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Is structural discrimination a core belief of feminism?

Is structural discrimination a core belief of feminism? I find the claim that women are through all times and societies worse off than men (like in the question posted on on January 23, 2015; ) an assumption that is ideologically biased and needs further investigation. "Worse off" contains difference in preferences (having to go to war, economically being responsible for a family, being statistically more prone to a violent death). Doesn´t the problem lie more in being tied to a predefined role to which each sex is tied, each one with its pro and contra, with variation across times and societies? thank you!

It is not a core belief of feminism that women are through all times and societies worse off than men. It is core to feminism that sex and gender matter, and that they often shape power relations in a society. There are pluses and minuses to being dominant and to being subordinate. And indeed, feminists challenge the idea of predefined roles on the grounds that they limit freedom of choice, not only for women but for men also.

It is probably a core belief of most feminists that discrimination CAN be structural, that is, it can be produced by the institutions of society rather than any particular individual. This is a belief about the operation of social power and is shared by many social theorists, not specific to feminism.

Are feminists (who subscribe to the view) right to claim that all men are

Are feminists (who subscribe to the view) right to claim that all men are necessarily sexist? Perhaps it makes sense to limit the scope of the claim to a particular country, say within the UK. Presumably the sexism of men in few examples of matriarchal societies, if indeed they are sexist, would be different from the sexism we're familiar with. As a man, I would not care to insist that I am not sexist in various ways. My morality is egalitarian but it is no doubt at odds with my attitudes and behaviour. That applies to gender just as it applies to other ways we distinguish sets of people (or subjects of moral concern). The problem I have with the assertion is that it seems to take gender (or sex for the transphobic flavours of feminism) as the essential dividing line between people. Aren't there all sorts of predicates that group people into different sets, some more privileged than others? 'Born-in-the-UK' vs. 'Born-in-Malawi'; 'disabled' vs. 'fit'; 'socially anxious' vs. 'charismatic'. In many cases...

I don't know of any feminist writer who would assent to the claim that "all men are sexist." I seriously encourage you to think about where you got the idea that it is common for feminists to think such a thing. Feminists have had always had to contend with people caricaturing or willfully misunderstanding what they say, and so there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. If you are seriously interested in feminist views, I would suggest that you start reading. I'd suggest, as a start, the book *Discovering Reality* by Marilyn Frye.

I cannot speak for all feminists, but I do hold views that are pretty common among feminists, so let me tell you my reactions to the claim you mention. First of all, I consider sexism to be a structural, rather than an individual problem. It is not primarily a problem about the false beliefs or malign attitudes of individual men, and much more a matter of an entire system that gives women a much more limited menu of life options than men have. This is evident in the fact that, in every society, at every time in history, and every place on the globe, by any measure of life quality, women are worse off than men. It's an open question -- but one for empirical investigation, not a priori philosophizing -- how this system got set up in the first place, but it's likely it has to do with conflict over control of women's reproductive capacities. In any case, the existence of these systematic limitations on women means that men, in all societies, at all times, etc. enjoy unearned advantages over women. In that respect -- and listen carefully to this -- men all have an interest in the preservation of sexist structures, *even if* they bear no *personal* responsibility for the structures' existence.

Imagine it this way -- suppose you have purchased, in good faith, an art object that turns out to have been stolen. If the theft is discovered, you will have to relinquish the art object to its rightful owner, *even though* it may not be possible for you to get your money back from the thief. Thus, you would be better off if the theft is never discovered. This is true *even if* you are the kind of person who would, upon discovering the theft, immediately return the object to its rightful owner despite the cost. Many men are like this with respect to sexism. They say: I renounce the advantages that I have just in virtue of being a man rather than a woman, and I commit myself to dismantling the system that gives me such advantages. But the first step to renouncing those privileges in recognizing that they are there. That's hard.

The second thing I want to say about the claim you're concerned about is that it's possible for a person to contribute to the maintenance of sexist structures without intending to do so, or without realizing that he (or she) is doing so. There is a great deal of work being done now in psychology on what is called "implicit bias" -- psychological attitudes that, without our being consciously aware of them, influence the way we interact with other people, the inferences we draw, and the evaluations we make. There is a great deal of evidence, for example, that men and women evaluate the same job application differently depending on whether the name at the top is male or female. I do not like to characterize these findings by saying that people who do this "are sexist," because people are not responsible for their unconscious attitudes in the same way they are responsible for their conscious attitudes. Now that we know about unconscious attitudes, however, I do think that everyone has an obligation to work to uncover and change whatever unconscious attitudes one might have.

