Becaus I’m on Feminism Right Now (Warning: Some strong language near the end)

If you want to get to the feminist stuff, go to paragraph four. To set the scene for those skipping, all of this comes from my college Ethics textbook.

I HATE my Ethics textbook (I’m taking this class in college because I needed to take a philosophy class and it was either this or “Death and Dying”). First off, it admits up front that it’s actually pushing a certain moral system on us. I’m not even kidding! This is a textbook, not a defense of a moral system! This makes the book amount to basically a giant Apologetics book as it seeks to go through objections of other moral systems to push its own. And it iso bad. Here is its rejection of Natural Law Theory (the whole thing takes two paragraphs):

[After discussing objections of homosexuality as being against the laws of nature]: If however, we examine all aspects of nature, we discover that heterosexuality is not the only type of sexuality that occurs in nature….

Stop. Right there. What the Hell does that have to do with anything? We’re not talking about other animals. We’re talking about what humans should be doing. What an idiotic statement from a textbook.

But to the feminist stuff. Carol Gilligan, a philosopher, came up with a theory known sometimes as “feminist ethics”. I actually think it makes sense. Basically, what she’s saying is that men’s views on ethics have to do with justice, rights, competition, being independent, and living by rules whereas women’s ethical views have to do with generosity, harmony,  reconciliation, and working to maintain close relationships.

This makes sense, and the book spends a little bit of time discussing this theory and how she tested it. Fine. Now let’s look at the objections:

Some critics think that by accepting Gilligan’s theory one might be raising so-called female values far above male values and replacing one unfair ethical system with another.

  1. How is this, in any way, an objection? It’s just an uncomfortable conclusion.
  2. How the Hell are women’s values raised above men’s? I don’t see it.

But wait! There’s more!

Also, if one says women are more caring and compassionate, are we not pushing them back to where they were before Gilligan? Men (and women) might say that since women can’t understand justice then we can’t use them in the outside world and and they should return to homemaking duties, and if a certain job calls for caring qualities then men can’t be hired because they are not good at caring. Therefore…[Gilligan] may be setting up new categories that could result in excluding women from traditionally men’s jobs…and men from women’s jobs. …Critics say that Gilligan has disrupted the philosophy of gender equality [Uhhhhh…duh?] so that a company…won’t hire a woman for a [legal] job because she has no real sense of justice. In this way her…theory of gender may move from describing gender equality to prescribing a set of rules about who ought to do what jobs.

Do you get what was said there? There is no actual objection to her theory in that entire paragraph! All they did was point out uncomfortable conclusions of her theory and act as if that somehow made it false. We might have to accept (Gasp!) gender roles if her theory is true! Oh no! Why, we might even have to conclude that men are better at certain jobs than women and vice versa!

In fact maybe, just maybe, if we accept that men have a stronger sense of justice, rights, and living by rules that they might make better leaders! What will we ever do! And…if they’re leaders…wouldn’t women have to submit under their leadership? We might even have to follow the Bible!

Do you see how this works? Their idea of an objection to the concept of gender roles is stamping their foot and yelling “NO FAIR!!!”.

Holy shit, I hate this book So. Damn. Much.

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10 Responses to Becaus I’m on Feminism Right Now (Warning: Some strong language near the end)

  1. Crude says:

    Stop. Right there. What the Hell does that have to do with anything? We’re not talking about other animals. We’re talking about what humans should be doing. What an idiotic statement from a textbook.

    Not only that, but if that really is a reply to ‘natural law’, then it’s so off-base as to be absurd.

    Do you see how this works? Their idea of an objection to the concept of gender roles is stamping their foot and yelling “NO FAIR!!!”.

    Yep. If the argument leads to a conclusion we dislike, the argument must be flawed. No need to show the flaw – you can know it’s flawed by the conclusion.

    • Not only that, but if that really is a reply to ‘natural law’, then it’s so off-base as to be absurd.

      Exactly. Dealing with this in class is going to suck because I guarantee you, nobody will understand why that’s a terrible objection, and every argument I make will be undermined because it’s in “The Textbook”. This class is going to make me want to bang my head against a wall.

      Yep. If the argument leads to a conclusion we dislike, the argument must be flawed. No need to show the flaw – you can know it’s flawed by the conclusion.

      I mean, it’s such a damn joke. In a philosophy textbook, the best they have to offer is a non-objection masquerading as an objection and an “objection” to natural law that has nothing to do with natural law! All the while they blatantly and admittedly peddle their own ideology, and they call this Apologetic manuscript shit a “textbook”. Is this really the best they can do?

  2. Blue Devil Knight says:

    If the professor is halfway good he/she will handle your objections well. Good philosophy professors, I found, are excellent at encouraging devil’s advocates in the classroom, and nurturing a critical attitude toward the text, and fostering a lively discussion. That’s pretty much what they are trained to do from birth.

