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Family, Feminism & The State Essay, Research Paper

?Family, Feminism, and the State:

Canada in the 1990s and beyond?

Marlee Minuk


Prof. Stevenson

November 9, 1998

Family: a set of parents and children or of relitives; person?s children; members of household; group of kindred peoples, related objects.

From the time of infancy to death people belong to a family. That family may change over the years, going from a mother and father to a husband and children but non the less everyone belongs to a family. Most people do not choose their family yet there is a love between the members that no other love can compare to. This love is something called unconditional love. Unconditional love is a term that refers to a love that does not lessen or waver with troubles. A mother loves her child even if he is a theif. Unfortunantly not all families are perfect and in some families there is no love. In the past, families were regarded as a private thing with private occurences that should not be discussed but that has now changed. The family has become an important part on Canada?s social policy agenda in many ways. This term paper will explore that idea through the article by Susan A. McDaniel intitled ?Families, Feminism, And The State: Canada In The 1990s And Beyond?.

For anyone who explored the idea that of the family in the 90?s, it is quite apearent that there is a lot more concern for the family has increased. Sociologists have come to three reasons for the grate increase.

1. The family is import as a basic part of society. Stronger families breed stronger children.

2. A lot of blame is placed on the family for problems in society today. Perhaps this is done because it is a lot easier to fix a bad family than it is to fix bad government policies.

3. The feminist movement believes that in order to combat problems such as child poverty and violence within the family, the government must get together with the family.

The one thing that all three reasons have in common is that there is a problem in society today and something has to be done about it soon.

In order to determine whether the family is a problem in society today, we must first understand what social problems are. Social problems are anything which require a policy, afterall, what would be the point of a policy is everything was going perfectly. However, it is a little more complicated than that as not every policy issue is a social problem. A great example of this is the issue of a single-parent family. Most commonly, women run a single-parent family. In the past, the problem here seemed to be an economic one. Many single-parent families were forced to rely on welfare. No one seemed to realize that perhaps the blame should have been placed upon the deadbeat husbands and fathers who have better things to do then to pay spousal and child support. Coupled with no childsupport, the fact the childcare was not easily accessable did not make it any easier on a woman.

One approach to the family problem is called ?the power and risistance perspective? . This perspective voices the idea that to solve the social problems one must first understand and address the bottom line of the problem. This veiw believes that the problems are cause by large, powerful groups. These same problems are stated in ways that protect the large groups, merely shrugging the blame onto someone

In order to begin to think where the future of the family is headed one must first eveluate what is known and what is unknown. This may seem simple to do but unfortunantley most of what is known and what is unknown about the Canadian family is biased. Myths and misconceptions about what a ?real? family is supposed to be are put forth. Usually when research is done on the family, it is done by a male therefore causing an incomplete picture of the family to be painted. Another major bias is that reasearch done on what is called the ?traditional family?. The traditional family is made up of a mother, father and two children. In using the “traditional family” as a model is it implied that the single-parent household is abnormal?

One thing that people must ask them selves when discussing the family, is whether is the family is a private thing or a public thing. Many people would conclude that it is a private thing. Few believe that the family is a public thing, shaped in someway by public institutions. Could it be that the family is actually just a way of satifyinhg the needs of cpitalism?

When trying to conclude on whether the family can be considered a social institution one must look towards the feminism movement for some insight. The family can be a good thing for employees. The family can be seen as a ?conservation influence? for workers that may want to rebel against their employers. Three inferances can be made about the family from what is known about it.

1. Usually, when policy makers shift their concern onto the family it is because the family is not giving to society what it requires. Such an idea was seen after the Second World War

i.e: ?Family Allouence? was given to families in order to boost the birth rate.

2. Family policy will not be effective if it is not relivant to people?s lives. Such policies will be ignored or people will even do anything to work around them.

i.e: policies that women do not feel are important to them.

3. Many policies are either responsive to what society is already doing or are just one step ahead.

There are many perspectives on the family. One largely adhered to perspective is that family is in crisis. Many times, people say that the family is in crisis because it is not what they grew up in, the family is not the traditional 1950s family. The concerns from this perspective are:

· Change amungst the family is unwelcomed

· Family is a private thing yet needing the public for strenghth

· Anything other than ?traditional family? is disfunctional family

· Family is important to society

· The changing role of women is deletrious to the family

· The history of the family goes as far back as the 1950s

For those who do not agree with ?the family is in crisis? perspective there is another. This perspective is a progressive, mainly feminist, perspective, which is on the total other side of the spectrum. This perspective believes that the role of men and women should be equal both at home and at work. The beleifs of this perspective are:

· Change within the family is a good sign?a sign or evolution and progress

· Family should not be forced nor expected to conform to what people?s expectations of a ?proper? family is

· Equality between men and women is esential in the family

· Historically, family has always changed, therefore recent changing does not point to a crisis situation

· One does not have to worry about family being extinct as it is vital in everyones lives

· Family is not a private thing

In the past, when looking at families, people believed that there was little or no change until recently. However, many people believe that to be untrue now. Pioneers were said to have indulged in rape, incest and alcohalism. Change occurred, and this is now frowned upon.

