Sociology Couples and Equality Paper
Sociology – Using material item B and elsewhere, assess the view that roles and relationships among couples are becoming more equal. To assess equality between couple’s roles within a family over time we must comprehend power distribution and human psychology that exists within a couple’s relationship. We must do this in order to understand why each role has been distributed between the two partners the male and the female.
And henceforth between comparison of older studies and newer studies we can derive a pattern of progression or regression in the equality among couples. One of the roles that have been distributed between couples is household chores. Ann Oakley, a feminist (1975) came to the understanding that the housewife, a socialised role, was created by industrialisation. She discovered this when she researched middle and working class couples and their scale of equality; working class participants had less equality on average compared to middle class participants.
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This occurred as the higher the class the higher you are in the power hierarchy and those with power had the ability to make a better life for themselves and the people they cared about. The better the life the healthier the relationship, caused by positive and cooler mind sets, which then leads on to joint conjugal roles where neither partner wants to upset the happiness that exists between them. Also in the higher classes friendship circles are very close were all the husbands would socialise together and so would the wife’s leading to joint conjugal roles Bott (1957).
The working class participants as mentioned before had little equality even though the men could make the difference by refreshing otherwise standard attitudes of ignorance and influence of “the housewife”. The housewife being the idea that childcare and housework are defined as female roles (Item B). The power hierarchy triangle , using my chained analysis, can be used as a life standard scale then also a healthy relationship scale then furthermore an equality scale were on average there is small equality.
To criticise Ann Oakley she did not assess the difficulty of paid work for men in those times as men did have to endure a large amount of responsibility when undergoing mental and physical tasks, when using emotional influence to excel their career and to say the least making sure his family didn’t end up on the streets (welfare and benefits were minuscule). This research if done could tip the scales of equality in this era. Also in those times women didn’t expect to be treated equally the idea of the housewife was passed down from mother to daughter in order for their daughter and her children after to be able to excel in the class system.
So can we really criticise the inequality that men created if the teaching of being the housewife were being passed down by women. Newer studies of the household chore from the British social attitudes survey (1997) showed an increase in the equality between husband and wife where men would contribute to domestic work; march of progress. But all the same the men are still the minority when it comes to the most responsible figure in the household. Which suggests the ideology of the housewife is still present and so the symmetrical family is still an idea society is fighting for; old habits die hard.
In comparison of both research studies I see that the idea of the housewife is still present hindering the chances of equality/the symmetrical family. But equality between couples has developed/progressed as we see men are taking part in more domestic work/household chores. The second type of role that takes part within the family is childcare. Boulton (1983) wrote a book “On Being a Mother” and it discusses how men do look after the children but in their own benefits and didn’t actually take primary responsibility.
In example a mother would need help looking after the children as she had a huge amount of domestic work to tend to so the father would take the children out for ice cream the mother would never be able to do that because she’s always busy and the father gets to go out for pleasure. In this case the children spend time with the father not because the father has the responsibility but because the mother, the primary carer, could not tend to them and in the end the father gets to enjoy his time while the mother is at home putting the family above herself.
There’s a vast amount of inequality between the segregated couples which regresses the idea of the symmetrical family. Ferri and smith (1996) had a similar study but on a vast scale and the found that there was hardly any equality between couples in contributing to family roles as the father would have he easier tasks and the women would be the labour in the household. They also found that if women contributed to putting bread on the table they would still have to contribute to the domestic labour as much as any other women as if it were a privilege to be able to go out and work.
This also contributing to the idea that equality between couples has regressed as the large majority of the data concludes that women are overworked by men. Decision making is the third role that is dispersed between the partners and we find that men usually make larger decisions while women keep to the smaller ones which involve their domestic work. Edgell (1980) found that men made decision on 3 areas that were important to both partners: moving house, finance and cars. While the women would make decision that was important but weren’t seen as important to both partners e. tonight’s diner, shopping for food, children’s clothing etc. Due to the unappreciative attitudes each partner gave to the smaller but frequent tasks women undertook the man was considered as the power house where all decisions of and for the household were made. Understanding this we can see that equality could not progress because both partners are lead to believe that the smaller more frequent tasks are insignificant causing regression in equality between couples. Backing this statement is the second part of Edgell’s study was half the men and women said equality was a bad thing.
We could assume that the man was taking lead on the decision and influencing the wife but most likely they saw each other as incapable of preforming their “set” tasks. Although there are criticisms of Edgell’s study coming from another feminist NB Davis (1991) and she has experienced the idea that women can use their abilities of persuasion and power to manipulate and even undermine men’s’ power. If thought about the hypothesis is valid but there is no study to back that statement how do we know that women only accept their social status so they can sway the power in their direction.
This study was 10 years later and we now have the understanding that women are capable of tipping the power distribution in their favour which may not be the best way to insure equality but it is effective. Even though this occurs I don’t think most women have the capability of subtly controlling men to the point were they have the power and control within the relationship or equal to so I still stand on saying there is a regression in equality between couples. Pahl (1993) in research on the role of finance, the forth role, in a family found the men dominated in controlling the finances of the house.
