Gendered division of labour essay

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Gendered division of labour essay

  1. 1. Using material from Item B and elsewhere, assess the view that roles and relationships among couples are becoming more equal (24 marks) There are many definitions of ‘couples’ therefore to consider the idea that roles and relationships among couples are becoming more equal the definitive meaning of a ‘couple’ needs to be established. The dictionary definition of a couple is two people who are married or otherwise closely associated romantically or sexually. However this acts as a heading that other forms of couples fits under. For example there are many diverse structures in a relationship such as traditional marriage, same sex marriages and people who are cohabitating. Within these relationship types, partners often decipher the power roles as in who makes the important decisions regarding finance and who does the most domestic labour. From the March of Progress view, men are seen to be helping women with traditional housewife roles (childcare, cooking, cleaning) therefore the gap of equality between couples is decreasing more and more. With this decreasing, joint conjugal roles would be increasing whereby both partners would share equal roles. However, regarding gender scripts and the patriarchal control view, men and women from a young age are being influenced by societal conventions – boys like blue and girls like pink. The housewife role is engrained into children from childhood therefore the patriarchal view would say that men are always going to trap women into domestic labour and women will forever be subjected to the unequal mundane tasks throughout their relationships. This in turn makes segregated conjugal roles a consistent variable; men will forever do certain tasks and women do others. The idea of a new man is the result of progress in society’s equality, these days more and more men are staying at home whilst the women work therefore they are looking after the house or their children. Functionalists would argue the traditional nuclear family. Women carry out the expressive role of emotional support network and nurturer whereas the man carrying out the instrumental role would be the breadwinner and the one who provides for the family. Within these roles come different domestic tasks. If the man in the relationship is out working and providing for the family, it means the woman has to stay at home and care for the house and their children; as stated in item B ‘The domestic division of labour may not be as clear-cut as it once was, but it is still a highly gendered division in most marriages’. To contradict this view, Young and Willmott in their study in 1973 found that the roles in couples are becoming more equal and democratic thereby creating the symmetrical families where men and women do similar domestic tasks. Nevertheless, though Young and Willmott found that the symmetrical family is on the rise, sociologist Anne Oakley found a much different result. Oakley argues that even though men are seen to be doing more, the roles are being exaggerated. For women the housewife role is more dominant after marriage, and even though the rise of industrialism means that more women are working, women being the housewife is still the primary role. This supports the feminists view that women are trapped in traditional roles and are forced into being a housewife bearing the monotonous jobs whilst mean reap the benefits (women being sexual slaves). The feminisation of the workplace means that more and more women are shaking off the ranks of domestic slave and are now earning a living for their own rather than having to depend on their male counterparts. With women being out of work it means roles within their relationships would have to be more equal regarding housework or childcare. This idea is supported by Jonathan Gershuny’s theory of ‘lagged adaptation’. Gershuny found (in 1994) that women who worked full time did less housework overall whereas wives who did not work did 83% of the housework and women who worked part-time did 82% of the housework. The more women worked the more likely it was that the men did the housework. Oriel Sullivan in 2000 found the same results in that men were doing traditional ‘women’s’ tasks. With women working this may result in the woman taking on a duel burden (housework/childcare+paid work) or a triple shift (houework/childcare+paid work+emotion work). This could contribute to a woman power within the relationship. Rosemary Crompton (1997) says the more women’s earning power increases relative to the men’s, the more their overall power increases. Even though The Equal Pat Act o 1975 meant that women could earn just as well as men, women are still not in high enough positions and men are still doing most of the high paid professional jobs, If women are earning less than men it still means that there
