Feminists

Feminism is a collection of movements and beliefs aimed at defining and defending women’s rights within society and politics aiming for all round equality - Feminists introduction. A big issue that arises within women rights is inequality in the household. The division of labour in the home is how fairly the jobs are shared between the partners in the household. Sociologists named Young and Willmott carried out a study in 1957 in Bethnal Green, London. They looked into the roles in families within the home and come to the conclusion that over time most families have become ‘The symmetrical family’.

This implies roles are being shared between the man and women within the home. They called this the march of progress. Feminists reject this ‘March of progress’ view as they say roles are not equal within the home. In a research there is evidence that men ‘help’ at home but it is far from symmetry within the roles. Feminists say that men usually claim to be helping by doing the pleasurable jobs rather than the work, therefore research so far suggests feminists view the division of labour within the family home as unequal. Sociologist Ann Oakley disagrees with Young and Willmott’s view.

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Rather than seeing a march of progress towards symmetry since 19th century like Young and Willmott do, Oakley describes how “the housewife role has become the dominant role for married women”. She also argues that Men only ever ‘help’ at home rather than work. Another sociologist supporting Oakley’s idea is Mary Boulton (1983). During research Boulton found that fewer than 20% of husbands had a major role in childcare. She argues that Young and Willmott exaggerate men’s contribution by looking at tasks that involve childcare rather than responsibilities.

When reviewing the research so far it becomes apparent that women sociologists (particularly feminists) support the idea that men rarely take on tasks within the home and that male sociologists support that this is in fact improving and we are on a march towards progress. Twisting this biased view are two sociologists named Hilary Silver (1987) and Juliet Schor (1993). They argued that because of commercialised good and services the housewife role has almost disappeared. They say that items such as freezers, microwave ovens and ready meals reduce the amount of domestic labour to be done.

However critics argue that for poorer women this is not an option. Feminists argue that even though commercialisation has been reduced the other housework chores are still not shared equally. The impact of paid work is a more recent debate in feminists. Logically if both man and women of the house are in paid full time work feminists say that the housework should be shared equally between the couple. Feminists argue that this is not the case. Women are being made to carry a dual burden.

This outcome is determined in large part by traditional gender roles that have been accepted by society over time. On the other hand to the feminist view some sociologists argue that women working in full time paid jobs lead to a more equal division of labour. Jonathan Gershuny (1994) found that wives who worked full time did less domestic work. Wives who did not work did 83% of housework and those who worked part time still done 82%. Wives who worked full time did 73% of housework. Gershuny explains this trend towards greater equality in terms of gradual change in values and parental role models.

He argues social values are gradually adapting to the fact more women are working full time. Similarly Oriel Sullivan’s (2000) analysis of nationally representative data collected in 1975, 1987 and 1997 found a trend towards greater equality as men did more domestic labour. Particularly there was an increase in couples with an equal division with men doing more traditionally women’s jobs. Feminists view this division of labour as inaccurate. Equality and symmetry within housework would mean each partner is doing 50% of housework and chores.

Whereas even sociologists who are against the feminist view towards domestic labour are showing in their results that well over 50% of housework is done by women. Sociologist Dunne (1999)done a study on 37 cohabiting lesbian couples with dependent children. Dunne found evidence of symmetry in their relationships. In lesbian relationships household tasks are not linked to a particular gender scripts. This allows lesbian couples to have more equal relationships. For example as one of the women said in Dunne’s study “In heterosexual relationships there is always a subconscious belief that women are supposed to do the housework.

This supports the radical feminist view that relationships between men and women are inevitably patriarchal and that women can only achieve equality in same sex relationships. Similarly, Jeffery Weeks (1999) argues that same sex relationships offer greater possibilities of equality because the division of labour is open to negotiation and agreement and not based on a patriarchal tradition. To conclude evidence shows that a women being in paid work leads to more equality in the division of labour, though probably only if she is in full work.

Many feminists argue that in reality the effect of this is limited and women still continue to shoulder a dual or triple burden. Feminists argue that the root of the problem is patriarchy. Patriarchy ensures that women earn less at work and therefore have less bargaining in the home. Patriarchal gender scripts shape society’s expectations about the domestic roles within the house. In my opinion until the subconscious belief that women should do the domestic work has being changed by society’s outlook feminists will always feel that patriarchy is the main reason for the inequality of labour within the home.

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