Women's Place in the Family

The nuclear family has been in existence since the seventeenth century, but the private nuclear family, organized around the husband as the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker was not ascendant until the 1920’s (Oakley 191). As a result of industrialization, production was moved out of the home and the family took on expectations that were institutionalized and idealized by society. The widespread tradition of the nuclear family is difficult to dispel because it is assumed to be the most natural, timeless and biological of all social institutions.
In this paper I will argue that feminist theory has created a new perspective regarding women’s involvement in the family. As this topic is varied and complex, for the sake of space I will strictly discuss the history of housework, societal views on the family, the creation of gender roles, division of labour in the home, paid and unpaid work, and household power dynamics. I will analyze these topics through feminist theory as it views the family as a site of oppression and subordination of women. I chose the feminist perspective because it has allowed scholars to examine inequalities in the family and focus on women’s experiences.
Women’s work in the home was almost invisible until feminist theories began to treat household labour as work that holds economic value. This application has granted a new perspective on topics that were generally overlooked by sociologists such as wife abuse, marital rape, child abuse, gender roles and unequal division of labour. Although these realities had been present all along, they had not been analyzed or considered social problems. It is extremely important to gain a greater understanding of the lifestyles, activities and interests of more than half of humanity-women, which feminists aim to do.
Applying the feminist perspective to the family
The feminist perspective argues that women’s social class position cannot be ignored or treated as derivative from the social class...