Here I will be sharing my mixed views on the idea of ‘Feminist ethics’, but overall this will be me endorsing the term for reasons that I will give later on. This will be more of a short debate about morals and my reasoning behind my opinions on the term, rather than presenting hard cold evidence to the table but having said so, it is very important that we consider morals in every topic we discuss. I feel that I need to talk about this due to my morals of equity in society with respect to certain groups; which is not just subjected to minorities, but women as well.
Feminist ethics is the approach to ethics that emanates from the belief that traditional (and some modern) ethical theories do not value or appreciate women’s moral experiences. Feminist ethics has therefore chosen to rewrite and re-image ethics through a feminist approach in order to transform it.
Feminist ethics is an attempt to reformulate, revise and rethink the parts of traditional Western ethics that devalue or depreciate the moral experiences of women, which I agree with and is quite true – however when it comes to child custody and abortion, the idea doesn’t seem to apply there. It seems that traditional Western ethics do not show nearly as much concern for women’s interests and rights as they do for those of men. Also, in some ways the traditional Western ethics dismiss some ethics for women as totally trivial, the problems that come up in women’s private world, the area in which women cook and care for the young, old and sick. These western ethics suggest that the average woman’s moral development is not as advanced as that of men – it gives too much value to culturally masculine characteristics such as independence, autonomy, reason, mind, culture, war and death and undervalues feminine traits such as community, connection, body, emotion, nature, peace and life. Traditional Western culture favours the masculine ways of moral reasoning that stress relationships and partiality, over the moral reasoning of women. I will take this further to explain why I resent the idea of utilitarianism (the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority) as it favours men but does not take into account the ethics for women – I view this as immoral and unjust.
Through small research of articles and documents, I have gathered that feminist ethics is mainly concerned with the imbalance in power and exposure and the removal of oppression not only for women but also for other groups considered disadvantaged, but surely the term would only apply to women who are oppressed and not others? Hence, the word ‘feminist’ being apart of the term. The term ‘disadvantaged groups’ refers to any group with reduced power compared to the rest of society as a whole. One area of society where women are viewed and treated as having reduced power is in the field of health care. Groups that can be viewed as having reduced power within the health care system, for example, include women in general, ethnic and racial minorities, the elderly, the poor and the disabled. The basis on which any group might be considered oppressed varies a lot. Using the example research in the health care system, there is a long tradition of bias toward men as subjects, which has left women, children and racial minorities under- represented. This has left them at risk with respect to many common medical treatments.
However, feminist ethics does not rely on moral principles as they stand, saying that the most often referenced principles are not sufficiently concrete to be helpful in the context of human relationships; this is where my problem lies with the term. Rather, actions are generally validated or otherwise regarding their effect on the quality of interrelationships between people with stress on considerations of justice and the concept of caring. The overall emphasis of feminist ethics is the stress on the significance of considering each individual situation with its context in making moral decisions. Similarly, the emphasis on relationships allows for the realities of emotions and intuition to be factors in the deliberation.