Assess the contribution of feminist theorists and researchers to an understanding of society today. 33 Marks Feminists are a political movement who focus on the oppression of women and the struggle to end it. They believe that sociology has traditionally taken a ‘malestream’ view which ignores women. Feminism is a fairly new concept and it examines the women’s experiences and study society from a female perspective.
In many of the original theories of sociology women were invisible and didn’t appear in ideologies. Feminists believe society marginalizes the roles of women and that society adapts a male perspective and their theory has been developed since the 1960s and they have attempted to explain women’s struggles by trying to place them at the centre of sociological studies. In this essay I will be assessing the contribution of feminist theorists and researchers to an understanding of society today.
One of the contributions the feminists have provided us with in today’s society for women is freedom. Feminists such as Anne Oakley criticise the functionalist view of the nuclear family performing positive functions by carrying out her own research to provide evidence to prove this. Oakley carried out interviews in the homes of housewives to look into the lives and experiences of these women including domestic violence; by carrying out these interviews Oakley was able to gain reliable results.
The women whom Oakley interviewed were all open and personal towards her which helped her to gain better results which contributed towards helping today’s society to gain a better understanding of issues such as Domestic Violence which were not looked into before feminism evolved and has helped women get help through charities which were not around before, this suggests that feminism has contributed to society today.
In the early 70’s Sue Sharp found that women’s priorities were factors such as ‘Love, marriage and family’, she also found that girls felt educational success was unfeminine and unattractive but when repeating her studies in the 90’s she found that the priorities were now an education and career. Over the years women have slowly developed political confidence and have gained more respect from males in recent years then they did in the past.
Women are no longer expected to be housewives and are more than child bearers to men, which has been shown through the development of the contraceptive pill which can help them control the size of families which challenge the traditional roles of women. The number of women entering higher education and being much more interested in developing careers has increased significantly. This shows that feminism has helped to give women the opportunity to gain an education and they have improved the lives of women which has contributed to the understanding of society today.
Although all feminists have a common concern of women’s welfare, there are many different types of feminists; Equality is one of the main factors which feminists fight to resolve and Liberal feminists stress the important of this. They believe that people should be treated on aspects other than their gender and that women should be allowed to compete with men freely by having the same opportunities as them. The Liberal act has led to some success such as the equal pay act of 1970 which states that it is illegal to pay women any less than men.
More over the equal pay act shows that feminism has contributed to the changes in society today by allowing equality to happen in the work place. This has given women the opportunity to have freedom and to work towards something better than being a housewife. This has changed the life of women as they have the freedom to do things for themselves without the need of a man, making it easier for them to walk away from problems in the home such as domestic violence and the opportunity to walk away without being looked down upon.
This shows that feminism has improved the lives of women and given them better opportunities contributing to our understanding of society today. However some such as Radical feminists say that this isn’t enough and that there is more to the problem. Radical Feminists believe that society is patriarchal which means that men are the ones dominating women and this is the problem. Feminists believe that patriarchy is taught through every generation and it is continued in everyday life.
For instance, Radical feminists might say that the simple statement ‘blue is for boys and pink is for girls’ is where the exploitation of women begin because this is where parents already have expectations. Girls will be give dolls and kitchen sets to play with whilst boys will be given computers, footballs, toy cars ECT. Feminists think that this is encouraging boys to be more strong and aggressive. Kate Millet found that there women are exploited by men in many areas of society and she also pointed out that education enforces inequality between genders.
Furthermore, Religion also played a large role in oppressing women as it puts them at the bottom of the status hierarchy. Feminists think that religion emphasises the role of masculinity through God. Religions such as Islam and Christianity are used to show how oppression in society works; El Sadaawi found that in these religions men would be the ones to take the lead roles in religious practices and many of the Holy Scriptures were written by men.
In religions such as Islam all prophets are male and some feminists argue that Religion devalues and marginalises women. An example of this is that during menstruating, women are not permitted to pray or recite the Quran and they are seen as unclean. Feminism has allowed women to speak out and be free to change religions which again show the contribution to today’s society; however this is not the case in every society.
Difference feminists argue that all women have different opportunities and experience in life, for instance a woman living in an Islamic country would not be free to speak out or question her religion as it could lead to harsh consequences. To conclude, feminism has contributed to today’s society in a very positive way as it has given women freedom, choice and equality. There has been a great stress on the importance of equality, especially though the education system.
This is evident through the achievement of girls throughout the last few years which have shown that girls have been doing better than boys in many subjects. Though major developments have happen since the feminist movement began, many would argue that there are better sociological theorists who have provided us with more contributions in society today such as the Marxist who look in greater problems such as class and not only gender.