Everything I've said, by the way, has a parallel with white people and racism. I am a white person, and so I have enjoyed unearned advantages over black persons. The rage many of us feel about recent killings of unarmed black people is connected with this -- I am not the least bit worried when I am approached by a police officer on a dark night; I don't fear that he or she is going to view me as dangerous, and shoot me pre-emptively. (This is one rare situation in which my being a woman makes me safer!) White people who "get it" about the systemic and unconscious nature of racism respond by working against racism, even though it is (in the sense I explained above) not in their interests to do so.

I recently saw "Gone Girl" (spoiler alert!) and have been reading articles about

I recently saw "Gone Girl" (spoiler alert!) and have been reading articles about the portrayal of its female antagonist, who is manipulative and psychotic. Some argue that this portrayal is problematic, since it plays into misogynistic stereotypes about women. In response, others argue that while such pernicious stereotypes do exist, it must surely be permissible to create a character who is both female and psychotic--indeed, to insist that this character type just can't exist would be sexist itself. Both arguments seem plausible to me, but I'm not sure how to reconcile them. Yes, it's bad to perpetuate negative stereotypes. At the same time, we must have some freedom to create characters that exemplify such stereotypes. Women are sometimes psychotic--we should be able to write about that. But then it seems like we never have justification to criticize any fiction at all, since this kind of defense may always be invoked in any particular case.

I think it's hard to answer this question without going into the details of particular narrative or representational works. It's an important question, but maybe not one for which a decisive philosophical answer is possible.

Let me point to one step in your message. You write of creating "characters that exemplify such stereotypes. Women are sometimes psychotic"; and so on. Now, in the step from the first of these sentences to the next, you show that you are using "stereotypes" as identical with "generalizations." It's true that many general statements one could say about women (or about any other group you choose to think about) are sometimes instantiated. Philosophy professors are sometimes self-obsessed; therefore, someone writing a screenplay about a philosophy professor (not as glamorous as the screenplay to "Gone Girl," I grant you) should be free to make that character self-obsessed.

But these feel like different cases, don't they? I think the reason is that a stereotype is not just a general statement about a particular kind of person; not even a general statement that people frequently say about that kind of person; but rather a general statement that people frequently say, and that is treated as the only thing you need to say about a given kind of person. And sometimes a narrative work gives its characters nothing but stereotypical traits; a single trait is permitted to constitute the entirety of that person.

Look at the husband in "Gone, Girl" by way of contrast. By now our exchange is full of spoilers, so I won't warn the reader of any more. Nick Dunne is treated as a stereotype in some ways. A failed writer teaches creative writing and has affair with a student. And yet he's not stereotypical. He also gets to be a sensitive son; an emotionally communicative brother; a bar proprietor with a sense of humor. Some general statements are true about him that are true of lots of other white forty-year-old men in small American towns; but other traits are specific to him. He has been fleshed out, which means not liberated from all stereotypical descriptions, but rather not reduced to them.

When I think about the woman in this movie, on the other hand, she is close to a one-note personality. (Interesting how the man's twin sister Margo is another kind of one note: no relationship of her own, she is purely a sister to Nick, loving him even when she rebukes him. At least she is a supporting character.) At every turn, Amy schemes and plans. She responds to almost everyone with hostility. Not her mental instability alone, but this presentation of her instability, make for the stereotype.

In short, I don't think writers are constrained by the paradox you describe. They can describe their characters in a lot of ways. But they should be wary of letting those descriptions degenerate into stereotype.

Does having a mistrust of self identified feminist institutions make you an anti

Does having a mistrust of self identified feminist institutions make you an anti-feminist? When I heard that the university of Colorado invited a group of feminists (I think that's a fair description) from the APA my first inclination was to doubt their report because in my observation biased and otherwise problematic thinking patterns are typical of feminist organizations.

Your final statement expresses your views: "in my observation biased and otherwise problematic thinking patterns are typical of feminist organizations." You sound like someone who thinks that they are justified in being skeptical of the claims of feminists. Is that all you are asking?

Is there too much ideology in philosophy? I consider such areas as "feminist

Is there too much ideology in philosophy? I consider such areas as "feminist philosophy" to be a contradiction; how can one discover truths while constantly bound by an ideological method? Why not just restrict it to a "philosophy of women" or a "philosophy of sex" instead?

Excellent question. "Feminist Philosophy" as a title covers a range of types of philosophy that are united in the goal of offering a critique of patriarchy and exploring the positive contributions philosophically that are made in light of being female (in terms of both gender and sex, and in terms of the extent to which gender is a social construct, etc). I take your point about why the term "feminist philosophy" seems out of place with the nature of philosophy because the term denotes advocacy and commitment to a particular position, rather than a more open-ended inquiry into questions of gender, sex, social realities, and the like. But I suggest that the term is no less philosophical than terms like 'Marxism' or 'Marxist philosophy' or 'Kantian philosophy' and the like. Perhaps your concern is (at heart) the worry that if a person is a self-described feminist philosopher (or Marxist or Christian or Idealist ...philosopher) this suggests that the person is no longer open to alternatives. Good point. But so long as a "feminist philosopher" could (in principle) abandon most feminist theories and remain a philosopher, this suggests that such terms need not be strait-jackets.

