When looking at equality within relationships there are three main areas to observe; housework, decision making and Domestic violence. A study done by Young and Willmott greatly supports the idea that husbands and wives now have a relationship based on equality. They argue that there has been a long term trend away from segregated conjugal roles and towards joint conjugal roles and the symmetrical family. By this they mean the roles of husbands and wives are much similar; as women now go out to work, although this is may be part time not full time. Men also no help with housework and childcare, also couple now spend their leisure time together instead of separately with workmates or female relatives.
According to Parsons, husbands are the breadwinners and the wife has the nurtring and caring role and that this is based on biological differences between the sexes, a view shared by the New Right. However, this can be criticised using Willmott and Young’s findings, which show that men are now doing the housework and women are going out to work. This shows that family roles are socially constructed and hence not fixed as our society is always changing. Feminists such as Anne Oakley have criticised Willmott and Young’s finding’s stating that they are methodically flawed. She found that only a small minority of men did a significant amount of housework and childcare.
Delphy and Leonard (1992) argued that the inequalities between partners in the home are a result of the fact that the head of the household is almost always male. This implies that men have more decision-making power, and are able to consume more of what the family earns, even if they are unemployed and it is the woman who is earning the money. They state that women, on the other hand, are expected to carry out domestic work without being paid. Marxist Feminists believe that the woman are a ‘reserve army’ of cheap labour in the family and they think that the family should be abolished along with the capitalist society that we live in.
Feminist views of the family revolve around and understanding of the term patriarchy, which means make domination. Feminists agree that men tend to have a superior position in society and that women suffer oppression because of this. Many feminists argue that the family is a corner stone of this oppression and as such needs careful analysis. Liberal feminists believe that the fanily is gradually becoming less oppressive for women, they cite the move of many families towards more symmetrical roles where men take more part in the domestic roles so that women are no longer burdened by the mundane, repetitive, low status work of cleaning, laundry and childcare work which makes their position in society less powerful than mens. However, radical feminists disagree.
The older couple that was observed showed the common construction of a relationship in which the women was the household caretaker and the men took care of the “manly” things. Although there is a division of labor in human affairs between the sexes, there are changing social expectations, which are reflected in somewhat different gender roles at different time (Neuman, M.D, 2013). Through the observation I realized that both men and women no longer have specific “roles” it is now a whoever can get it done should get it done type of attitude. With this new attitude women can now by financially responsible for the family such as the case with the younger couple I observed. Many of the things that the older couple exhibited was frowned upon by the younger couple.
The common radical feminist view on family is that it is institutionally patriarchal, and that gain much more from marriage than women. Greer (2000) argues that wives get less out of marriage than husbands; for example, single women tend to be happier than married women though the opposite is true for men. This is partly because women remain subservient to their husbands and do not revolt against their oppressive spouses. However, from a functionalist perspective, the family is a key aspect of society which helps maintain it and ensure that vital norms and values are passed on in order for society to progress. Parsons (1955) maintains that the family still has a vital role in preparing its members to meet the requirements of the social system.
Power tended to lean more to the husband than the wife, since men could work professional jobs, along with taking care of the family. Muslims are considered one of the several “people of the book”, and follow the word of the Quran. The Quran clearly states that women should be treated with respect, but eventually Islamic custom ruled that out. Women in Islam, all throughout 600-800 CE, were not treated with much respect, as it was for most other cultures. Women were usually uneducated, and in the household, they were expected to raise children, cook, and clean.
Many factors determine the state of a couple’s relationship and the roles each spouse plays in the relationship. The economic position of the couple or even the couple’s interests could alter the roles of the couple. These roles and responsibilities have changed greatly over the past few centuries as things have become more socially acceptable, such as shared chores around the house .But each household or couple’s power, relationship and division of labour can differ from family to family. One large attribute to the couples division of labour is how affluent the couple is .For example if the couple has a lot of money it is common for one of the partners to not work especially the female. Also the couple may be able to afford a house cleaner or servant meaning a lot of responsibility is not given to one of the spouses .Even a nanny or au peir may be hired so that the majority of tasks to do with the children are taken care of .However one half of the couple will have to provide the financial support for the family, meaning that they are the “bread winner” of the relationship.
At that time, women were socialized to attend exclusively to home and family tasks. Gradually they were allowed access into “men-duties.” Thirty years ago, men used to be regarded superior, so men were more important and valuable in the society than women. For centuries, men were allowed to play more sports that women were not; such as football, tennis, among many others. However, women have shown that in spite of the fact that they may be physically weaker, they can do the same sports and jobs that men do. Nowadays, men and women have the same rights; they have the possibility to vote, the opportunity of choosing a career as well as the chance of working.
Radical feminists are criticised for overemphasising the power of men, People believe that it overemphasises the place of domestic violence in family life. Functionalists argue that most families live in peace. Postmodern theorists argue that individuals have much more control over family relations. I personally believe that Functionalists only see the positive side of family life; functionalists believe that family life is full of love, support and harmony, when more times than none it’s the opposite. Many families these days have a number of issues whether is domestic violence or child abuse.