He found that if both couples were in paid work the man controlling the finances were more common and in the least likely of cases only one of the couples would work and that one would control the finances again most likely the man. We see an emerging pattern of men dominance in any case which regresses the idea of equality in distribution of domestic roles. But Pahl’s study did find equality between men and women in managing the finances (a quarter of the results) which in comparison with industrial times the amount is pretty high as women were expected not to work at all and never to manage finances.
So we can actually derive that there has been a progression, however slow, in the equality of men and women. In criticism men are naturally better at mathematics then women it is known in education that boys usually achieve higher in Maths while women usually excell in English so it can’t just be based on the idea that men dominate the important tasks of the family linking in with decision making. The fifth but one of the most influential roles for men is the career role “someone to put bread on the table”. Martins and Roberts (1984) found that men are more likely to take part in domestic labour if the women worked full time. More likely” is an indication that even though the women took the role of the man would still be disinclined to take the responsibilities of the woman (54%). Women found it much harder to start and grow a career (Item B) so you would think men would have enough understanding and sympathy for the majority to help out but it wasn’t the case. Their second part of the research found that 74% of part time working women took full responsibility for domestic labour. This indicates very low levels of equality in this point in time.
To argue Gershuny (1982) found that on average hours spent on conjugal roles for women was less of that of men if the man was in full time work. In older times on average more men were in full time work than women we would see that men’s argument of equality would be better weighted than women. Sulvian (1996) found that most men spent their free time socialising and relaxing while women spent most of their free time to housework. This point could tip the scales to show balance between men and women on hours spent on conjugal roles; but it really depends on your point of view.
Some people would argue that “a women’s work is never done” because they want to create a perfect home not because they need to. I my opinion women do their work out of good will and because of this progression to the symmetrical family may be hindered. I derived this as women would be less likely to share their conjugal roles with the incapable domestic workers, men. Even with this is sight I see progression in equality amongst couples as Hardill el al (1997) found different data to Martin and Roberts (1984) but found evidence of joint decisions and some movements of equality.
On time based judgements I say that career based roles in contribution to conjugal roles between couples are becoming more equal; as we see an emergence in joint decisions and shared labour. The sixth and darkest side of the family is the emotion and violence role. Duncombe and Marsden (1995) found evidence to construct the triple shift theory were in the most unequal situation women would do the domestic labour be in full employment and use their emotional capabilities to create a stable and happy family.
Their research shows that undertaking the role of emotional work is a great responsibility as you must not only understand yourself but the rest of the family too. Not only that because the children are too young to see the problem and, research shows, the father denies it the women gets singled out. Which leads to the inescapable situation: the women out of good will try to make sure her family see the problem and because of that she is exposed to domestic violence.
Dobash and Dobash (1979) found that out of 137 women 25% of them would receive beatings for poor behaviour. This occurred as they found the power relationship in marriage is unequal between the couples which then affects the later generations understanding of violence within the household due to visual socialisation. They also found that women were incapable of leaving their husbands due to financial dependence so again we find an inescapable situation were women are the victims. If we work through 1979 to 1995 we find that women found 2 escape routes to equality.
One was to gain financial dependence to start careers from young ages and not falling into this oppressed cycle (evidence being Item B “current high levels of divorce”). The other lead into the second oppressed cycle. By looking at this research and understanding the scientific principle of natural selection women have learnt to avoid violence/physical confrontation by becoming skilled in working with people’s emotions. Women may not always fall into the second cycle of oppression depending on their skill in emotion and the characteristics of each of the family members.
These two routes may not always lead to equality but they lead to greater equality than that of the past showing a progression in equality amongst couples in society. Evaluating these different domestic roles I have found one conclusion on the equality between couples and its course. The symmetrical family is a feasible idea but time has taken its toll and partnerships continue to be unequal (Item B) but with time and understanding of this situation we can progress. In the role of household chores we found slow but gaining rogression in the equality amongst couples most likely caused by guilt as it takes time for the reality to sink in to unravel ignorance and primary socialisation. In the role of childcare we see that regression in equality between couples is predictable as the father likes to take the easy way out not seeing or denying the problem the mother gets singled out (against fun). So really in this situation the father is the individual that needs to get the progression of equality motor running.
In the role of decision-making we have seen regression in equality amongst couples this was caused by both partners inability to change for the better were both partners deny the significance of smaller but frequent tasks. In the role of finance we discover that progression is there as men are allowing women to take on careers they are more accepting to the idea of women managing their own finances and in comparison with other roles this one has most progression in equality. In the role of the “bread winner”/careers we see an equal amount of progression as that of finance for the same reason (constant reminders of capability).
In the role of emotions and violence work we derive with understanding that equality is progressing as women were able to grow and overlook their past. With this understanding women are able to show the error in men’s ways and with time ignorance and highly gendered division of labour (Item B) will be a thing of the past and socialisation will work for equality amongst couples. With that being said and the rest of the assessment being considered I can say that roles and relationships amongst couples are becoming more equal because of women.