Analyse and assess the contribution of feminist research to our understanding of society. (40 Marks) January 2003
Feminist research is a relatively modern concept in terms of the length of time sociology has existed. Original theories developed by Comte and Durkheim looked at society in terms of which functions each part of society carried out. It was a very malestream way of looking at things as it looked at how norms and values were passed on in different parts of society. The role of women was seen as mother, carer and seen as not having a particularly obvious, important, influential part in society. Marx also saw society from a male perspective. He wrote about the proletariat and bourgeoisie, but in terms of men's place in society. Women were quite invisible. They didn't appear in the ideologies developed by theses modernist theorists.
Feminists believe sociology adapts male perspectives and marginalizes the role of females in society, they believe this reflects and contributes to a undervaluing of women in society.
Since the 1960's the feminist viewpoint has developed, before the 1960's there was a strong argument that sociology reflected male ideology. However, Feminist have tried to create a sociology that attempts to explain women's subordination placing women at the center of sociological studies
Mitchell (1971) suggests three reasons for the resurgence of feminist activity in the 1960's. First, these were times of political turmoil and many women gained valuable experience in student countercultures, peace groups and black power movement. As women developed political confidence within these movements, they increasingly resented the patronizing attitudes of males who expected them to make the tea and defer to male leaders. This convinced many female activists that true liberation required a struggle against male power. Secondly Mitchell points to the contradictions and tensions in women's lives.