See the attached question and answer promptly. Gender and the Family Lecture Nine Why is family structure a feminist topic of analysis? Gender

See the attached question and answer promptly.

Gender and the Family

Lecture Nine

Why is family structure a feminist topic of analysis?

Gender studies scholars argue that the private sphere of family, sex and reproduction are inherently political and
related to dymanics of power in society:

1. From this lens, one can examine the social structure of the family as a social institution supported by the law
and culture

2. The state (meaning the government particularly) has a interest in the development of future citizens and one
can trace the connections between American nationalism and nuclear family structures in US history.

3. Historically, the division of labor in families in unequal and can contribute to the unequal burden of domestic
labor on women and constrain women’s ability to succeed

4. Families are often structured around binary gender roles and heteronormativity

The idea of the “traditional family” as a political

In contemporary society, many view the idea of a family as non-political or
pre-political, assuming that what is viewed as a traditional family has a basis in
biology and psychology. We will examine this history and I would like you to judge
for yourself if you agree with the above statement or not.

An American emphasis on the nuclear family
Nuclear family:
For many people the ideal American family is the nuclear family consisting of a
father, mother, and an average of two children.
Some Americans, during the agricultural era, lived in extended families and the
notion of the traditional family as described above is rooted in a post-industrial

Of course, as we know, families can take a variety of shapes and do not have to
be defined as the heteronormative, gendered structure listed above.

The Pre-industrial family
Working the land and keeping it in the family were two reasons families

chose to stay together and live in extended kinship groups (larger than the
nuclear family structure promoted by society today).

A lack of pre-industrial transportation and communication technology
often would keep families close together as well. Society was not particularly

Having many children to assist with farmwork was valued in rural

Pre-Industrial Gender Roles

In agricultural societies, there was more focus on the entire family playing a role in the survival and economic
success of the family as a communal unit though tasks were still gendered:

The adult male role included:
A. Heavy physical labor, government work, moral instruction of family members, religious service work,

government work and membership in a militia

The adult female role included:
a. Child-rearing, but fatherhood generally included emotional, moral, and religious instruction until about 1800
b. running the household in deference to a husband
c. assistance a husband, including farm work especially during harvest season

Industrial Model of the Family
We begin to see the development of what we now see as traditional gendered labor roles in the family:

Women work in the private sphere of the family, responsible for the majority of domestic work and childcare; all but
middle and upper class women tend to also work outside the home for wages about half the rate of men for the same

Men’s role as parent is viewed as inferior and less important to the child (an overall devaluing of the important of the
father and a rising importance of the mother).

Families are increasingly emphasized as ideally nuclear, middle class, and heteronormative.

Men are viewed as the “breadwinners” literally, and are paid at twice the rate or more as women and have more
upward mobility in developing economic hierarchies.

Brief History of American Marriage
Brief History of Marriage:
George Bernard Shaw suggested marriage occurs “under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most
delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal,
and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.”

But, this is relatively a new notion of marriage as romantically driven

This has not always been the most important relationship emphasized between individuals
during the separate sphere stage, as industrialization occurred some estimated that same sex friendships were more
important than any other relationship

Colonial American Marriage
Largely not an egalitarian marriage

Often arranged by parents

Romantic love develops more in the late 1700s

More advanced courtship rituals develop alongside sexual double standard that suggest a woman needs to be a virgin
and a man does not at the point of legal marriage

Monogamy is viewed by many as a guiding principle

Women lose property and civil rights once married and may physically abuse their wives legally

Men had wide latitude to engage in extramarital affairs

Romantic Marriage
Mutual attraction in marriage gains most traction about one hundred years ago though these marriages remain
heteronomative, male-dominated, centered around child-rearing

Only about fifty years ago do we really start to see the idea of egalitarian marriages based on love take root where
women retain full legal, economic, and political rights after marriage

Marriage remains defined as between one man and one woman until the 21st century.

Marriage’s Connection to Parenting
Emphasis on Parenting Roles:
development of the idea of women as more nurturing
what structures in society emphasis maternity?

custodial rights
maternity leave
suggestion women are more caring
suggestion that men cannot care for children as well as women
toy play as children

Totally leaves out non-binary conforming individuals and the idea that same-sex and same-gendered couples and
single parents successfully raise children without a nuclear family structure

History of Divorce
Initially divorce was nearly impossible for women to be granted

in the colonial era, generally only women whose husbands were impotent or who were abandoned could
request a divorce

in Protestantism, it is not a sacrament
not a possibility for Catholic women in the colonial period

It is both an important right, but also women bear the economic brunt of divorce historically
most people who live in poverty are single mothers

First women’s rights movement would lead to more liberal divorce laws, but this largely would be at state levels
by 1850s, women could ask for divorce, but they had to prove adultery which often could not happen through the
official legal system

Divorce and Marriage Rates
The divorce rate has steadily increased since the turn of the century.

“Recent findings have shown that one half of all marriages in America end in divorce.

According to a report based on the results of the 1981 Census, the number of single-parent families has doubled
since 1970 (the last census) and 90% are headed by women.

The number of single-parent, male-headed families has doubled since 1970, but is still small relative to the number
of female-headed, single-parent families.

Two-parent families still make up 79% of American families although it was a drop from 88% in 1970.

The differences in the percentage is somewhat misleading; the number of two-parent families was 24.9 million out of
31.5 million families in 1981, only a 2% drop from 1970.”

Frameworks of Critical Theory to Analyze the
We will look at critical theories and the way in which they evaluate the role of the
family in social history:

1) Functionalist
2) Marxist
3) Feminist Marxist
4) Contemporary Feminist

Functionalist Model of the Family
Functionalist – “believe that the traditional nuclear family is a natural unit and exists to maintain social order and is
mutually beneficial to all. Marriage controls sexual behaviour and ensures it is morally acceptable(i.e. heterosexual
and monogamous) and parents can control children.This arrangement meets the needs of industrial society.”

Marxist Critique of the family
Marxist – “believe that the nuclear family is valued over the typical working class extended family to encourage
material aspirations. This family unit is organised to reinforce passive acceptance of authority, hierarchy and
inequality thereby keeping the working classes (Proletariat) under the control of the Middle/upper classes

Marxist Feminist
Marxist feminist- “the nuclear family benefits the powerful at the expense of the working class AND women’s
domestic labour enables the future workforce to be reared at little cost to the patriarchal capitalist state. The
containment of women’s sexual services and domestic labour within marriage ensures the male workforce is
emotionally and physically fit. Keeping men satisfied at home detracts from frustrations caused by lack of power but
results in compensatory behaviour i.e. violence against women and children.”

Contemporary Feminist View
Feminist – “men and women are socialised into gender specific roles that exist to confirm and uphold male power
and superiority. Marriage and nuclear family exploits and oppresses women” as well as a heteronormative family as
the ideal.

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