Women In The Workforce

.. as been shaped by capitalist development, highlighting explanations which connect gender inequality with economic needs (e.g., Mitchell J, 1966 used Marxist theory in Women: The Longest Revolution). However, while most feminists see the close links between the organization of production and the division of labor many thought that there was a limited future for feminism under theories which reduced the specifics of womens lives to the extent that the subjective and interpersonal flavor was not captured (e.g., Firestone S, 1970; The Dialectic of Sex: the Case for Feminist Revolution). The socialist or Marxist feminist proposition positions class as the most basic form of human conflict but this position was challenged by radical feminists according to whom, equality does not mean being like men (Sarup, 1993). Radical feminists successfully argued for the substitution of gender conflict as the source of all other conflict and fighting for equality in the occupational field became subordinate to challenging the social and cultural order (Sarup, 1993). Asserting that a female identity and subjectivity could only be defined without reference to the patriarchal framework, many radical feminists looked for ways to identify and develop a female culture and way of being which was free from the influences of patriarchy.

For example, Irigaray (1985) proposed that this be done through the promotion of entre-femmes, a kind of social form specific to women. A cultural terrain distinct from womens usual site – the family. Household Labour Feminist writers have taken the family as a central feature of their explanation of patriarchy but they do not always agree about its role in shaping women to serve patriarchal ends in domesticity and work (Sarup, 1993). Liberal feminism recognized the gendered, social roles of wife and mother but advocated choice for women with respect to marriage, family, career etc., proposing to achieve this through a process of education and reform (Seidman, 1994). In radical feminism, the family is viewed as a major institution whose role is to foster gender inequality through the socialization of children and subordinate women by forcing them to conform to feminine stereotypes (e.g. Greer G, 1970, The Female Eunuch).

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Postmodern feminism based on Foucaults work explicitly criticizes the emphasis on the family as the unit in charge (Sarup, 1993). In order to carry out its functions, the family relies on differential relationships (Broderick, 1993). Coole et al (1990) point out that the functional needs served by the nuclear element of the nuclear family are neither exclusive nor universal which indicates that differentiation it is not essential to the performance of the vital functions of the family. This means that the social roles of wife and mother as conceived by liberal feminism are a gendered and manufactured choice. The differential relationships that identify the roles of wife and mother are part of the nuclear family model promoted by patriarchal ideologies for more than one hundred and fifty years (Coole et al, 1990; p43). This suggests that the one or some of the roles ascribed to the family by other feminists may be more accurate. Despite the differences, feminisms main assertion, that gender identities and roles are socially formed, makes the theoretical proposition that a social and political explanation (patriarchy) can be given for male dominance and patterns of gender inequality possible (Seidman, 1994).

Conclusion The strength of feminist perspectives on patriarchy is that most of them have been developed from the standpoint of womens lives (Seidman, 1994) and yet this is also a criticism of what womens lives does the standpoint reflect? If feminist perspectives of patriarchy are to be useful they must not only make sense structurally, they must also make sense of all womens lives. Lesbian, Black, Third World and post-colonial critics have demonstrated some of the limitations of western feminist agendas that prefer patriarchal accounts of equality to racialised and cultural accounts (Burman, 1998). For example, the promotion of reproductive choices by western feminists in the 1970s focused on contraceptive and abortion rights. However, many women at that time were being discriminated against because of their color, sexuality or physical abilities and were fighting to keep their children, born and unborn (Burman, 1998). Whilst these criticisms of western feminist raise questions about how and why the priorities of the issues and campaigns these women choose to think and act on were agreed, they do not suggest an alternative account of inequality in which the public and private oppression of women is explained (Seidman, 1994). Critics are however right to point out that the feminist account of patriarchy developed by western liberal feminists needs to be expanded to ensure that the experiences of more women can be included but they must also acknowledge that the priorities and concerns of liberal feminists have resulted in some of the most far reaching and important education and legal reforms of this century taking place in the last the last twenty years. These reforms particularly reflect the western feminist concern with differential relationships.

