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Feminism can be seen as a means of shifting gender and perceptions that women lead to the low rank of women in society in social ethics and politics. Demands for sexual equality started in the nineteenth century with other waves in the seventies and nineties (Bogaert, & Ogunbanjo, 2009). In order for an ethical examination of some of the processes and behaviors considered appropriate in society, the use of feminist thought is important. Feminism focuses on the social and political structures that sustain gender biased values and norms; how they contribute to the oppression of women and the remedies that can be used to overcome these stereotypes.
Feministic ideas began to be promoted in the early 19th century where women began to be recognized as an integral part of the society. During this period which is regarded as the first wave, women attained various rights and freedoms such as the right to vote in elections as well as being recognized as citizens (Gotlib, n.d.). Women became increasingly empowered and this empowerment led to the development of family planning. This was due to the toll that having a big family had on the women who had to undergo painful childbirth and the pressure of raising many children who in most cases experienced hardships. Birth control clinics such as the one set up by Marie Stopes in Scotland were meant to ensure that the women gave birth when they wanted to and had the means to support the child (Bogaert & Ogunbanjo 2009).
Feminists opposed the subordination of women to men due to their biology; giving birth. They argued that the image of a woman`s main role in life was giving birth and raise children was disadvantageous and men utilized this to assert their will over them since they could not be allowed the same participation in the politics and society (Tong & Williams 1998). Female activists of the time such as Françoise d'Eaubonne used the caring maternal values of women in arguing why they should be given more power.
During the second wave which lasted from the 1940s to the 70s, there was an environmental crisis due to human activity which was used by feminists to advance their cause. Françoise d'Eaubonne argued that women were best suited for positions of power owing to their caring and protective instincts and blamed the crisis on the masculine dominated society that did not know how to care for the environment (Tong & Williams 1998). This campaign was referred as eco maternalism and was aimed at introducing feminine values such as care into the social and political sphere.
The third and latest wave occurred during the 90s whose main role was against the promotion of feminine values of care since they promoted common stereotypes about women. Feminist of the time argued that the portrayal of women as having the capacity for selflessness made them targets of abuse (Gotlib, n.d.). Men are said to have taken advantage of that caring to ensure that unfair gender roles were maintained. Therefore, feminists such as Patricia Jagentowicz Mills argued that women should shun traditionally female roles such as giving birth since this affirmed the caring nature of women and which was exploited by men (Bogaert., & GA Ogunbanjo. 2009).
In my opinion, feminism is important in helping the world attain the balance it needs since it enables the voice of the women to be heard which helps shape the world into a place that both sexes can coexist harmoniously. Giving women the freedom enjoyed by men is progressive since the women bring different ideologies such as care into building a society which in turn leads to a better world due to this inclusivity.
Ethics of Care
Regardless of the wave, care has always been an integral value advanced by women in their fight for equal rights and freedoms which makes it primarily a feminine trait. Curzer defined ethics of care as a form of situational ethics similar to the argument advanced by Joseph Fletcher (Encyclopedia, 2017). In his view Fletcher the ethics of care do not adhere to the common ethical rules such as respecting autonomy instead care is situational, therefore, given a particular situation one acts in what can be considered as the loving way (Bogaert, & Ogunbanjo, 2009). Love can, therefore, be considered supreme over any rules that may be present in the society. Care favors the familiar over the unfamiliar, however, this care cannot be applied to all relationships such as those of doctors and their patients which may result in favoritism, protectiveness, and burnout.
Women have always been considered the weaker sex and as a result, are expected to be submissive to men. This led to women playing obscure roles and thus denied the same participation afforded to men in the social and political institutions, this gave rise to the feminism waves aimed at correcting the power imbalance that exists in the society. Gradually through feminist ethics, women have gained power and reduced some of the discriminatory practices such as being denied similar employment positions as men. Feminist ethics and ethics of care have played an important role in ensuring that a balance of power exists through the inclusion of women in the social and political institutions where they promote feminine values such as care.
Encyclopedia. (2017). Ethics of care. Retrieved from, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ethics_of_care
Tong, R., & Williams, N. (1998). Feminist Ethics. Retrieved from, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-ethics/
Anna Gotlib. (n.d.). Feminist Ethics and Narrative Ethics. Retrieved from, http://www.iep.utm.edu/fem-e-n/
Knapp D van Bogaert., & GA Ogunbanjo. (2009). Feminism and the ethics of care [PDF]. Medpharm.
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