Terms in this set (28)
- Believe society is patriarchal
- That we can create change and equality through social and political reformation.
- Believe society is patriarchal
- That we cannot create change and equality through only social and political reformation. Males are oppressive towards females because it is biological.
Sex and gender
Ann Oakley (1972) - 'sex' refers to our biological state, 'gender' refers to socially constructed differences in sex, such as the ideas of 'masculine' and 'feminine'. These ideas are transmitted generation by generation through socialisation.
While sex is seen as fixed, gender varies according to time, place etc. For example, it used to be uncommon for bus or taxi drivers to be female in Britain, now it is relatively common. However, it is illegal for females to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Talcott Parsons' instrumental roles
Instrumental role - the role generally performed by the male. It is the role as the 'breadwinner', the financial provider. This role is generally performed in the public sphere of paid work, politics and decision-making and involves rationality, detachment and objectivity.
Expressive role - the role generally performed by the female. It is the role of the wife, mother and the 'emotional supporter'. The role is generally performed in the private sphere of unpaid domestic labour, childrearing and caring of family members and involves emotion, attachment and subjectivity.
How does feminism challenge this?
- Females can perform traditionally male roles equally, if not better.
- Such roles restrict both sexes from leading fulfilling lives.
Evaluation of liberal feminism
-The work of liberal feminists has helped sociologists to understand gender, its differences and how and why they exist.
- However, liberal feminism is criticised for being overly optimistic. Their view that prejudices of individuals and laws that oppress women can be reformed by a 'march of progress'. They ignore the possibility that there are deep-seated structures causing women's oppression, such as capitalism or patriarchy. Sylvia Walby (1997) argues that liberal feminists do not explain the overall structure of gender inequality.
- Marxist and radical feminists argue that liberal feminists ignore the underlying causes of women's subordination and that it is a naive viewpoint.
- Society is patriarchal.
- Patriarchal is universal.
- Shulamith Firestone (1974) argues the origins of patriarchy lie in a woman's biological ability to bear and care for infants, as performing this role means they are dependent on a male.
- Patriarchy is the primary and most fundamental form of social inequality and conflict. The main division in society is between males and females. A male is a female's enemy.
- All men oppress all women. All men benefit from patriarchy, especially from their unpaid domestic labour and sexual services.
The personal is political
According to radical feminists, patriarchy is direct and personal. It occurs both in the public sphere and the private sphere. The personal is political because it affects all relationships as they all involve power and they are political when one individual tries to dominate an individual. Personal relationships between men and women are therefore political as men dominate women through them. Radical feminists refer to these power relationships as 'sexual politics'.
Radical feminists focus on which form of patriarchal power is exercised through personal relationships, often through sexual or physical violence or the threat of it.
Susan Brownmiller (1976) notes that fear of rape results in females being reluctant to go out late at night; it is a powerful deterrent for women doing the same as men.
Radical feminism also explores sexuality and its construction
Malestream sociology regards sexuality as being biological. However, radical feminists argue that patriarchy has constructed sexuality to only satisfy men.
Adrienne Rich (1981) argues that men force women into 'compulsory heterosexuality'; a narrow and unsatisfying form of sexuality which has become the only socially acceptable form.
What do radical feminists suggest we do to create change and equality?
Separation - considering patriarchy exists in relationships ('the personal is political'), some radical feminists suggest that we segregate the sexes. Germaine Greer (2000) argues for the creation of matrilocal households, which are only female.
Consciousness raising - As a result of sharing their experiences with other women, women can begin to see that other women have the same problems because of patriarchy. This may lead to collective action, such as 'reclaim the night' marches.
Political lesbianism - the view that women should adopt lesbianism as heterosexual relationships are inevitably oppressive.
Evaluation of radical feminism
- The idea that the 'personal is political' demonstrates how intimate relationships can involve power and domination.
- Marxist feminists argue that capitalism, not patriarchy, is the source of women's oppression and inequality. Capitalism is the enemy, not men.
- Radical feminists do not explain why women's subordination presents different forms in different societies.It assumes that all women face the same experiences of patriarchy; it ignores the roles that class, ethnicity etc play in the lives of women. For example, a middle class woman may have more in common with a middle class man than a working class woman.
- Anna Pollert (1996) argues that the concept of patriarchy is of little value when it comes to explaining women's position in society. It is a rather circular argument as, for example, male violence is explained as patriarchy whilst patriarchy is seen as being maintained by male violence. Essentially, this means that patriarchy is maintaining itself.
