Posted in GCSE Sociology

GCSE Family: Model answer

MODEL ANSWER: Explain the feminist view of the family (4 marks)

Feminists are critical of the family. They argue that the family has a negative impact on the lives of many women. Feminists argue the family is patriarchal.  This means that men benefit from the family whilst women often suffer.  For example, many women experience domestic violence within the family.  However, liberal feminists have noted that whilst there are still many improvements to be made, they have found that UK society is becoming more equal and that campaigns are raising awareness of issues such as domestic violence.  However, radical feminists believe that little has changed and that men still hold power in society and in the family.  Some radical feminists suggest political lesbianism as a solution to the patriarchal nature of the family.

Posted in AS Sociology: Family, Uncategorized

AS Family essay

For h/w, please prepare for the following question:

Examine different sociological views on changes in the experience of women in the family during the past 50 years or so (20 marks).

You will sit the essay on: December 1st

Posted in AS Sociology: Family, Uncategorized

AS: Domestic violence h/w


Read the following articles and bullet point five interesting and useful bits of information for each one:


Posted in AS Sociology: Family

AS Sociology: Tracking Domestic Violence

A campaign group hopes to prompt the government to take action to stem the rise of violence against women by keeping a database of every woman who is killed by a man…

On Thursday a database will be launched online entitled Femicide Census: Profiles of Women Killed by Men. It is a project designed to force a recognition of the scale and significance of male violence against women and is the culmination of several years of work by Ingala Smith, who began a grim and time-consuming task of counting Britain’s murdered women and putting their names on her own blog back in 2012. There were 126 women killed through male violence that year, 143 in 2013 and 150 in 2014.

Read on:

Posted in AS Sociology: Family

Feminism, Family, and Work

Source: Feministing

This week, Stephanie Coontz contributed an opinion piece to the New York Times in honor of the 50thanniversary of Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique. Coontz’s article, entitled “Why Gender Equality Stalled,” explores some of the structural and economic reasons hindering equality between men and women. The attitudes and beliefs of individuals are not to blame for the stalled gender revolution; instead, Coontz points to a failing economy and inadequate work-family policies as the major obstacles to gender equality.

Coontz relies on recent research which suggests that many men and women want egalitarian relationships. Specifically, a 2010 Pew Poll found that 72% of men and women think that marriages based on equality are the best. The implication of this research is most people start out with an egalitarian relationship as “Plan A.” If the conditions are right, most couples want to fulfill a utopian vision of gender equality in their interpersonal arrangements. However, as in most situations, “Plan A” rarely comes to fruition, especially under a set of constrained structural conditions. At some point, many people have to fall back on “Plan B,” a plan that involves more work for men and more family responsibilities for women.

Coontz suggests a few reasons to explain the prevalence of this less than egalitarian back up plan. She describes economic conditions in which men make more money than women and in which neither men nor women have adequate access to family leave. When men and women have few economic options, they return to a more traditional arrangement because it is the most lucrative and/or the most obvious choice. Ultimately, Coontz makes a strong argument for better family/work policies in order to create the conditions for gender equality

I think Coontz’s analysis is insightful. As a sociologist, I appreciate her emphasis on the many structural problems that prevent more gender equality between men and women. Importantly, she showcases the intersection of capitalism and patriarchy, highlighting the ways in which economic conditions uphold the patriarchal arrangements between men and women. We can’t expect a change in gender relations if our institutions do not reflect the goals of gender equality.

Yet, I am not convinced that these structural alterations are the only requirements necessary to produce the desired changes in gender relations at the individual level. Patriarchy has endured as a system of power not just because of social structures and institutions, but also because of cultural values and beliefs. While we have evidence to suggest that men and women want more egalitarian relationships, we also have evidence to suggest that cultural attitudes still reflect the belief that the household is women’s domain.

For example, when both men and women work, the bulk of the family and household responsibilities fall on the women. While this surely has something to do with economic conditions (for example, who can more easily leave the workplace without repercussions or significant loss of money), it also has something to do with the historical association of the household as the women’s domain.  This link between women and housework persists despite the many gains that women have made in the public sphere.

What I am suggesting is that we still have a ways to go with our cultural ideas about gender and family. Better social structures can help change these ideas, but can we think of others ways to disentangle women from the private sphere?

Posted in AS Sociology: Family

Is feminism really killing the family?

ed balls and yvette cooper

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper on their wedding day. Photograph: Adam Butler/PA

Is feminism “destroying the family“? Plenty of people appear to believe so. Earlier this week, “crop-haired” Katherine Rake, who recently ended a seven-year stint as head of feminist campaigning organisation the Fawcett Society, was accused of continuing to work towards this sinister agenda – her easy-care hairdo cited by the Daily Mail as proof of her malicious intent.