In the area of social policy and the law, reformers have begun to focus on protecting the individual rights of vulnerable household members like women, children, and the elderly (MacLean & Kurczewzki 1994) at the expense of patriarchal privilege. Crucially, whilst the law has become aware of the potential for the exploitation of family members and in acting underlines the importance of public attitudes and legislation in maintaining gender inequalities and differential relationships; the reform approach cannot be seen as an open acknowledgement that socialization patterns and family arrangements are male dominated (MacLean & Kurczewzki 1994). Following the vote of the General Synod in 1992, the ordination of women in the Church of England has challenged hundreds of years of patriarchal authority and tradition in the church. The implicit relationship between individual men and institutions can be viewed explicitly in the complex provision made to protect those who are individually opposed using the churchs own structures. Regardless of the refusal of key patriarchal institutions to acknowledge the extent to which man have been and are systematically and deliberately privileged by their structures and actions, these dominant forms of power can help produce social change, even if they are only attempting to keep in touch with contemporary society (Cooper, 1995). The process of power is therefore open to change and feminist theorists have shown using their account of patriarchy that the by products of power (e.g., inequality) can be mediated by the institution which represents it and moderated to be less damaging to individuals (Cooper, 1989).

Works Cited Burman E (ed.) (1998). Deconstructing Feminist Psychology. Sage: London. Broderick CB (1993), Understanding Family Process. Sage: USA. Coole A, Harman H and Hewitt H (1990) Changing Patterns of Family Life, in Eekelaar J and MacLean M (eds.) (1994), A Reader On Family Law, Oxford University Press: England, pp 31:62 (idem. The Family Way, Institute of Public Policy Research, 1990, chap. 2) Cooper D (1995).

Power in Struggle: Feminism, Sexuality and the State. Open University Press: Buckingham. Frable DES (1997). Gender, Racial, Ethnic, Sexual, and Class Identities. Annual Review of Psychology (48): 139 -162. Garnsey, E (1981).

The Rediscovery of the Divisions of Labour. Theory and Society (10): 337. Graham E, Hinds H, Hobby E and Wilcox H (Eds) (1996). Her Own Life: Autobiographical writings by seventeenth century women (3rd Edition). Routledge: London. Golombok S and Fivush R (1995). Gender Development. Cambridge University Press: USA.

Haug F (1998). Questions Concerning Methods in Feminist Research in Burman E (ed.) (1998). Deconstructing Feminist Psychology (q.v.): 115 V 139. MacLean M and Kurczewski J (eds.) (1994). Families, Politics, and the Law, Clarendon Press: Oxford. Raymond JG (1980). The Transsexual Empire. The Womens Press: London.

Ruehl S (1983). Sexual Theory and Practice: Another Double Standard. In Cartledge S and Ryan R (1985). Sex and love: New thoughts on Old Contradictions (4th Edition). The Womens Press Limited: London.

210-223. Sarup M (1993). Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Harvester Wheatsheaf: Hemel Hempstead. Seidman S (1994). Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in the Postmodern Era (3rd edition).

Blackwell: USA. 236-254. Skeggs B (1997). Formations of Class and Gender. Sage: London. Bibliography Works Cited Burman E (ed.) (1998).

Deconstructing Feminist Psychology. Sage: London. Broderick CB (1993), Understanding Family Process. Sage: USA. Coole A, Harman H and Hewitt H (1990) Changing Patterns of Family Life, in Eekelaar J and MacLean M (eds.) (1994), A Reader On Family Law, Oxford University Press: England, pp 31:62 (idem.

The Family Way, Institute of Public Policy Research, 1990, chap. 2) Cooper D (1995). Power in Struggle: Feminism, Sexuality and the State. Open University Press: Buckingham. Frable DES (1997). Gender, Racial, Ethnic, Sexual, and Class Identities.

Annual Review of Psychology (48): 139 -162. Garnsey, E (1981). The Rediscovery of the Divisions of Labour. Theory and Society (10): 337. Graham E, Hinds H, Hobby E and Wilcox H (Eds) (1996).

Her Own Life: Autobiographical writings by seventeenth century women (3rd Edition). Routledge: London. Golombok S and Fivush R (1995). Gender Development. Cambridge University Press: USA. Haug F (1998).

Questions Concerning Methods in Feminist Research in Burman E (ed.) (1998). Deconstructing Feminist Psychology (q.v.): 115 V 139. MacLean M and Kurczewski J (eds.) (1994). Families, Politics, and the Law, Clarendon Press: Oxford. Raymond JG (1980). The Transsexual Empire.

The Womens Press: London. Ruehl S (1983). Sexual Theory and Practice: Another Double Standard. In Cartledge S and Ryan R (1985). Sex and love: New thoughts on Old Contradictions (4th Edition).

The Womens Press Limited: London. 210-223. Sarup M (1993). Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Harvester Wheatsheaf: Hemel Hempstead. Seidman S (1994).

Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in the Postmodern Era (3rd edition). Blackwell: USA. 236-254. Skeggs B (1997). Formations of Class and Gender. Sage: London.

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