Feminism and Ethics


The goal of all feminist ethicists is to create a gendered ethics that aims to eliminate or at least improve the oppression of any group of people, but especially women. Alison Jagger, a female philosopher, thinks that traditional ethics lets women down in 5 areas.

  1. There is less concern for women’s issues and interest as opposed to men’s.
  2. Traditional ethics views moral issues, such as women doing housework and taking care of the children and elderly, as trivial.
  3. It implies, in general, that women are not morally mature or deep as men.
  4. Traditional ethics overrate culturally masculine traits (hierarchy, war, death, ect.) while it underrates culturally feminine traits (sharing, emotion, peace, ect.)
  5. It favors “male” ways of moral reasoning that emphasize rules, rights, universality, and impartiality over “female” ways of moral reasoning that emphasize relationships, responsibilities, particularity, and partiality.

Throughout the course of history, different men and women have had different ideas on how ethics should involve women’s issues and their way of thinking about ethics. The care-focused feminist approach to ethics centers on the similarities and differences between masculine and feminine ethics. It offers the theory that the more particular and emotional knowledge is, the more likely it is to resemble real world experiences. The status-oriented feminist approach to ethics questions power (domination vs. subordination), before moving on to questions on good vs. evil, care vs. justice, and maternal vs. paternal thinking. Care-focused and status-oriented feminist approaches to ethics offer women multiple ways to understand the ways in which gender, race, class, ect. affect their moral decisions.

How It Relates To Class

This relates to our class because it is discussing different ethical views and who follows them. In this article there are many different people and philosophers that believe or support these views are mentioned. The main philosopher is Alison Jagger. The article also relates to our class by the issue of the ethical treatment of living beings, women. We have talked about the ethical treatment of animals with Singer, Kant, Cohen, and Descartes and here it is talking about how women need to be treated ethically. Singer would agree that women need to be treated better because they suffer.


  1. How are feminine based ethics different then masculine based ethics in practice?
  2. Is there a way in a masculine society to have feminine ethics be the norm?
  3. How can our society switch to hold more feminine ethics as opposed to more masculine ethics?
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