In the past, married women were seen as their husband?s ?possetions?. This is changing now. If change is a bad thing, should women remain being treated as a mere possession?

Change has also brought change amunst the role of women. ?Women-Friendly? policies are now in demand. Such policies include injustice and inequality towards women. Dignity must be restored to women who are in need of assistance such as welfare. Rather than ?bashing and trashing? women who are using assistance, society should help them get back into the work force.

Aging is a large problem. There is poor accesability of pension for women. Women are also the ones who most often care for an elderly relative with little or no aid. This can cause the women to burn out or get cause in ?caregiving crunch?.

Many may wonder why violence against women still is not being taken as serious as it really is. A very large problem with in this issue is violence against elderly women. A ?women-friendly? policy must be set up in order to stop this problem before it esclates to death.

There are many more issues that must be looked at, evaluated and rectified in order for the family to be were it should how. Groups with special needs such as immigrant families, aboriginal families, disabled families etc, must be targetted. In order to help these groups, they must work with the polocy-makers as imput from them is ecential.

One last thing that is esential is the promotion of changes with in the family as a good a welcomed thing. Polocies that limit the family to one form will not help in any way. Polocies that try to bring back the family from the 1950 will be ignored as it is unrealistic. The most affective policy will be the one that promotes change and the importance of equality amungst the sexes.

The article entitled ?Families, Feminism, And The State: Canada In The 1990s And Beyond? is a very well reasearched and well writen article. The article targetted many diverse audiences, anyone who belongs to a family. McDaniel also targetted ethnic, gender and age. She accomplished it very well.

One very strong image she painted when she stated that strong families breed strong children. A study was conducted which illustrated that idea. It said, ?teenagers who have strong emotional attachments to their parents are much less likely to become sexually active at an early age.?

Among the three reasons given for more concern being placed on the family, I disagree with the one idea but agree with another. I disagree with the ideastates that a lot of blame is placed upon the family merely because it is easier to ignore a problem in a family than it is in the government. I think it would be vertually impossible to shift the blame from a government level to a family level. However, I do agree with the staement that says that feminism has a lot to do with the increase of concern. Perhaps I feel this way because I have been considered a feminist before but at any rate, the idea seems believable and well researched.

I very much like the idea of the ?power and resistance perspective?. This perspective stated that in order to find a solution one must find the root of the problem. I find this idea true in daily life. In order for my boyfriend and I to work out a problem, we must figure out what started the hostility in the first place otherwise the problem does not really go away.

One idea that McDaniel brought up was the idea of deadbeat dads. Her perspective on this topic was noticibly well researched. Many times the blame is placed on the woman?s shoulders rather than the man?s. In order to fix the problem of welfare, one must first fix the problem of husband not helping the woman with childcare and childcare expenses.

When dealing with the idea of biases, it is very important to realize they are there. If one is aware that a bias is done, then every effort can be made in order to make sure it is rectified. I think it is great that McDaniel is bringing up the biases because many were probably unknown. Many people were probably unaware that since a male does most of the research on families that the research done was biased.

Until I read this article, I never thought about whether the family was a private thing or a public thing. The assumtion I made was that the family was a private thing in which private things occurred. This article made to evaluate whether the family really was a private thing and if it was, whether it should remain that way. Perhaps with outside help the divorse rate would not be so high. Couples are constantly being told that they should seek out marriage councilling if their marriage is in trouble. Perhaps if councilling were done from the beginning of the marriage there would never have been problems?

I thought it formed good juxta possition to state both the ?family in crisis? perspective and the feminist perspective together. It allowed the reader the chance to choice which perspective he or she favored. In my case I favored the feminist perspect and thought the ?family in crisis? perspective to be unrealistic. Who has the right to say that change is bad? Change has been occuring for centuries. Without change, man would not have all the techknowledgy that he has come to rely on so much. Also, the ?family in crisis? perspective states that there is one ?model? family and if you don?t fit that mold than you are bad. Where are the feminist perpective believes that gay and lesbians are just as much a family as anyother. Another strong point illustrated by the feminist perspective is that through out history chang has always occurred therefore recent change is not a crisis situation. Poining out that pioneers indulged in rape, incest and alcohal was a very strong image and illustrated the pint very vividly.

McDaniel used a lot of illustrating arguments to show her point. She made her argument relivent to everyone by involving everyone. She asked a question of whether a man should still have the right to treat his wife as a possesion. She asked whather the elderly should be treated in a disrespectful manner as they had been in the past. By doing this, her target audience grew.

One of the ideas that had the most impact on me as a reader was the idea of restoring dignity to women. I do not feel than many people had realized that their own actions could partially be the cause of the welfare crisis. McDaniel said that rather than ?bashing and trashing? women on public assistance we, the public, should help them get back on their feet. By doing this, McDaniel was not shifting the blame, rather she was distibuting it evenly amongst society.

Her conclusion was very suiting. It absolutlly summed up the whole argument. She stated what a good policy would have to imbody. The conclusion left readers with the idea of change and reformity in their minds. The first step to change is embeding the idea that change is nessisary in the mind of every individual in society.

McDaniel is a very well spoken author. She illustrated a very vital point and I believe that she got her argument across. People will not treat family or women the same after reading her article, I sure know that I will not.