13: Feminism and Care Ethics


Napoleon Sarony - Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony - Google Art Project-cropped
  • Define and appropriately use important terms such as feminism and universal care
  • Demonstrate knowledge of major arguments for and problems with care ethics
  • Apply ethical concepts and principles to address moral concerns.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
& Susan B. Anthony
National Portrait Gallery, D.C.

Key Terms

Care Ethics
Universal Care
Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development
Heinz' Dilemma

Bumper Sticker

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people

I. Feminism

  • A. Feminism in Brief
    • Economic security
    • Autonomy
    • Social equity
    • Political power
    • Other concerns
  • B. First Wave Feminism
    • Initially concerned with politics, Women’s Suffrage
    • late 1800s and early 1900s
    • Key text: John Stuart Mill’s Subjection of Women 1861
      • The legal subjection of women is wrong
      • The burden of proof is on the want wanting to limit freedom, not the one who desires it
      • Maintaining the tradition that women have fewer rights is also wrong
      • This is a custom that has not brought more happiness
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony brought success with the abolition of slavery movement to suffrage for women
    • 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed giving women the right to vote
    • Transition
      • Reveling in newfound equality, daughters and granddaughters of suffragettes explore their freedom
      • Prohibition, also promoted by first wave feminists, led to speakeasies and the flapper
      • Lois Long, aka Lipstick, wrote “When Nights are Bold” for The New Yorker bringing the flapper lifestyle into American homes
      • Equal pay for equal work became important in the mid 20th century (LINK)
      • Single income families in the 1950s (LINK)
  • C. Second Wave Feminism
    • Concerns moved into social and cultural inequality
    • 1960s and 70s
    • Key texts: de Beauvoir’s Second Sex and Friedan’s Feminine Mystique
    • Contributing factors included the hippy movement and oral contraceptives
    • Examples of Second Wave Feminism
      • Mary Tyler Moore Show 1970-1977
      • Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars 1977
      • Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien 1979
      • Diane Keaton in The Godfather 1972 and The Godfather Part II 1974
      • Diane Keaton in Annie Hall 1977
      • Diane Keaton in Baby Boom 1987
  • D. Third Wave Feminism
    • Concern for all women, not just some
    • Key text: bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman?
    • Title based on Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” (LINK)
    • Examples of Third Wave Feminism
      • The Color Purple 1982 book, 1985 film
      • The Joy Luck Club 1989 book, 1993 film
  • E. Post–Third Wave Feminism
    • Concern for self–definition; what it means to be a woman
    • Key text: Baumgardner and Richards’ Manifesta
    • Deconstructing the idea of the feminine
    • Examples of Post-Third Wave Feminism
      • Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1997-2003
      • Jackie Brown and Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2
    • Ongoing struggle, reduced pay, cultural traditions of abuse (LINK)

II. Views of Gender in Ethics

  • Aristotle: women are not as rational as men
  • Kant: women lack “civil personality”
  • Rousseau: women have different virtues and are more suited for the home
  • Feminists blame cultural conditioning for the perpetuation of gender stereotypes
  • A feminist perspective can contribute to the field of Ethics in new ways

III. Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

  • Heinz’ Dilemma - dying wife, pharmacist is overcharging for medicine, what do you do?
    • Stage 1 - obey authority, avoid punishment
    • Stage 2 - satisfy personal desires and the desires of others through fairness
    • Stage 3 - cultivate relationships
    • Stage 4 - obey law, maintain group’s interests
    • Stage 5 - uphold rights and values of society
    • Stage 6 - abide by abstract universal principles
    • Steal: higher stage, according to Kohlberg
  • Negotiate: lower stage, emphasis on relationships
  • Feminist response to Kohlberg’s assessment
    • Different isn’t worse
    • Stealing is a more masculine approach
    • Reconciliation is a more feminine response, but also a strength
  • Do men and women think differently?
    • Research says yes
    • Women tend to score higher on empathy tests
    • Men score higher on justice-based tests
    • Women focus on smaller, intimate groups
    • Men focus on larger, less intimate groups
    • Caution: these are small differences, generalizations, and are not value judgments
  • What causes differences?
    • Social explanations - cultural conditioning
    • Genetic explanations - biology

IV. Care Ethics

  • A. Care Ethics in Brief
    • What Sort of Person Should I Strive to Be?
      • Considers the needs and interests of others to be the primary focus of moral reasoning
      • Based on the works of philosopher Nel Noddings 
    • How Do We Determine Our Morals?
      • Morality is rooted in natural caring
      • Mental and emotional empathy
      • Consider the other person’s reality to be real to you
    • How to Be Moral
      • Experience the act of caring - a feeling
      • Perform a caring response - action
      • Move beyond natural caring (how we feel about people we are close with) to ethical caring (about others we are not close with)
      • This is not the same as universal caring, which Noddings says is an empty concept
  • B. Objections to Care Ethics
    • Ambiguous
    • How do you balance care for self versus care for others
    • Some people never develop empathy
  • C. Care Ethics in Practice
    • Case Study 1: Responsibilities to Family and Friends
      • Ethical motivations for society cannot explain our relationships between family and friends
      • Motivated by love
      • Partiality toward family and friends
      • Care Ethicists say this love and partiality is normal and expected
    • Case Study 2: Charitable Causes
      • Most ethical theories assert we have a responsibility to give time, effort, and financial support to charitable causes that benefit members of society
      • Care Ethics focuses on small-scale personal relationships
      • Universal care is impossible
      • Without interaction between the ‘cared for’ and the ‘one caring,’ there is no obligation to give this time, effort, and financial support
    • Case Study 3: Animals
      • Does the suffering of animals being raised for food matter?
      • Our pets matter because we have a direct relationship with them
      • But we do not have a relationship with animals to be slaughtered