    This should be what happens if you make your points in a respectful, rational way. I used to encounter assholes in philosophy classes when I used to push against antinaturalism, other students would get all angry at me for going against the grain, but the professor (who was antinaturalistic) would always bring the discussion to a rational plane, focusing in on my arguments and not letting other students drag the discusssion to blog-comment levels of civility.

    I think you are right to voice the concerns about the author’s concern with Gilligan’s ethics of care. For one, it isn’t clear we have to choose Kant versus Gilligan, and elevate one as the true morality (this seems to be your point). In some instances the norms of relationship-tending and love will dominate your thinking (as a mother or father with one’s daughter), but in other instances we probably need to use more abstract rules to help us decide to do what is right (like if you are a cop). For that matter, why not simply incorporate principles from both in the same chain of moral reasoning? It’s probably more typical. Also, while the traits might tend to associate with male/female, that is also just too simplistic obviously, other than as a joke-generating statistical generalization.

    Finally, I came here to see if you had done your writeup on Portal 2, and am still waiting for it.

    • My real problem with that isn’t even that I necessarily agree or disagree with the book’s conclusions (I don’t think anybody would argue that it’s too simplistic). My problem is that, in the entire response given, no objection is actually offered. The objection to natural law might have sucked, but at least they took a half-hearted swing at it. With Gilligan’s theory they, literally, didn’t even try.

      Thank you for reminding me about that! When I get my first post up on it I promise to respond to you on here.

      • Blue Devil Knight says:

        The author might think they are giving a reductio ad absurdum, is my guess. But one person’s reductio is another person’s appeal to consequences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_consequences). Things definitely get tricky there. If you don’t buy into the reductio as a reductio, then they have more work to do, it seems, to make their case!

      • Reductios are always a bit tricky to work with. It reminds me of the “heart attack” rule of thumb in chess – you resign only when the only way you could reasonably win is if your opponent has a heart attack and dies. You know it when you see it.

        The problem is, they’re giving a list of conclusions that they don’t seem to realize a lot of people still accept.

        I understand the book is only giving a summary of these arguments and possible objections, but at least offer some real objections!

  3. Blue Devil Knight says:

    Sounds like you have a good paper topic!

    Not sure what college you are at, but it sounds like you already know to be very cautious in saying things that could come off sexist. I’m not saying to lie, but just cautious. If you really think that a company who won’t hire women because of their undeveloped sense of justice is *not* an adequate reductio, you have your work cut out for you. You will hit countless counterexamples that will simply obliterate your position. If you are at all sensitive to data, you will have to end up with something more nuanced and sensitive to facts (that was the point of my note about these associations being statistical but not really useful for judging individuals).

    I think a better (because more accurate) approach would be not to justify discrimination in the workforce, but rather to proudly defend women who choose to instantiate traditional gender roles by being stay-at-home moms. Talk to male academics whose wives are also academics, who have kids. How much of a pain in the butt is it when the kid is sick, having to endlessly negotiate who will stay home for five days. It complicates the family life, adds tension and stress, and sort of sucks. If one person stays at home with the kids, the roles are nicely set, and you can excel at those roles. I’m just shooting from the hip here. My view is I don’t care if it is a woman or man that stays home, but things are just freaking easier and more relaxed if one of the partners does this.

    That said, those women that do not want to be stay at home moms often make that decision because they HATE being stay at home moms, and are extremely depressed in that role. They want to be out there working and producing. I would also suggest we shouldn’t denigrate them, either. I’d rather send my kid to a day care with affectionate teachers, than have her stay at home with a depressed and resentful mom who isn’t doing a very good job as a mom and wants to be out in the workforce.

    Sure, it makes life more complicated to have both parents working, but sometimes that is the best option other than not having kids.

    Just beware, unless you are at an extremely conservative Christian college, if you push this topic you will trigger some *very* emotional reactions, so think your shit through before you end up getting eviscerated by well-adjusted kids whose moms are successful judges (and have a very good sense of justice), etc..

    I hope I’m not coming off as politically correct police here, just warning you that when you venture into such non-PC territory on a college campus, put on your flak jacket. I lived through the peak of political correctness in the 90s on campuses, and it was truly ugly the hegemony a small political minority had on campus culture. Fight it, but protect yourself.

    • I had a very long, well thought out, and interesting reply, I promise you…but then I accidentally deleted it. Suffice to say that I don’t think ALL women or ALL men act the same way or should be treated exactly the same. I just think that saying the sexes NORMALLY act one way or another is something that is controversial now when it really should be obvious.

      (BTW, it may interest you to know that Carol Gilligan is a feminist and would disagree with all of my conclusions!)

      I might reply more in depth later.

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