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June 13, 2013 / C H Thompson

Feminist views of the family (Marxist and Radical)

Feminist writers have had a lot more influence on the family than any other perspective.

feminism

 

  • Marxist feminists emphasise how capitalism uses the family to oppresses women, and the harmful consequences of the family to women’s lives
  • For example Margaret Benston (1972) argued that capitalism benefits from an army of women – an unpaid workforce- who are compliant and willing to do as they’re told because they’ve been socialised to act this way Benston said:
  • “The large amount of unpaid labour performed by women is very large and very profitable to those who own the means of production.”
  • This social reproduction of labour power isn’t just about producing children as future healthy workers, it’s also about ideological conditioning – to make women passive
  • The Marxist feminist position is further enhanced by Fran Ansley (1972)
  • she grabs hold of Parsons’ view of the family as functioning to stabilise adult personalitiesand turns into Marxist idea
  • By arguing Parsons’ ‘function’ of the family (particularly the wife) as an ’emotional safety-valve’ to absorb the husbands frustrations is created by the capitalist system
  • By being an emotional safety valve, the wife helps keep capitalism stable – this explanation views society as one of conflict rather than consensus as Parsons’ does
  • Diana Feeley (1972) argues the family socialises the young into a false consciousness of class inequality and stratification
  • Feeley position is similar to that of Althussar’s, arguing familial ideology is designed to teach passivity not rebellion

Evaluation

Criticism of Marxist feminist perspectives of the family comes from sociologists who highlight how:

  1. Marxist feminism places a lot of emphasis on nuclear family ignoring family diversity (in the same way functionalists do)
  2. the approach also assumes a degree of passivity with women, for example some women might actively choose their social role as a wife and mother
  3. some women might have an ‘active’ matriarchal rather than being a ‘passive’ victim of patriarchy

In contrast, radical feminists…….

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
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