- Radical feminists' view of utopian notions of separatism as a solution to patriarchy is both vague and unlikely to be achievable.
Jenny Somerville (2000) argues that heterosexual attraction is likely to prevent the development of single-sex households (Germaine Greer, 2000, 'matrilocal households').
- Patriarchy is already in decline. Liberal feminists argue that patriarchy has declined as a result of social, political and legal reforms. Radical feminism also ignores violence of women against men and violence in lesbian relationships.
- Women are a source of cheap, exploitable labour.
- Women are a reserve army of labour.
- Women reproduce the labour force.
- Women absorb anger. Fran Ansley (1972) describes women as 'takers of shit', they 'absorb' the frustration their husbands feel as a result of alienation. Marxist feminists argue that this explains male violence against women.
The ideology of familism
Michele Barrett (1980) argues that we should notice women's consciousness and motivations and the importance of ideology as a factor in maintaining women's oppression.
For example, getting married, having a nuclear family etc is 'familiar'; it is considered 'natural' and 'normal'. The home and family is portrayed as the only way/s for a woman to achieve fulfillment. We must overthrow both capitalism and familism.
What is the difficulty with this?
Juliet Mitchell (1975) uses Freud's psychoanalytic theory to argue that ideas about femininity is so deeply ingrained that it is very difficult to change. Even after capitalism has been overthrown, it would still be difficult to overcome patriarchal ideology because it is so instilled into women.
How is Marxist feminism criticised?
- Ignores the impact that other factors such as ethnicity have on a woman's experience of inequality.
- Ignores the fact that every woman's experience is different. A middle class woman may have more in common with a middle class man than a working class woman.
- Feminist issues exist in non-capitalist countries.
- Explains capitalism's role in the oppression of women but does not explain a man's role. Heidi Hartmann (1981) describes Marxist feminism as being 'sex blind'.
Dual systems feminism
Dual systems feminism seeks to produce a theory that combines radical feminism and Marxism.
Heidi Hartmann (1979)
An economic system - capitalism
A sex-gender system - patriarchy
Heidi Hartmann (1979) argues that capitalism and patriarchy are intertwined. To be able to understand women's oppression we must look at the domestic division of labour and paid work. Domestic work restricts a woman's availability for paid work, but the lack of paid work forces many women into marriage and as a result, they become dependent on a man. Therefore, the two systems reinforce each other.
Sylvia Walby (1988)
Capitalism and patriarchy are interrelated. However, their interests are not always the same. Capitalism wants women in low paid work, patriarchy wants to keep women subordinated within the private sphere. However, capitalism has more power and therefore, patriarchy develops a strategy of women working but in low paid jobs which subordinate them to men.
Anna Pollert (1996)
Patriarchy is a descriptive term to explain practices such as male violence and the control of women.
Capitalism is a dynamic system of profiting.
Difference feminists do not see women as being part of a single homogeneous (of the same kind, alike) group. Middle class and working class do not share the same experiences of patriarchy and oppression, nor do women of different ethnicities.
How do difference feminists criticise other feminists?
Difference feminists argue that other feminists have created a 'false universality' for themselves; it claims to be for the equality of all women but it only represents women who are white, Western, heterosexual and middle class.
For example, Western feminists may see the family as being oppressive but for many black women the family is a source of support and defense against both patriarchy and racism.
What are the criticisms of essentialism?
The idea that all women are essentially the same. Difference feminists argue that liberal, radical and Marxist feminists view all women as being the same. Western feminists are also too focused on sexuality rather than issues that affect other parts of the world, such as education and access to healthcare, social welfare etc.
Judith Butler (1992) argues that discourse and power/knowledge is most important when discussing feminist issues. When words are used it defines someone or something. For example, describing a pregnant woman as a 'patient' disempowers women but empowers the male doctors.
How does Judith Butler (1992) and poststructuralist feminists criticise other forms of feminism?
White, Western, middle class, heterosexual women who dominate the feminist movement have falsely claimed the title of 'universal womanhood'. Women are not all the same and there is no 'essence' that represents every female.
How is poststructuralism useful?
It helps us to understand the impact that discourse has. For example, the medicalisation of childbirth. It also isn't biased in its approach; it focuses on the discourse of many different issues.
What are some criticisms of poststructuralism?
Sylvia Walby (1992) argues that while there are differences between women, there are also similarities; they all face patriarchy.
Highlighting the differences between women may divide them. This is opposite to what feminism strives to do.
Lynne Segal (1999) argues that feminism is about real inequality, not just discourses.
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