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Equality of Gender roles and Relationships Argumentative

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Some sociologists support the view that gender roles and relationships have become more equal in modern family where as some sociologists believe that they have not. These beliefs are developed from factors such as the domestic division of labour, the impact of paid work and resources and decision making in households. Firstly, the domestic division of labour refers to the roles that men and women play in relation to housework, child care and paid work. Talcott Parsons came up with two roles names instrumental and expressive roles. Parson said that men have an instrumental role which is geared towards achieving success at work which enables them to provide for their family financially and that women have an expressive role which is geared towards primary socialisation of the children and meeting the family’s emotional needs. Parson states that the division of labour is based on biological facts, for instance women are more naturally suited to the nurturing role. Therefore Parsons view does not believe the fact that gender roles have led to more equality in family life because he states that husband and wife have different responsibilities in order to help their families.

On the other hand, Young and Wilmott (1973) take a ‘march of progress’ view on the history of the family. This is also known as the symmetrical family and they see family life as gradually improving for all its members, becoming more equal and democratic. They argue that there has been a long-term trend away from segregated conjugal roles and towards joint conjugal roles and the ‘symmetrical family’. By symmetrical family, they mean that the gender roles and relationships have become more equal and similar, although they are not identical. They believe this because, women now go out to work, although this may be part-time rather than full-time, Men now help with housework and childcare and lastly, couples now spend their leisure time together instead of separately with workmates or female relatives. They are more home-centred and privatised. Although this is what Willmott and Young believe, feminists disagree with the symmetrical family and march of progress because they still see men and women as being unequal within the family.

An example of this is that women still do most of the housework. They see this inequality as stemming from the fact that the family and society are male dominated (patriarchal). Whereas women occupy a subordinate and dependant role within the family and in wider society. Ann Oakley criticises the Wilmott and Young’s view that the family is now symmetrical. She argues that their claims are exaggerated. Although Young and Wilmott found that most of the husbands they interviews ‘helped’ their wives at least once a week, this could include simply taking their children for a walk or making breakfast on one occasion. Oakley decided to put Wilmott and Young’s study to the test and created her own research. Oakley found some evidence of husbands helping in the home but no evidence of a trend towards symmetry. Only 15% of husbands had a high level of participation in housework, and only 25% had a high level of participation in childcare. Oakley also describes how the housewife role has become the dominant role for married women; this also goes against the march of progress view created by Wilmott and Young.

In Oakley’s view, even though the 20th century saw an increase in the number of married women working, the housewife role is still women’s primary role. Also, women who work are concentrated in low-paid jobs that are often an extension of the housewife role, such as nursing or childcare. To conclude, the view that gender roles and relationships have become more equal in modern family life creates a very controversial issue because some people believe that gender roles and relationships have become more equal which leads to more equality in family life but some people believe that gender roles and relationships have not become more equal in modern family life. In my opinion, I believe that the gender roles have become more equal in modern family life because some women are now in higher paid jobs and therefore work longer and more hours than some men and so more men are at home, collecting their children from nursery and school and helping in the household by making their children’s tea’s if their mothers are working.

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