Using Material from the Items and Elsewhere, Assess Sociological Explanations for Inequalities Between Husbands and Wives
It is quite evident that there are inequalities between husbands and wives, such as the division of domestic labour. However the inequalities do not only include housework and childcare, but also emotion work, domestic violence and decision making. Some sociologists would argue that the inequalities between husband and wife are beneficial for society. Firstly, feminists propose that there are inequalities between husband and wives, this is evident through the domestic division of labour. Feminists would blame underlying patriarchy for the inequalities between husband and wives.
The domestic division of labour consists of men working and women staying at home to take responsibility of household labour, such as childcare and cleaning. Women take more of a role as the domestic worker, as seen by the survey in Item A, even if they are working full-time. Men have more power because they are the primary breadwinner; Radical feminists would argue that this institution benefits men more than women. They would argue that men sometimes abuse this power, for instance through domestic violence if women do not accept the patriarchal order (Item C).
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Men earn the money and this takes power away from women, this may be an explanation to why women suffer more domestic violence than men (Mirrlees-Black, 1999). Another example of this would be that only very recently it became illegal for a husband to rape his wife (1991). Feminists suggest that domestic violence is a problem of patriarchy. In particular, research indicates that men’s view that women have failed to be ‘good’ partners or mothers is often used to justify attacks or threats.
These gendered expectations may be particularly reinforced is a woman goes out to work and earns more than her partner. Many boys and men are still brought up in traditional ways to believe that they should have economic and social power as breadwinners and heads of the household. The official statistics tell us that violence by men against their female partners accounts for a third of all reported violence. Stanko’s (2000) survey found that one incident of domestic violence is reported by women to the police every minute in the UK. 0% of reported domestic violence is violence by men against their female partners, however the percentage is thought to be an understatement because women are reluctant to come forward for various reasons such as: -They blame themselves -They are afraid of repercussions -They love their partners and think they can change them Radical feminists argue that men use domestic violence or the threat of it to keep women subordinated to their will and that other institutions such as the police and courts turn a blind eye to this violence or treat it as trivial.
The idea of the husband as the primary breadwinner is portrayed through several institutions that reinsert conservative values. Education is an example of an intuition which illustrates that women’s primary role is maternal and that she should stay at home and take care of children. For instance in the early education system women were taught to learn more practical rather than academic, which would not have given them the skills to work and earn money.
Unequal domestic division occurs more when women see housework and childcare as an essential part of being being a ‘good wife and mother’ and less when women reject such roles. Baxter and Western argue that women may deal with situations over which they have little control by defining them as ‘satisfactory’. Men have demanding work schedules that make it difficult for them to meet family obligations. However, a criticism of this is that men tend to have greater control and freedom over how they spend their time outside of work, whereas women are often unable to ‘clock off’ from their caring/domestic responsibilities.