Notes on In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan The male approach to

Notes on In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan
The male approach to morality is that individuals have certain basic
rights, and that you have to respect the rights of others. So morality
imposes restrictions on what you can do.
The female approach to
morality is that people have responsibilities towards others. So morality
is an imperative to care for others.
Gilligan summarizes this by saying that male morality has a Òjustice
orientationÓ, and that female morality has a Òresponsibilty orientationÓ.
She also outlines 3 stages in moral development.
The first is a selfish stage, the second is a belief in conventional
morality, and the third is post-conventional. This
íis a progression from selfish, to social, to
principled morality.
Female children start out with a selfish
They then learn to care for others, and that selfishness is wrong. So in
their second, conventional, stage, women typically feel it is wrong to act
in their own interests, and that they should value instead the interests
of others. They equate concern for themselves with selfishness.
In the third, post-conventional stage, they learn that it is just as wrong
to ignore their own interests as it is to ignore the interests of others.
One way to this understanding comes through their concern with connecting
with others. A connection, or relation, involves two people, and if either
one is slighted, it harms the relationship.
ÒThe moral imperative that emerges repeatedly in interviews with women is
an injunction to care, a responsibility
to discern and alleviate the Ôreal and recognizable troubleÕ of this
world. For men, the moral imperative appears rather as an injunction
Ð respect the rights of others and thus to
protect from interference the rights to life and self-fulfillment. Women's
insistence on care is at first self-critical rather than self-protective,
while men initially conceive obligation to others negatively in terms of
noninterference. Development for both sexes would therefore seem to entail
an integration of rights and responsibilities through the discovery of the
complementarity of these disparate views. For women, the integration of
rights and responsibilities takes place through an understanding of the
psychological logic of relationships.
This understanding tempers the self-destructive potential of a selfcritical morality by asserting the need of all persons [including
themselves] for care. For men, recognition through experience of the need
for more active responsibility in taking care corrects the potential
indifference of a morality of noninterference and turns attention from the
logic to the consequences o11
çf choice [refs]. In
the development of a postconventional ethical understanding, women come to
see the violence inherent in inequality, while men come to see the
limitation of a conception of justice blinded to the differences in human
One benefit of reading this book is coming to appreciate ÒIÕm really not
sure; it depends on the situationÓ as a thoughtful and sophisticated
response to a question of morality.
¥ When boys have a dispute during play, they actively resolve it. When
girls have a dispute, they quit playing [in order to protect the
p.38 responsibility connotes an act of care rather than restraint of
¥ Men's desire to limit interference vs. women's desire to respond is
consonant with men's desire for separation vs. women's desire for
connection. Fits in with the stereotype of men fearing commitment.
p.90 [in the third stage, women learn to] include self and other in the
compass of care. And, at the same time, to accept
y for decisions.
p95 The Druggist Dilemma (whether to steal medicine for a sick wife):
[For women] the rights of life and property are weighed not in the
abstract for logical priority, but in terms of the actual consequences
their violation will have on the people involved.
¥ a frequent moral concern is the concern for hurting.
¥ being selfless harms the self and hence harms ones relationships
¥ (abortion decision). Many of these women want to have the baby but
decide that having an abortion is the responsible thing.
¥ adolescent - see the disparity between power and care, so give up on
p98 the concept of separate self uncompromised by the constraints of
reality is an adolescent ideal. [Erikson]
p98* (a weakness of the male model of morality) In Erikson, t22Àhe sole
precursor to adult intimacy and love is the trust acquired in infancy.
All intervening experience is comprised of steps towards autonomy.
p99 (female post-conventional morality) Òresponsiblity and caring about
yourself and othersÓ But realize that the principle put into practice
here is still going to leave you with conflict. So you must accept
responsibility for your decisions. Someone will still be hurt. But it
doesn't always have to be you who gets hurt for the decision to be moral.
¥ men like a hierarchical ordering of principles. This is analogous to
ÒYou Just Donut UnderstandÓ showing how in social relations, men care
about establishing a hierarchy or pecking order, whereas wome22Àn care
about connecting with others.
p101 Women's reluctance to judge is not moral relativism, but rather a
recognition of the intricacies of real-world situations, and the
uniqueness of individuals' experiences.
¥ male post-conventional: minimize violence caused by unilateral action.
¥ The last two chapters are a disappointment. Her writing disintegrates
to ÒThis reiterative counterpoint in human experience, however, when
molded into a developmental ordering, tends to disappear in the course of
its linear reduction into the equation of development with separation