1) Explain the liberal feminist's view of the family.
2) Assess the feminist perspective by giving strengths and weaknesses of its view on the family.
3) How influential has feminism been on the study of the family?
Family is, and has always been, an essential part of relationships; often responsible for the formation, successful or otherwise, of emotional bonds, support systems and reciprocal communication. However, family means many different things to different people and it is the expectations created that often problems because, especially in the modern context, the traditional family may leave people (mostly female) feeling unappreciated and dissatisfied due to the imbalance of duties and responsibilities.
1) The liberal feminist view of family accepts various varieties of "family," according to preferences and it relies more on choices and a woman's right to make a choice (housewife, part-time worker or dedicated business woman). Laws to improve the status of women, insisting on equal pay and against discrimination, for example, are important to the liberal feminist. What she then does is up to her.
Liberal feminists support the view that, in terms of having a family, they have the right to make choices regarding, for example, abortion and, quality, affordable childcare to allow them to actively and satisfactorily involve themselves in their profession in the same way as their male counterparts.
2) Essentially, feminism is viewed as being mistrusting of the traditional family because it claims that society views women as intellectually inferior to men and, with obvious physical differences, women, thus, are ignored or overlooked in many professions and their opinions not appreciated in the political and business environment. The disadvantages of this include extremes of opinion which give feminism a bad name.
Feminists also worry that the entrenchment of traditional family roles in the family disadvantages women as children emulate parents and may adopt similar beliefs.
The perception of men and women and their approach to family and the misunderstandings that result cause their own set of disadvantages regarding division of labor around the home. A reliance by feminists regarding their own rights means that, sometimes, other family members, whether it be the husband or the children, are disadvantaged and compromise is viewed more as a weakness. This results in its own set of conflicts.
One point that can be either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the outcome relates to responsibilities and duties and, due to the complex nature of family life, decision-making may become a cause of family conflict as no compromise can be reached when all parties feel they are giving up their rights and a battle of wills results. However, this situation can also foster better communication and family members learn to appreciate each other more and make their own compromises more willingly without any loss of equality.
Feminism has highlighted the inherent problems of family, encouraging better communication and ensuring a support system in the form of support groups specially tailored towards protecting vulnerable women and children. It has also served to reduce the stigma attached to women who reach out and to not feel duty-bound to remain in compromised situations.
Feminism has also assisted other groups such as same sex parents and non-traditional families to gain support and encouragement and find acceptance.
3) Feminism has been very influential on the study of family as it has introduced options and possibilities previously overlooked. Feminism forces people to look inward and to consider a less self-centered approach to family.
Liberal feminism adopts the liberal framework which within the context of political philosophy basically advocates in favour of protecting the widest possible scope of individual freedom. As such it plays no favours as far as life style choices are concerned, sexual orientation, family structures and the like. The liberal paradigm emphasises the rights of individuals as rational self-conscious beings to determine the fate of their own lives in a manner uninhibited by the structures of cvil life, socio-political, economic advantages and the like. As such liberal feminism focuses on amending inequalities that evolve for women from familial structures. For instance, the nuclear family is structured in such a way that women are the primary (if not exclusive) care-takers, hence earning only a subsidiary salary (if any).
One way that liberal feminism steps in is to suggest an alternate status for "stay-home mothers" to "caregiver" and in that way to both challenge implied biases regarding the maternal role of women in the home, as well as provide the legal premise for receiving payment for services rendered. Another example would be laws to protect mothers from dismissal.
Still a serious weakness of liberal feminism is the adoption of an androcentric narrative. The whole liberal approach is aligned with male dominate character traits including most notably rational deliberation, individualistic notions of personal identity and the like.