What is feminism? By general definition, feminism is a philosophy in which women and their contributions are valued. It is based on social, political and economical equality for women. Feminists can be anyone in the population, men, women, girl or boys. Feminism can also be described as a movement. A revolution that includes women and men who wish the world to be equal without boundaries. These boundaries or blockades are better known as discrimination and biases against gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status and economic status.
Everyone views the world with his or her own sense of gender and equality. Feminists view the world as being unequal. They wish to see the gender gap and the idea that men are superior to women decreased or even abolished. Carol Gilligan is one woman who has contributed much time and effort to the feminist theory. Her beliefs and ideas are based upon difference feminism. In this essay I will tie the ideas and beliefs of Carol Gilligan with information from our text, the packet read in class and the book, Faces of Feminism.
Carol Gilligan is a lecturer and assistant professor at Harvard University as well as a psychologist. She has many theories that deal with moral reasoning and development. In her influential book In a Different Voice, she sets forth the idea that women make decisions “according to a criteria of ethics of care and that men make decisions according to an ethic of rights.”(3) In her book, Carol Gilligan also disagrees with Lawrence Kohlbergs’ theory, which suggests that “Few people matured fully in their moral reasoning…but women hardly ever did.”(2) In her opposition Gilligan stated that “women make moral decisions according to different but equally mature and morally upright reasoning.”(2) She feels that women are different because they posses a different hereditary set of values and beliefs. This opposition to Kohlberg’s theory was backed by research. Even though there was research done to support Gilligan, it seemed to have experimenter bias. It was not an open or strong experiment and it only observed the actions of the white middle class. This did not give a clear or objective view on the separate criteria of women and men. The views and ideas on moral reasoning and development set forth by Carol Gilligan are those of many difference feminists.Difference feminism is just one type of feminism. It gives a concept that “women should go back to traditional roles”(3) set by society. It also states that gender is natural and is not learned by the society in which one lives. Not all Feminists agree with this theory but there are many feminists, such as Carol Gilligan who agree with this idea that even though men and women are different, they each have their own separate place in society. Difference feminism is “successful because it tells people what they want to hear: women really are different in just the ways that we always thought. … And men have power, wealth and control of social resources because women do not really want them.”(3) This idea of difference feminism sets forth a number of stereotypes. They give feminists and the general public a skewed view of the theory behind the philosophy.
In the book Faces of Feminism, feminist theorists were asked, “Do women have to be the same as men to be equal?”(1) The majority of responses were yes. It is believed that in order for women and men to become equal, society must “unlearn and uncondition”(1) the gender roles and standards it has established throughout history. Society and the people in it have set up the basis for gender difference and now many feminists are breaking down those barriers. Carol Gilligans’ position on moral development and her views as a feminist, suggest that “women’s nature is not something to be replaced, but something to be maintained, indeed celebrated, for the sake both of women and society.”(1) This view is tied in with the general definition of feminism, that women should be valued for their accomplishments. Womanhood is important and should be celebrated and praised. On that same note, maleness must also be celebrated and praised.