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Explain Key Features of Socialist Feminism

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Explain the key features of Socialist Feminism. (15 marks) - Penny

Socialists feminists believe that the relationship between the sexes is rooted in the social and economic structure itself, and drastic social change is necessary for female emancipation. Thus, patriarchy can only be understood in the light of economic factors. Engel’s, a key Socialist Feminist thinker, believed that the position of women in society had changed fundamentally with the development of capitalism and the institution of private property.

Essentially, Socialist Feminism can be defined by the belief that the confinement of women to a domestic sphere of housework and mother serves the economic interests of capitalism.

Some socialist feminists have argued that women constitute a ‘reserve army of labour’. This means that women can be used in times of need into a workforce, and easily disposed of to return to the domestic sphere. Women are used only when necessary as a source of cheap labour. This implies that women are an exploited part of the workforce.

Additionally, the confinement of women to the domestic sphere relieves men of the burden of housework and child-rearing so that men can focus on their jobs in the workforce. The exploitation of women in the family is a model of the wider exploitation of women.

Furthermore, the ‘traditional family’ provides the male worked with a powerful incentive to work hard and provide- encourages the idea of ‘breadwinners’. Therefore, men are more likely to strive to engage in productive employment. Ultimately, capitalism relies upon the exploitation of women in order to guarantee the superior position of men.

All socialist feminist agree that equality for women relies on the destruction of capitalist exploitation in general.

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