Gender Ineguality In The America

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This assignment will compare the sociological perspectives between functionalism and feminism and contrast them. It shall be analysing their views on families. Although feminism began in 1792, when Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) wrote a book ‘a vindication of the rights of women’ stating that women were not naturally inferior to men that they just lacked education (Wollstonecraft, 1792), the first wave of feminism began in the mid-1800’s; the Suffragettes, a middle-class group of women led the campaigns. Their main objective was to improve the social and legal inequalities that affected women and for women to have the right to vote. They also fought for laws to be passed so women could also have access to higher education. The second wave of feminism starting in 1960-70’s, had a stronger influence on society. They campaigned the Civil Rights Movement, for Gay Rights and had Anti-war protests. During this time the first National Women’s Liberation Movement happened, which led to further demands, such as, equal for equal work and equal jobs and educations opportunities. They also campaigned for free contraception and to be allowed abortions. Further demands started in 1978, freedom for women who were intimidated or in a violent relationship was one of the many demands. The third wave 1990’s onwards, focused more on the individual identity rather than the laws and political processes. The acknowledgement that woman came from religious, ethnical and or cultural backgrounds meaning there was no signal approach to feminism (Roberts et al, 2015). There are different strands of feminist but overall it is a conflict theory, arguing that there are social inequalities between a variety of social groups. Collectively they argued that there are more dominant groups that influence society, and society follows, that most relationships were based on conflict and the men exploited women (Roberts et al, 2015). Functionalism is the most influential consensus theory in sociology. Durkheim was the founder of this perspective, arguing that societies need to feel a sense of belonging and solidarity (Durkheim, 1897). Functionalism focus on how the human society functions best when they all agree on the same norms and values. Parsons argued that the nuclear family was key for society (Parson and Bales, 1955).

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Functionalism is the leading consensus theory; sociologists argue that society should agree on the fundamental principles of how society should function and follow the same values and norms. Parsons focused on the structure of society; he had an organic analogy; society was like the human body; big institutions and individuals all work together to keep society functioning efficiently, just as the human body and the organs do (Parsons and Bales, 1955). Feminist argue that the conflict in society is because of inequality and society is influenced by the dominant roles; men. Feminists argue, men are the dominant ones in society and in personal relationships. Murdock argues that the nuclear family is the building block to society, that the relationships between the husband, wife, children, parents and extended family members are key, and the family has four main functions; Sexual, this provides sexual relations between husband and wife and keeps them stable. Reproduction is an important function as this produces the next members of society. Education, this function teaches children, the norms and values of the society and the expectations required of them. Finally, economic, providing resources for the families (Murdock, 1949). Parsons agreed with the nuclear family but adapted it, he argued that the nuclear family is what keeps society functioning, generally a nuclear family has a husband, wife and at least one child. The husband being the dominant role in the family, the wife being the carer and support network for the family. Parsons categorised society into two important functions; socialisation of children, they are to be taught their values and norms at home from their parents. Stabilisation of adult personalities was the second function; adults needing support at home, turning to their wider kin and adults also benefit from socialising with their children. Parsons argued that the two functions were added benefits to the nuclear family, creating the ‘Warm Bath Theory’. He argued that if a man came home from work to a loving wife, who had cooked, cleaned and taken care of the children, he would feel content and that the wife would also have self-worth from caring for her family (Parson and Bales, 1955). Some feminist such as Marxist argues that some women will want to support their family and care for them, other feminist strands see the nuclear family as a dominant family type. Marxist feminists on the other hand are also concerned that this is free labour provided by women which oppresses and exploits them (Dalla Costa and James, 1972). Oakley questioned why the woman is expected to do this role, she argued that women were trapped by patriarchy and men dominate them with their demands (Oakley, 1974). Liberal feminists argued that bringing in new laws would change the way society treats women. Popenoe, a neo-functionalist implies that women are better suited for this role as the nurturer and to take care of the family (Popenoe, 1996). Parsons dismissed the idea that a woman could have an important role in society and argued that women were in part time jobs but were full time housewives. Feminist see Parsons views as sexist and do not believe that women receive any recognition in their roles. Feminists argued that gender was the most important of the political views, over race, religion and social class. Feminist use the concept of patriarchy to describe the power in relationships, meaning that society is ruled by men (Oakley, 1974). Conflicts in society occur in different religions for example, or sexuality, it could also be argued that conflict comes from the more powerful, dominate groups. (Roberts, 2005). Popenoe agrees with Murdock, that there are biological necessities, women teach their daughters to cook, clean and care for the family and the husband shows the son how to run the family and look after it by going to work (Murdock, 1949) What functionalist fail to see is the dark side of the nuclear family. Focusing on the functions of the family is dismisses the dysfunctional families such as the sexual abuse and the violence that may occur. Radical feminist came up with the idea of political lesbianism, they become lesbians for political reasons. They failed to see the effect this could have on society and there would be no reproduction and society would not survive. Radical feminists argued that all men were the enemy and the source of harassment and exploitation of women. They assumed that the nuclear family was male dominated and did not see that there were improvements being made by society. Functionalists did not consider the changes that could occur in the future, ignoring social problem (Roberts, et al). Sharpe a social feminist, interviewed young woman to find out their priorities in life. She compared the working-class girls in the early 1970’s and again in 1990’s. Sharpe found that the priorities of the girls in the 1970 were to be at home with a loving husband, care for him and have children. In the 1990’s the girl’s priorities had changed, they wanted to be able to support themselves, they felt it as more important to have independent than to get married, they wanted to be able to support themselves in case of a breakdown in marriage. Some were even unsure if they wanted a family (Sharpe, 1994). Today the Nuclear family is outdated, due to unmarried families, same sex families and single parent families. Families of today generally have conjugal roles, families share the housework, and may both go out to work and earn. Beck and Beck (1992), German Sociologists argue that the nuclear family serves need to the modern society. Some people are less likely to get married and have children as it is risky. They would much prefer to be in long-term relationships, by doing this, it is less risky at being lonely, but it is easier for people to walk away (Beck, 1992).

In conclusion, the nuclear family remains but families are now a smaller network, the extended family are less involved, for example the grandparents. Roles are shared between the couples and their children and it is arguably still the ideal family in society. Women now have a choice and are no longer expected to stay at home with the children, be less educated and not go to work. Feminist and functionalist both focus on society rather than the individual need of a person, they focus on society as a whole and ignore the families that do not fit under their society values and norms. They ignore religion, ethnic and culture groups in society. Functionalists fail to explain the conflicts that occur in society and apply that the everyone benefits from agreeing to the same norms and values. 

29 April 2022

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