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Hi Amy,

I have to write an essay on whether the modern nuclear family can be seen as a positive institution. So far I have managed well putting down the Marxist, critical and functionalist views of the family. But I need help when it comes to feminism because I'm not really sure what they believe when it comes to the family. I know most see it as a negative institution which exploits women, but I need some basic points which will help me to understand what they believe.

Your help is much appreciated,


Dear Joanna,

In reality the nuclear family dominated our family structures for only a brief period in time. Historically -- and presently -- families have always been more unique and less conventional. Feminists' perspective on family really depends on the individual feminist. In fact, many feminists come from and/or presently operate in a nuclear family. So to categorically oppose such a structure would indirectly oppose those feminists' roles in these families. In general, I think that feminists focus on a family's content, not its form. For instance, whether you have one parent, two mommies or a mother and a father, the ingredients for a family are love and respect.

I would add that feminists need to separate biology from family, meaning that a family is based on more than biology, and is also not confined by biology. I don't know my father -- never have -- so why should he be my Dad? It's more accurate to call him a "donor".

I hope this helps.