There’s a lot of different feminist theory about the family
– its generally left-wing and anti-traditional. Recent rightwing pro traditional ideas and the postmodernists.
Like functionalists and Marxists, the family
helps to maintain the existing social order.
What order do you think Marxists and
For feminists, this social order is patriachy.
The combination of systems, ideologies and
cultural practices which make sure that men
Women are oppressed because they’re
socialised to be dependent on men. How?
The family has a central role in this
socialisation, male and female roles and
expectations are formed in the family.
Marxist feminism – The exploitation of women is essential to the
success of capitalism. Women do unpaid work inside the home.
Radical feminism – Highlights housework as an exploitation of
women. This is because women are dominated by men in
society. Men will always oppress women Delphy and Leonard
(1992) see the family as a patriarchal institution in which women
do most of the work and men get most of the benefit.
Liberal Feminism – The cultural norms and values which are
reinforced by the family and by other institutions in society. The
family is only sexist because it supports mainstream culture
which is sexist. Liberal feminists believe that social change is
possible. They try to put pressure on institutions such as the
legal system and the government to change laws and social
policies which discriminate against women.
Marxist feminism – The exploitation of
women is essential to the success of
capitalism. Women do unpaid work inside the
Benston (1969) – If housework was paid at
minimum wage, capitalist profits would be
Ansley (1972) – Men take out their frustration
and stress from work on women, instead of
Portrays women as passive, plays down the
ability of women to make changes and
improve their situation
Doesn’t acknowledge that power might be
shared within a family.
Doesn’t consider lesbian and gay
relationships, single parent families.
Black feminists assert that feminist theory
doesn’t address the fact that women from
different ethnic backgrounds have different
New Right theory developed in the 1980’s.
They believe the nuclear family is the bedrock of
Social polocoes on family, children, divorce and
welfare have undermined the family.
Charles Murray (1989) stays that welfare benefits are
too high and create a ‘culture of dependency’.
New Right theorists are concerned about welfare
benefits for single mothers.
Lone parent and reconstituted families and the easier
access to divorce have led to a breakdown in
traditional values. This causes social problems such
as increased crime.
Diversity in family structures is a good thing
There is a much wider range of living options
available due to social and cultural changes. New
family forms e.g.____
Judith Stacey (1990) asserts there will never be
one dominant type of family in Western culture
again. Western family types are fluid, diverse and
unresolved. A person can move from one family
structure into another.
Contemporary living is flexible, this is positive as
individuals have choice depending on their needs
and lifestyle. Not hemmed in by tradition.;
O’Brien and Jones (1996) concluded that
there was less variety in family types than
Stacey reported. Most individuals experienced
only one or two different family types in their
How would other perspectives critique the
1. Identify three different strands of feminist
thought about the family
2. Give two characteristics of patriarchy
3. what does Murray mean by ‘a culture of
Why do postmodernists think there will never
be one dominant type of family in Western