  2. 2. is inequality in their couple. Also regarding money, lower class women are still doing more; with the commercialisation of housework meaning that dishwashers, microwaves and housemaids, domestic tasks take a shorter amount of time, unfortunately this may only benefit middle and upper class women. Gender scripts in other couples may not be so emphasised. For example in lesbian families gender roles would not be apparent thus creating a more equal partnership. Gillian Dunne (1999) studied 37 cohabiting lesbian couples and found that there was a fairly even division of labour. She found that the partner who did the most paid work did less work around the house and vice versa. Without the heterosexual relationship pressure of masculinity and femininity, Dunne concluded that lesbian couples interact differently to heterosexual couples – they do not conform to sex typing and gender roles. Also with the less pressure on married life, lesbians who cohabit do not feel the pressure to fit the idea of male and female, this could be likened to Shelton and John’s research where they found that women who cohabit do less housework than their married counterparts. Decision making is also a key feature in relationships, income being one of the most important. Within this decision making regarding money, men earning more money than their wives or partners may make the final decision therefore women having no real say and patriarchy coming into play. Jan Pahl and Carolyn Vogler researched 1200 couples and found that there were two types of allocating money within the couples. The first is the allowance system. An allowance system is where the man gives the woman a certain amount of money (asserting their power through control). The second was a pooling system where couples had a joint bank account (supporting the march of progress view and also the symmetrical family). They also found that the use of an allowance system is decreasing and the pooling system increasing. Though there research supports the increasing equality between men and women, feminists would argue that women are still being trapped by men and controlled – though it seems to be decreasing it will always be there. Nevertheless, liberation for women seems to become an increasing factor. With the high levels of divorce, more and more women are making important decisions by themselves without a man having final say. Hilary Graham found that half of women felt better living on benefits as it was a reliable income after separating with their partners. Women with partners would not have this opportunity. Stephen Edgell studied professional coupes and broke down their decision making into three main categories: less important, important and very important. He found that the less important decisions were being made by the female (what to have for dinner, what time to bath the children) whereas it was either a joint or male dominated decision that were important or very important. These studies overall contribute to the idea that women are still not equal within their couples regarding decision making. Functionalists would argue that these decisions are becoming more and more equal whereas feminists would argue that decision making is not about inequality in earnings but the idea of men as sole decision maker is ingrained through primary socialisation. Decision making is often linked to the power role within the relationship being that one partner has control of the other partner. However, another explanation for the dominance and power over women is domestic violence. Domestic violence is a widespread problem that is mainly males abusing the females resulting in two women a week dyeing due to violence within the home. This act of violence could be seen as the traditional patriarchal structure. Radical feminists Kate Millett and Shulamith Firestone argue that men oppress women and keep them trapped not only in the mental side f the relationship but also physically. They say that men dominate women through actual violence and the threat of it. On the other hand, a different reasoning for domestic violence is explained by Richard Wilkinson. Wilkinson argues that domestic abuse is a result of stress from many factors; social inequality through income and worries about jobs. Through this inequality in that some families have less resources than others, it causes tress and increases conflict and violence. A limitation of social groups means that either partner has no outlet for their aggression leading to the, male taking out their emotions violently on the female. Wilkinson also found that people with less power, status and income were at higher risk of domestic violence than those people that obtain more of these qualities. In conclusion, all of these factors show improvement between the equality within relationships, nevertheless this does not mean that all relationships have improved. Power and control still exists and will most likely continue to exist – the patriarchal mentality from previous generations will forever be present even if it is the most miniscule amount. Women being the primary care giver will have a stronger and more
  3. 3. natural attachment to their child with the father being lesser so therefore the mother will be the sole person responsible, this will stay the same due to primary socialisation of children. Due the statistics that pooling is on the increase rather than an allowance, it could be predicted that this will continue to increase as society progresses which in turn steers the argument in that relationships are becoming more equal and democratic (march of progress). The natural mental state of a human means that domestic violence cannot be predetermined to facts or figures. Acts like this will be present in modern society and again will most likely continue to happen due to some peoples mental state. The statement that roles and relationships among couples are becoming more equal, in this case, is true. At this present time males and females are not equal however things are improving.

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