Assess the Contribution of Feminist Sociologists to an Understanding of Family Roles and Relationships

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There a many different types of feminist theories but they all share a few common interests. They all believe there is a fundamental division in society between men and women, that women are to some extent exploited by men and that society is male-dominated or patriarchal. They also criticize existing sociology by saying it has a pro-male bias. They call this ‘malestream’ sociology claiming most sociology is written by men, about men and for men. In the early 1970s feminist ideology became influential in sociology and this was reflected in a growing number of studies of the family from a feminist point of view. There a three main groups of feminists; radical, liberal and Marxist. These three groups all see women as a single group who share interests and are all equally exploited. However, another group called difference feminism emphasizes that women are not one single, united group but have a variety of interests and believe not all women are equally exploited. They have found that there is increasing family diversity and that women are not equally exploited in all types of family e.g. matrifocal or lesbian families. Nicholson (1997) believes women are often better off outside the traditional idea of family and Calhoun (1997) explains women cannot be exploited by men in lesbian families. This perspective is not easy to criticize because it recognizes differences in family life however it can be criticized for losing sight of continuing inequalities between men and women within the family. Radical feminists believe that the family plays a major role in maintaining the oppression of women in a male-dominated society. Germaine Greer (2000) argues that even in marriage today women remain subservient to their husbands. Marxist feminists believe that the family benefits the capitalist system and in doing so exploits women. Margaret Benston (1972) claims that wives
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