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Welfare Feminism in Britain - Essay Example

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It is difficult for us to perceive woman's role as a 'job' because of the surroundings in which it takes place, particularly the family. The institution of the family in modern, post-war society has been subjected to much sociological and psychological examination. During the past seven years it has also been a focus of controversy on the political Left, amongst feminists, socialists, and radicals of all kinds. It has come under attack; it has been defended. Often this debate, originally political, has taken on a highly moralistic flavour, and while it is true that political passions are, ultimately, moral passions, morals about the family has all too often prevented a constructive analysis of this institution as it exists in our contemporary society. Yet it is not hard to understand why the subject should arouse passion; the same reason makes it hard to perceive woman's role within it. (Wilson, 1977, p. 8)

A woman has always been subjected to physical care that is mediated by means of on-going emotional and physical relationships of the most intense kind; whether sexual or parental, a woman in particular are reared almost from birth, certainly from early childhood, to conceive of happiness and emotional fulfilment in terms of their future relationship with husband and children. To many it therefore seems alien or even blasphemous to discuss these relationships as jobs undertaken for the capitalist State. Nonetheless, such is the peculiar nature of the family. It plays what is in many ways a repressive role on behalf of the State, not only psychologically but also at the level of economic functioning, and yet at the same time offers the individual a unique opportunity for intimacy, comfort, and emotional support. According to Juliet Mitchell (1971) the individualistic competitiveness of the wider modern society is truly a 'prison of love' for woman. And the Welfare State has always been closely connected with the development of the family and has acted to reinforce and support it in significant ways. (Basch, 1974, p. 79) This it has done by offering various forms of service, both in money and in kind, and also by means of forms of social control and ideology. Thus the Welfare State is not just a set of services, it is also a set of ideas about women's role in society, in family, and not least important socially.

In Victorian society women were, for the first time, valuable because they did not work. It was her status as a non-worker that gave woman as wife and mother a very special ideological role. The single woman was society's reject, for celibacy was not highly valued (so that the attempts within the Church of England to start religious orders for women could be seen as radical) while the fallen woman's lot was to be completely outcast (Basch, 1974, p. 81). Yet work had to be found for the army of surplus middle-class spinsters and to them fell the task of teaching their impoverished married sisters how to be better wives and mothers. So grew up a paradoxical situation that still marks social work today; whereby middle-class women with no direct experience of marriage and motherhood themselves took on the social task of teaching marriage and motherhood to working-class women who were widely believed to be ignorant and lacking when it came to their domestic tasks. (Wilson, 1977, p. ...Show more
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Welfare Feminism in Britain.
A welfare state has enabled us to define feminism while remaining in the boundaries of welfare policies, where we can see feminist in the form of wife, sister and daughter and above all a mother. …
Welfare Feminism in Britain
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