Reading Summary 1

Reading Summary – Johnnie Mazzocco
Rel 508 – Buddhism and Women
Winter, 2003
Tong, Rosemarie Putnam. Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder, Colorado:
Westview Press, 1998.
Chapter 4, continued – pgs. 154-171
Gender Feminism emphasizes boy’s and girl’s psychomoral development rather than their psychosexual
Gender feminists believe that boys and girls become men and women with gender-specific values and
virtues that do two things:
(1) reflect the importance of separateness in men’s lives and of connectedness in women’s lives
(2) serve to empower men and disempower women in a patriarchal society.
Questions posed by gender feminism:
(1) Will women’s liberation “be best served by women’s adopting male values and virtues, by
men’s adopting female values and virtues, or by everyone’s adopting a mix of both female
and male values and virtues”? (154).
(2) If “men and women should share a morality encompassing an equal mix of female and male
virtues and values, then who should inculcate this morality in boys and girls?” (154).
(3) “Is dual parenting the best means to achieve the end of gender equity in everything, including
the practice of morality?” (154).
(4) Or, is there another means to achieve this worthy goal?” (154).
Carol Gilligan: In a Different Voice
Her theory is based on the notion that men’s and women’s different emphases lead them to different
styles of moral reasoning.
Style of Reasoning (and thinking)
Separation and autonomy
Stresses justice, fairness, and rights
Connections and relationships
Stresses wants, needs, and interests of
particular people.
Gilligan claims that most moral development theorists have used male norms rather than human norms to
measure all moral development. The result: Women have routinely “failed.” As an example, she uses
Lawrence Kohlberg’s six-stage process of determining an individual’s ability to function as a moral
agent; girls and women rarely got past stage three of the six-stage model when tested.
Gilligan’s empirical study: 29 pregnant women deciding whether or not to have abortions. She found
three levels of moral reasoning:
Moral agent overemphasizes her own interests
Moral agent overemphasizes others’ interests
Moral agent strikes a balance between her own and others’ interests
Subsequently, in Mapping the Moral Domain Gilligan hinted that the ideal moral thinker might be more
inclined to an ethics of care than an ethics of justice and that girls growing into women who put other
people first (as opposed to boys who grow into men who put themselves first) “is not a sign of women’s
moral inferiority but of women’s moral depth” (158).
Nel Noddings: Caring and Women and Evil
Like Gilligan, Noddings claimed that women and men speak different moral languages and that our
culture favors the masculine ethics of justice over the feminine ethics of care. Women’s moral reasoning
is “emotional” while men’s is “rational.”
Unlike Gilligan, Noddings claimed that not only is an ethics of care different than an ethics of justice, it is
better. She says human relationships are not about “persons’ abstract rights but about particular
individuals’ concrete needs” (159).
Ethical caring vs. Natural caring - Noddings disagreed with Immanuel Kant’s view that ethical
caring is better than natural caring because doing things we ought to do is better than doings things we
want to do. Noddings believes that our “oughts” build on our “wants” – that ethical caring is dependent
upon natural caring.
Noddings and Evil - She believes that women are more capable of withstanding evil than men are
because women’s understanding of evil is concrete (a harmful event, someone gets hurt), while men’s is
abstract (a rule or law is broken). For women, it’s an experience. For men, it’s an idea.
Relational ethics, women, and evil - Noddings traces poverty and war to a morally distorted
worldview – “Us-versus-them” thinking – Noddings summoned women to bridge the gap between the
powerful and powerless – women have experience mediating between their powerful husbands and their
powerless children.
“Only when the unappreciated art of relational ethics, of working together to maintain
connection, comes into its own will peace have a chance” (162). And, women strive for conflict
resolution but not with the notion of extinguishing their foes – they are more aware of the perpetual
occurrences of things needing to be done (cleaning and feeding others).
