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The March of Progress View: The Family and Gender Equality (Part 1)

Sarah Best

14th February 2017

In the scientific world, the March of Progress refers to how humans have evolved over 25 million years. This view has also been adopted by some sociologists and it has been used to describe some of the changes in the family over the past 100 years or so.

The sociologists, Young and Willmott take a march of progress stance towards gender equality. The early industrial family was one largely based on segregated conjugal roles, where men and women had clearly defined tasks. For instance, women were likely to undertake the majority of domestic tasks and raise children whereas the man would go out to work.

According to Young and Willmott, these roles changed as industrialisation advanced as we entered the 20th century. They believed that there was increasing gender equality in society (led partly with more women working) and described the ‘modern’ monogamous family as symmetrical, where roles are egalitarian and democratic. Young and Willmott also believed that the division of labour manifested itself in how families would spend their leisure time. During the period of industrialisation, couples were likely to spend this apart whereas during the 20th-century families started to spend this together.

However, Young and Willmott’s theory is not without criticism. Not all families are symmetrical in structure; feminists would argue that women are still more likely to carry out domestic tasks as well as be in paid work and experience what they call a dual burden. Recent research found that men in wealthier families are even less likely to help around the house (Lynotte, 2015).

Read Wealthier Men Less Likely to Help Partners with Housework

Sarah Best

Sarah is a passionate full-time Head of Sociology and Psychology and has worked in a variety in schools in the UK, and she is currently working in a British international school. She is keen to develop and boost the profile of both subjects.

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