Essay on Feminist Critic of Traditional Ethical Theories

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According to Beasley (1999) ethics of feminist is the approach to formulate, revise and rethink the various traditional aspects that revolve around depreciation of womens experience in the moral concept. According to Allison Jaggar, the traditional ethics on feminism undermines women in five ways; first there is no focus on women as opposed to men in terms of rights and interests, second, it favors men in terms of development on moral concept, Third, it undermines the womens ability in terms of cultural aspects such as independence, reasoning, autonomy, and transcendence. Fourth, it devalues the issues that arise in the world of women such as performing house chores and undertaking the role of care, fifth it favors masculinity regarding universality, reasoning and emphasize on rules. Traditional perspective of feminism is more geared towards favoring men than women. Allison identifies this as an attempt to neglect women in the society. It is important to note that there should be equality on how human should be treated, this will result in equality on how we perceive things. The traditional ethical perception of women describes an extinct way of thought that does not recognize the efforts of another individual.

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Feminism is one of the sensitive issues when it comes to philosophy; there are different opinions regarding the roles and the place of women in society. Feminism is all about arguments for women rather than men. There are traditional ethical theories that define the role of men and women; there are also critics of these theories as a result of the revolution that has seen the redefinition of feminism. We are going to analyze the ethics of various philosophers and how they regard the portion of a woman in the society basing on the traditional theories. There are different forms of feminist depending on how the argue about the role of a woman in the society. These are; Marxists, liberal, global, multicultural, socialist and radical feminists, they all define the aspect of women in their perspective and experience.

The nineteenth century saw a rise of philosophers who debated on gender morals and feminism; these philosophers include; Catherine Beecher, Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady and John Mill (Bulbeck, 1998). They were the first group of philosophers to debate about the traditional ethical theories. Each of these philosophers has their opinion in regards to traditional ethics on feminism. Taking a look at Wollstonecraft, she opposes that fact that men are more moral than women basing on the fact that the moral virtue I uniform and that it should be a virtue in every human regardless of gender. She points out the fact that there is nothing wrong with women, in fact, they are the same as men regarding reasoning, the only difference is how women have been socially cultured in the society. She points out, for example, a scenario whereby while fathers teach their sons on how to become morally upright, mothers, on the other hand, will teach their daughters on how to have good manners. This, therefore, is a clear view that women are socially shaped to become what the society thinks, according to traditional theory, women were regarded as weak, the reason as to why they are associated with vulnerability. Wollstonecraft argues that women are not weak, they just have the different reaction towards something as opposed to men, she points out that it is natural for women to tend to become narcissists, emotional and hypersensitive when they are deprived of their opportunity to express their rights.

The philosophers proposed the alternative approach toward the perception of feminism. Mullet (1988) points out his regarding the fact that evolution has seen the rise of various definitions and activists that fight for the rights of women; feminism should be embraced rather than neglected. Taking a look at Gilman together with other philosophers who contributed to a different perception on how to approach the focus on care according to feminism; you find that the traditional ethics degraded the aspect of care, they regarded it more of female activity to care as compared to male. This was negated by the fact that women are fragile and hence they tend to care, that they cannot survive under harsh conditions that taste their limits.

Carol and Nel, further argue against traditional perception concerning the care-focused. They point out that the traditional ethics revolve around principals, policies, practices that are not for female existence in the society. The notion of Freudian that men are more developed morally compared to women. By expounding on this notion, he relates the situation to men not getting a motherly attachment because they fear being mocked by their fathers, whereas girls will always be attached to their mothers, and thy will always look up to their father to take care of them. He also asserts that girls are slow regarding development, especially on being self-dependent compared to boys; therefore he concluded that women have moral inferiority. Gilligan in the critique of Freudian perception relates moral development to the psychological research summarized by Lawrence; that there are stages in human development and that of gaining moral development is the sixth stages. Therefore opposing the theory of Freudian, there is no relation of moral development to gender. However, Lawrence methodology on human development is based on traditional ethics as it negates that women are not likely to pass stage three of human development as opposed to men who go up to stage five. This, therefore, means that men can reach stage six of moral development, Gilligan, therefore, criticizes the methodology, that it was used in traditional ethics (Kittay& Feder 2003).

The ethics of care are well supported by Gilligan in the sense that she relates women to care, In the sense that todays generation has seen women who practice the ethic of care and justice together with fighting for their rights. She also points out that the men of todays generation only revolve around justice and their rights. She opposes the tradition that women articulate their language of care only, while men articulate their concerns regarding justice. She further argues that the aspects of moral revolve around the ability to express emotions, feelings, and sentiments other than to only rely on the law. Therefore she points out that women are even more moral compared to men because they can articulate their moral aspect with concern. However, the ethic of care as supported by Gilligan has been criticized by Bartky, on the point that women tend to be more concerned and they have ended up losing their dignity and integrity because of sacrificing too much to men. She equates this to the role of a wife in a family. Ruddick in support of female ethics of care points out that society should be able to differentiate the importance of a woman, relating to maternal exercise as one of the aspects that should be valued (Kourany, Sterba and Tong 1987).

As per the feminist critique by various philosophers, feminism still holds one of the sensitive aspects globally. Traditional theory and ethics of feminism did not show any concern to women, these theories neglected female existence and disapproved of any abilities associated with women. With the rise of various activists, the topic of feminism has been argued over and over, with theories from different philosophers. Evolution has seen women perform duties and roles that are exemplary. In other words, the rise of activists for female existence has encouraged women to strive to retain their standard of being a woman and at the same time proving to men that they are equal regarding powers, justice, care and fighting for their rights. Education has empowered women to showcase their capabilities. Take a look at women with exemplary performance globally; ranging from Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and other women leaders; you find that they prove traditional ethics of feminism wrong.

In support of philosophers for feminism, I, therefore, agree that there is more to a woman than what the society thinks or perceives. A woman is a package of both a man and a woman in the sense that there are some roles that a woman can perform that men will not perform. Therefore men should rise above superstitions and false beliefs regarding women and appreciate them. Celebrating international womens day is a step towards recognizing the strength of a woman globally.


Kittay, E. F., & Feder, E. K. (Eds.). (2003). The subject of care: feminist perspectives on dependency. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kourany, J., Sterba, P., and Tong, R. (eds.), (1987). Feminist Philosophies: Problems, Theories, and Applications, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.

Mullet, S. (1988). Shifting perspectives: A new approach to ethics. In L. Code, S. Mullet, and C. Overall (eds.), Feminist Perspectives: Philosophical Essays on Method and Morals, Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Beasley, C. (1999). What is feminism?: An introduction to feminist theory. Sage.Bulbeck, C. (1998). Re-orienting Western feminisms: Women's diversity in a postcolonial world. Cambridge University Press.

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