Feminism and Stratification

2013, a YouGov survey of adults in Great Britain of both men (80%) and women (81%) were in favour of gender equality, BUT only a minority of men (10%) and women (27%) identified as a feminist.

Millett (1970) argues that although men might be physically stronger, the strength of patriarchy lies in ideological control, and a man’s patriarchal power is both psychological and physical.  Both sexes are socialised in to their superior/inferior roles and the family is a key institution for performing this role, and women can be blamed for the continuation of patriarchal ideas because they are the main socialisers.

Walby believes that despite legislation, women are still less likely to be found in positions of power and influence.

Although state legislation has tried to reduce patriarchy, i.e. the Sex Discrimination Act (1975), many policies still suggest that women and men have different roles. Walby notes how statutory Maternity Pay for women far outweighs the ten days that men receive.

However, patriarchy is not universal concept, with shared experiences. But it should be described as ‘non universal’ in its dimension, as younger women are less likely to experience it and some ethnicities can experience it more than others.

Walby identifies six ‘patriarchal structures’ which operate to maintain male dominance in British society:

  • Paid work
  • Household
  • The state
  • Mass media
  • Sexuality
  • Violence against women

Liberal Feminism

Oakley argues that women have always worked; with the Industrial Revolution, married women worked inside and outside the home producing agricultural goods and cloth.

Factory Act of 1819 banned children under the age of 9 from being employed which meant that women were more likely to stay behind to look after the children. This led to their role as ‘housewife’ as we know today. Thus the family became reliant on the wages of the husband alone.

Women have a dual burden. Oakley suggests that government policy and social norms imply that married women’s primary care is their children whilst expecting them to support the family financially too.

Suggest that differences between men and women have lessened as a result of changes to the law, such as the Equal Pay Act (1970) and Sex Discrimination Act (1975). These changes are over 40 years old and women are faced with a glass ceiling, a barrier which prevents women being promoted to higher status roles, in the work place.

Although changes in legislation do not happen quickly, life of most women in the UK has improved since the 1950s. Oakley (2002) suggests that patriarchy has far-reaching consequences for the planet as a whole.  She argues that patriarchal ways of thinking and the desire to maintain patriarchal power lie behind many of today’s organisations.  She argues that economics, especially, is delusional since it concentrates on aspects like GDP and ignores all the unpaid labour, mostly undertaken by women.

Sue Sharpe’s (1994) work on the attitudes of teenage girls suggests that education and careers are now priority for young women.  Females have also enjoyed greater educational success than males in recent years.

Radical Feminism

Kate Millet (1969) argued that patriarchy was a system that preceded other systems of stratification and was both trans-historical and trans-cultural.  Patriarchy was a belief system that, on the basis of women’s reproductive function, had built a collection of ideas about women’s ‘natural’ role, status and temperament – expressed as ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ – which served to keep women subordinated

Firestone (1972) argues that biology is the basis for women’s inequality and domination by men in all societies.  She argued that men and men occupied separate classes and that there was a ‘sex class system’ that predated the social-class system, imposed on women because of their biological role. Because women give birth, they are, at certain times, physically dependent

Marxist Feminism

Engels suggested that, in the past, people lived in ‘promiscuous hordes’, where sexual relationships were not fixed and property passed from mother to child.

Coontz and Henderson (1986) used Engels’ theory to suggest that patriarchy was more likely to occur in societies that were patrilocal (where the wife lives near her husband’s parents) rather than matrilocal

Fran Ansley argued that women are “takers of shit”  as they were their to calm down men who were stressed and angry from work-

AO3: Marxist feminists don’t explain the fact that patriarchy has existed in all known societies, not just capitalist societies, as radical feminists point out. Patriarchy predates capitalism.

AO3: It is men, not just capitalism, who benefit from women’s subordination, and who enjoy positions of power, high status and pay, and it is men who are the instruments of oppression.

Mirza (1992) has argued that, although black British women suffer many of the same problems as white British women, they have the added dimension of racism to contend with and thus their experience of life is different.

AO3: Black feminism is criticised for emphasising the differences between women, rather than concentrating on the shared problems of all.

AO3: Liberal and radical feminists are critical because, by emphasising the differences between women, difference feminism deflects attention away from those problems shared by all women.

Postmodern Feminism

Lorber (2010), is a type of ‘gender rebellion feminism’ because, for postmodern feminists, the problem is the very notion of gender itself and progress for women (and men) requires a rebellion against (what they see as) the tyranny (cruel use of power) of gender categories.

Postmodern feminists see gender and entirely fluid – as a matter of individual choice.