Critiques of Gilligan’s and Nodding’s Ethics of Care
Debates on Gilligan’s work –
(1) Her methodology – critics claim she didn’t raise enough of the right issues. The women in
Gilligan’s abortion study came from various ethnic, marital, and educational backgrounds
and social classes, and ranged in age from fifteen to thirty-three. None of these differences
were addressed (does an African American woman’s moral reasoning closer resemble an
African American man’s or a white woman’s?). And, she didn’t raise questions about men’s
moral attitudes toward abortion.
(2) The negative consequences of associating women with an ethics of care – promotes the
notion that women care by nature and that they should always care regardless of the cost to
Sandra Lee Bartky (Femininity and Domination) – Questioned whether women’s care-taking
disempowers or empowers women.
Women who are paid to care-take and to be “relentlessly cheerful” (e.g. flight attendants)
eventually forget “how it feels to be genuinely or authentically happy” (166).
Women who do emotional work/care-taking (e.g. wives for their husbands) may feel empowered
(regards herself as a pillar without whom her husband would crumble). But, Bartky cautions
about the dangers of this: if the care given is unreciprocated, and the more she gives, the more she
will see things as he sees them. Men’s and women’s interests are not identical in a patriarchal
Bartky quotes Jill Tweedie’s In the Name of Love: “’Behind every great man is a woman, we say,
but behind every monster there is a woman too, behind each of those countless men who stood
astride their narrow worlds and crushed other human beings, causing them hideous suffering and
pain. There she is in the shadows, a vague female silhouette, tenderly wiping blood from their
hands’” (167). To this, Tong says: “…women need to analyze ‘the pitfalls and temptations of
caregiving itself’ before they embrace an ethics of care wholeheartedly” (167).
Bill Puka claimed care can be interpreted in two ways:
(1) Gilligan’s way – ‘” as a general orientation toward moral problems (interpersonal problems)
and a track of moral development’” (167).
(2) Puka’s way – “’as a sexist service orientation, prominent in the patriarchal socialization,
social conventions, and roles of many cultures’” (167).
Puka reinterprets Gilligan’s supposed levels of moral development (pg. 167-8) and views them as
coping mechanisms and defensive strategies.
Tonga says: “As long as society remains patriarchal, women will not be able to strike an appropriate and
abiding balance between rights and responsibilities in their moral lives” (168).
Sarah Lucia Hoagland claims that Noddings advances “a fundamentally unequal relationship”
(168) in using the mother-child relationship. Hoagland says that this kind of relationship (as well
as teacher-student and therapist-client) are meant to be transcended and should not be used as the
paradigm moral model.
Hoaglund also challenges Noddings notions about control by the caregiver being permissible or
required. “As long as this sort of ‘role-playing’ occurs, said Hoaglund, we can be sure the
relationship being described is less than morally good” (168).
Hoaglund questioned Noddings’ view that “inequalities in ability make a relationship unequal.
She instead claimed that inequalities in power make a relationship unequal” (168).
Lastly, Hoaglund faults Noddings “for implying that the best caregivers never stop caring, no
matter the cost to themselves” (170). “If this is true, said Hoagland, ‘then I get my ethical
identity from always being other-directed,’ and ‘being moral’ becomes another term for ‘being
exploited’” (170).
Claudia Card challenged Noddings claim that reciprocity alone is necessary for the solidification
of a relationship. Card distinguishes between receptivity (a child’s smile for its mother) and
reciprocity (something equal in value).
Tong writes: “Ethics is about knowing when not to care as well as when to care” (170).
It is not enough to consider only psychoanalytic explanations when examining women’s oppression;
legal, political, and economic institutions and structures must also be considered. Gender identity
explanations are problematic.
We must recognize the differences between ‘distortions of caring’ and ‘undistorted caring’ – Sheila
Mullett – pg. 171. Mullett says that a woman cannot truly care for someone if she is forced to so
economically, socially, or psychologically. “Thus, genuine or fully authentic caring cannot occur under
patriarchal conditions characterized by male domination and females subordination” (171) and “neither
men nor women will be able to care authentically” (172).