Rake upset the socially conservative by declaring in her first speech as head of the Family and Parenting Institute (a government-funded organisation that we don’t need anyway) that “the days of the typical family are numbered”. This statement of statistical-projection fact drew outrage from David Cameron, who lambasted Labour for its continuing hostility to marriage.

Ed Balls, the minister for children, schools and families, offered a retort. He’s not personally hostile to marriage – he is, after all, married himself, to “crop-haired” work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper – but he is against the Conservative idea that unmarried parents should be treated as “second-class” citizens.

It’s a horrible idea, of course, and its horrible reality is still a raw, living memory. Only days ago, there was a new outpouring of abhorrence – and an apology from Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister – over one of the most ghastly manifestations of the treatment of “unmarried parents”. Who could listen to the stories of children separated from their mothers, told they were orphans, and transported to exploitation in Australia (a practice that ended only four decades ago) without a horrified shudder?

Yet however scrupulously one may reject the idea of unmarried parents as “second-class citizens”, class – as a cultural expression of economic status – continues to dog the “debate”. Single parents do tend to be “second-class citizens”, with 47% living below the poverty line. Statistically, their children do less well at school, and are overwhelmingly more likely to enter the criminal justice system, or to run into mental health or addiction problems.

Middle- and upper-class people are more likely to have their children later, when they are financially stable. Middle- or upper-class teenage pregnancies are more likely to end in abortion than teenage pregnancies among poor families. And so on. Delayed and structured parenthood, even marriage, is now, broadly, the choice of people – men and women – who have real choices. Early and unplanned parenthood is now, broadly, the choice of people – men and women – who look around them and perceive their options are narrow.

Feminism has liberated aspirational and affluent women, because it has ensured that women who are capable of financial independence are more able to achieve it, within marriage or outside it – although the continuing gender pay gap (much-monitored by Rake when she was at the Fawcett Society) is testament that even this success has been highly circumscribed.

I don’t imagine that 1970s feminists envisaged the rejection of educational opportunities, the refusal of family planning options, and the graft of bringing up children alone and on the breadline, as brave-new-world female choices for a post-liberation era, any more than they envisaged the advent of boob-jobs, pole-dancing supermodels and store-card bankruptcy. Actually, it is a big fat irony that feminists are now obliged to defend the right of lone mothers to stay at home with their young children, when the initial idea was to liberate women from the obligation to, well, stay at home with their young children.

Notwithstanding his dislike of the idea of unmarried parents as second-class citizens, Ed Balls has long been a senior member of a political party that has directed policy – admittedly without great success – at pressurising unmarried parents, in particular, into work. The Conservatives believe that, with rings on their fingers (placed there with the help of a tax break), the mothers who have caused Labour such angst would have stayed at home very much more happily. But that is only because of their blind adherence to the middle-class portrait of the pre-feminist world.

I don’t believe in that world, in which women got married, then gladly gave up work. Both of my grandmothers worked. My father’s mother worked in a factory that made ladies’ foundation garments, supporting her five surviving children alone after her husband, an asthmatic miner, had died young of lung disease.

My mother’s mother left “service” after she had married. But as the wife of a landless rural worker and mother of seven, she kept chickens, grew vegetables, made jams and chutneys, baked, cooked, sewed and knitted interminably, all year round. My aunts worked, all 10 of them, especially the widows – in offices, as barmaids, in shops, as cooks, even though they were married, even though they had children. My mother, like her sisters and her sisters-in-law, stayed at home when we children were small. But she returned to work, first part-time, then full-time, as soon as she could.

So, when Fay Weldon ruffles feathers, as she did at a literary festival this week, by declaring that one of the down-sides of feminism is that it has “made wage-slaves” out of mothers, I can only shake my head. Mothers always had access to wage-slavery, and those mothers who had husbands who drank the pay-packet, or handed over risible “housekeeping”, were particularly glad of their “pin money”. Feminism gave women much greater access to, or at least hope of, “careers”. Its rejection of marriage was bound up with the fact that a married woman was a woman who could forget about professional progress.

Now feminists defend their distrust of marriage, as if out-of-work mothers, living with a succession of boyfriends with whom they have a succession of children, was the intention and the dream all along. It wasn’t, and other social factors, such as the sexual revolution, the mass exodus from religious belief, and changing patterns of work (including the annihilation of the earning power of manual-labouring males), have played just as large a part in “promoting” alternative family structures as feminism.

For Conservatives, the feminist rejection of the taboo against unmarried motherhood has been fuelled by a welfare state that “puts children first”, creating a society in which the female poor have little incentive to work because they can get an income and a home from breeding. There is certainly some truth in this argument, but it ignores the counter-intuitive fact that throughout human history, and in our own era too, the poorest people are always the ones who have children most frequently, whether there is a welfare state to offer incentives or not.

So, if David Cameron is worried about his recent poor showings in the polls, he should reconsider his lazy homilies about the magic of marriage, and take a look at the possibility that “broken societies” are often teeming with very broke people.