS One of the functionalists,…show more content…
A liberal feminist, Jessie Bernard, sees the role of housewife as the key factor in limiting the potential of women. Bernard believes that marriage is particularly beneficial for men as they are more likely than single men to have successful careers, high incomes and high status occupations. However, wives are found to express marital dissatisfaction more frequently than men, since they gain least. Margaret Benston, a Marxist feminist, states that the amount of unpaid labour performed by women is very profitable to those who own the means of production. To pay for women even at minimum wage scales, would involve a massive redistribution of wealth. At present the support of the family is a hidden tax on the wage earner, his wage buy the labour power of two people. In addition, the man is less likely to withdraw his labour power with a wife and children to support. Not only does the family produce and rear cheap labour, it also maintains it at no cost to the employer. The woman as housewife tends to her husbands needs keeping him in good working order to perform his role as wage labourer. Radical feminists such as Dobash and Dobash, found through their studies that although both partners feel that marriage allows them to make some demands upon the other, there is considerable difference in their abilities to achieve their own ends when there is disagreement. The woman is almost never in a position to coerce him by physical means
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