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Assess The Contribution Of Feminist Perspectives To Our Understanding Of Society (33 Marks)

1791 words - 8 pages

Assess the contribution of feminist perspectives to our understanding of society (33 marks)

Feminists see society as patriarchal. They seek to describe, explain and change the position of women within society. The first ‘wave’ of feminism appeared in the late 19th century with the suffragette’s campaign for the right for women to vote. Even though all feminists oppose women’s subordination, there are disagreements on its causes and how to overcome it.
Liberal or reformist feminists believe that traditional prejudices and stereotypes about gender differences are a barrier to equality. They believe all human beings should have equal rights. Since both men and women are human beings, both ...view middle of the document...

Their work has demonstrated gender differences are not born but are the result of different treatment and socialisation patterns within society. However, some argue that Liberal feminism is over-optimised. They see obstacles to freedom as simply being prejudices of individuals or irrational laws that can be gradually reformed away by the onward ‘March of Progress’. They tend to ignore the possibility of deep installed structures within society causing women’s oppression for example capitalism or patriarchy. Walby (1997) argues that liberal feminists offer no explanation for the overall structure of gender inequality. Marxist feminists believe that liberal feminism fails to recognise the underlying causes or women’s subordination and they are naïve to believe that changes within the law is enough to bring about equality.
Marxists Feminists reject the liberal feminist view that women’s subordination is the product of stereotyping and outdated attitudes. On the other hand, Marxist feminists believe that women’s oppression is rooted in capitalism. Women’s subordination in a capitalist society is a product of their primary unpaid role as an unpaid homeworker placing them in an economically dependent position on their husbands. Their subordination performs a number of functions for capitalism. Women are a source of cheap, exploitable labour for employers. Women can be payed less because it is assumed that they will be financially dependent upon their husband’s earnings. Women are a reserve army for labour; they can be moved into the labour force during economic booms and then out at times of recession. Women can be treated as marginal workers because it’s assumed their primary role is at home. Women reproduce the labour force through their unpaid domestic labour, by nurturing and socialising their children to become the future generation of workers and by maintaining and servicing the current workforce: their husbands. Women also absorb the anger that is caused by capitalism Ansley (1972) says ‘women are the takers of sh*t’. By this she means that they soak up the frustrations of their husbands due to the exploitation and alienation they experience at work. For Marxist feminists this explains male domestic violence against women. Because of the links between women’s subservience and capitalism, Marxist feminists believe society can bring about change by overthrowing capitalism. Some argue that we must also consider non-economic factors and change the position of women. For example Barrett (1980) argues we must give more emphasis to women’s consciousness and motivations, and the role of ideology in maintaining their oppression. For example the idea of ‘Familism’; this presents the nuclear family and its sexual division of labour as natural and normal, family is portrayed as the only place where women can attain fulfilment, through motherhood intimacy and sexual satisfaction. This ideology supports the idea of women being subordinated. We must...

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