Outline and asses the feminist explanations of gender inequalities (40) Feminists believe that women are unequal to men, and the different groups think it is down to different reasons. Liberal feminists think it is because it is down to gender role socialisation. Marxist feminists believe it is down to capitalism. Radical feminists think women are not equal to men because of relationships within the home, and black feminist think they are unequal not just because they are women, but also because of their skin colour. All groups of feminists also believe that women are subordinated due to patriarchy, (the idea that males are dominant).
Firstly, liberal feminists, such as Ann Oakley argue that gender role socialisation is responsible for sexual division of labour. Girls and boys are socialised in different ways. For example girls are encouraged to take on caring roles, which could lead to them having jobs such as nurses in the future. 3 agents of socialisation- the family, the school and the media have an influence on the way boys and girls are socialised. For example, in the home there is manipulation and canalisation. Manipulation is when boys and girls are encouraged to play with gender specific toys. Canalisation is when specific behaviour is encouraged or discouraged.
For example if a boy falls over and hurts himself, he is encouraged not to cry and to act in a brave way. On the other hand, if the same thing happened to a girl, she would be given more sympathy. Ann Oakley argues that there is still an expectation for women to take on the housewife/mother role. Because of this, it is more difficult for women to pursue careers as men do. Oakley also claims that employers expect women to play the role of housewife rather than pursue a career. This patriarchal ideology is justified by men through claims that women are more suited to caring roles because of their maternal instinct.
However, recently some liberal feminists such as Sue Sharpe have been more optimistic. She has said that not all women take on caring roles because of their socialisation. They may react against their socialisation, or pursue a career. Secondly, liberal feminism has been criticised because it tends to assume that all women accept their gender identities in a passive way. Liberal feminism also does not take race or class into consideration. Marxist feminists believe women’s subordination is down to the influence of capitalism. Women are seen as a reserve army of labour. ‘ Companies only hire hem when they really need them, and they do less important jobs than men, making them more disposable. Women change jobs more frequently than men, so are more vulnerable at times of redundancy, they tend to be less skilled, and capitalist ideologies locate women in the home. The reserve army of labour theory has been criticised as it fails to explain why there are women’s jobs and men’s jobs. It is seems to overlook the fact that patriarchy can be influential by itself. The Marxist feminists seem to imply that once capitalism is abolished, gender inequality will disappear, which might not actually be the case.
On the other hand, Radical feminists, such as Elizabeth Stanko argue that women’s inequality begins in the home, and then extends outwards in the rest of society. If a women is unequal in a relationship with her husband at home, then she is unequal to other men in wider society, e. g. in the government and the media. Radical feminists focus on power relationships between men and women in private. They claim that men exploit and control women within the home. They also claim that when the patriarchy ideology fails, (when women do not dress and act as they are told to) then men resort to domestic violence in order to control them.
Therefore, it is not capitalism that controls and exploits women; it is men themselves within the home. Women are disadvantaged in the labour market because within the home they are forced by men to be housewives and mothers. However, Radical feminism has been criticised by Marxist feminist for focusing on just one source of gender inequality; the home. They don’t take into account the fact that capitalism could be contributing to women being disadvantaged in terms of employment. Radical feminists have also been accused of being ethnocentric; i. . they assume patriarchy is the same in all societies and cultures. However this may not be the case if you for example look at patriarchy in Asian cultures and white cultures, it might be quite different. Black Feminism essentially argues that sexism and racism are inextricable from one another. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression but ignore or minimize race can perpetuate racism and thereby contribute to the oppression of many people, including women.
Black feminists argue that the liberation of Black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression. In conclusion, all feminist theories agree that we live in a patriarchal society. However the reason we live in a patriarchal society is commonly argued amongst feminists each believing that a different ting caused it. All the reasons are well backed up theories and all have been criticised, It could be said that all are correct and it is not just one of these reasons cause patriarchy but the combination of all of them.