Feminism is a movement for women trying to get equal rights for themselves. Feminism first emerged in the late 60’s, but women as early as the beginning of the 20-century, called the Suffragette movement tried to get the vote for women. The Feminism movement of the 60’s and especially feminist sociologists were critical of sociology, for ignoring gender issues and women and research being malestream. And so feminists took it upon themselves to open up new research other than that of research by men focusing on men. The new areas of research by women were taken into the work place, education and health.
The women’s liberation Movement in the early 60’s founded the feminist perspective and had 7 aims such as: equal pay, equal education and job opportunities, 24-hour nurseries, free contraception and abortion, legal and financial independence for women. And end to discrimination against lesbians and the right of all women to define their own sexuality and an end to all the laws, assumptions and institutions that perpetuate male dominance and men’s aggression towards women. These 7 aims led to research into institutions such as the work place and education system to work out what could be done.
Early feminists are critical of malestream research in sociology. They argue that a lot of important sociological research is focused on men, this is called malestream sociology. Feminist research has contributed to the research into the position of women in society. In this research the key concepts developed are gender, ideology and patriarchy, and gender in particular will come across in all topics of research. An example of malestream and recent feminist approach to research is in sociology of deviance.
The traditional malestream approach focused on juvenile delinquency, football hooliganism and other predominantly male deviance while the feminist approach looks at the crime against women such as domestic and sexual assaults and the victims of crime, not the criminals. More relevant to today’s society is the research in education, in the early 60’s through to early 90’s girls always did worse than boys in school, and so feminists took it upon themselves to research why girls did worse than boys. Research by Dale Spender (1983) ‘Invisible Women’ – ‘The schooling scandal’.
Showed that schools reinforce gender inequalities, her evidence was that the boys received 60% of the attention. Jane French (86) said socialisation of the children is the problem, they are conditioned to except roles. Sue sharp (76) ‘Just like a girl’ Research suggested secondary education was to blame for the gender gap and sexism. All this research by feminists has made the central government focus on the inequalities in education. Nowadays more attention and effort is given to girls on achieving, GCSE’s and A level coursework favours girls and now girls are doing better than boys.
This is shown in Sue Sharp’s re-study (90) showed that fewer women were conforming to stereotypes, suggesting that the sexism and gender gap in education is becoming smaller. This shows that research by feminists can actually strongly benefit the women of society and contribute to sociology. Sociology would class that there are 3 main feminist perspectives, Liberalism, Marxist and Radical. While feminists would argue there are 7 main feminist perspectives, which also include Feminist Marxist, Materialist, Socialist and Black.
These 7 feminist approaches have all contributed to sociological research by researching different aspects of society. Marxist feminists regard the economic position of women as crucial to their oppression. Veronica Beechey (1977) regard women’s position in the family makes them a special target for capitalist exploitation- women still seen as primarily unpaid homemaker’s dependant on husband’s finance. Research such as this has led to government handing out financial aid to women of families, which gives women money directly, which they can spend when they need it.
Christine Delphy (1984) is a materialist feminist rather than a Marxist feminist because she claims Marxism cannot explain women’s oppression; Karl Marx sees a genderless proletariat and does not pay enough attention to women. She uses the Marxist method but alters the content of its theories. She says there are two modes of production: industrial and domestic. The latter leads to patriarchal exploitation and the formation of two classes: men and women in which the man exploits his wife for sexual and domestic services.
He dominates and controls. Women are domestic slaves. So Christine Delphy would argue that research has highlighted the problem but know we need to do something about it. The feminist contribution to sociological research has been strong. It has pointed out patriarchy in the home, and in society and education and in research it self. Black feminists would argue that feminist theory as a whole lacks concern and relevance to black women, they see the feminist theory has been about western women ignoring third world women.
And so the Black feminist movement has led to research for black women and a greater awareness of the inequalities black women face around the world. In all the feminism has contributed a lot to sociological research, as originally research just focused on males, but now 50% of all research focuses on women as well which allows sociology to be more relevant to society. Evidence to show that feminists have contributed to sociological research is in the education institution.
Before research on girls in education, boys were doing much better at exams, but since the research on girls in education. Girls are doing much better than boys in exams, which shows that the research actually helped people and is relevant to society. But now the question is, is the feminist contribution to research still relevant, as the research already done highlights the problems for females in society. But the answer is yes as we need the research to show that we are not converting back to a patriarchy society, and that we are still striking a balance in research and not being malestream.