Is a presumptive skepticism of as yet unproven rape allegations immoral, anti

Is a presumptive skepticism of as yet unproven rape allegations immoral, anti-feminist or otherwise problematic? Or is it a matter of justifiably presuming innocence?

Singling out rape allegations for special skepticism would be problematic to say the least. As far as I know, there's no reason at all to believe that allegations of rape are less likely to be true than allegations of other sorts of criminal behavior. But in any case, skepticism and the presumption of innocence are two different concepts. The presumption of innocence is a legal principle about the burden of proof in criminal cases, and it has nothing to do with how likely it is in general that people accused of certain sorts of crimes are guilty. In the American legal system, before someone can be convicted, the state must provide specific evidence (not generalities about the kind of crime at issue) that establishes guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." This means that even if a defendant is probably guilty, the probability might still not be high enough to meet the standard for conviction. A jury member might believe it's more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime and yet might not vote to convict because "more likely than not" isn't the same as "beyond a reasonable doubt."

A juror who takes the "presumption of innocence" seriously will be on the lookout for weaknesses in the State's case. We might use the phrase "presumptive skepticism" for that way of approaching the evidence. But this has nothing special to do with rape and it has nothing to do with how likely it is in general that people accused of rape (or any other crime) are guilty.

Sometimes I read feminists who say that their mission has nothing to do with

Sometimes I read feminists who say that their mission has nothing to do with emasculating men and that they think masculinity is wonderful. I am perplexed since I don't know what this masculinity thing is or why it should matter. What is masculinity and why should it matter to anyone whether it stays or goes?

I don't know which feminists you have in mind, but they do not occur to me as a group who are likely to take a very positive view of masculinity. On the contrary, they tend to argue that our notions of what it is to be a man and a woman are linked, that they are based far more on culture than on nature, and that in any progressive social development both notions need to be questioned and eventually replaced by something better.

Are expressions like "women are beautiful" sexist? Doesn't that imply that women

Are expressions like "women are beautiful" sexist? Doesn't that imply that women exist as something to be admired rather than as beings in and of themselves?

I suggest that when a person calls or describes a gender or species or event or thing as beautiful, this implies or signals that the person believes the gender etc is worthy of aesthetic pleasure or delight. There need not be anything sexist or demeaning in this, and it does not suggest that the object of delight is merely an object of delight or that the beautiful "object" (or the object of beauty) is in some sense passive. One might claim 'the women Olympic athletes swam beautifully today' or 'the women soldiers performed beautifully in their rescue of the orphans yesterday when they met with severe resistance from the hostage-takers' without any sexism coming into play.

Going a bit further: I suspect the phrase "women are beautiful" is somewhat odd. I suppose one might first want to know the scope of the reference: are all women beautiful or the majority or a significant number of women are beautiful? Are women all beautiful in the same way? What are the reasons for thinking all or many or some women are beautiful? Are women beautiful because they are women or for some other reason? What would it be like for a person to actually take aesthetic delight in all living women (as a gender) currently on our planet? Or possibly taking pleasure in all past and future women? I suppose one is more likely to hear a more specific claim like: 'Those women who attended the conference on human rights are doing a beautiful job presenting their case for famine relief'... or something similarly more specific. Similarly, I think one needs to get more specific in order to really be guilty of sexism. Probably the following would be pretty sexist: "the only thing better than a beautiful car is a beautiful woman" or "beer tastes better when you are sharing it with a beautiful woman." I can imagine how these might be said in a non-sexist context, but they move toward sexism insofar as you are comparing a woman to a car or you suggest that if you really like a certain drink, it will enhance your enjoyment of the drink if you are flirting with a woman (woman as sex object and beer enhancer)! Put-downs of women or treating them in a sexist fashion will sometimes seriously depend on context. Imagine Hillary Clinton gives a passionate talk on human rights at the United Nations calling on Syria to stop its abuse of human rights. Imagine further that after Clinton's heated speech the Syrian ambassador rises and rather than address Clinton's admonition and call to action, he said "Your hair is beautiful today! My wife wants to use the same hair stylist. What's her number?'

Feminists often allege that their is something especially sexist about

Feminists often allege that their is something especially sexist about departments of academic philosophy? What would you day about this charge? One criticism of philisophy is that it doesn't allow any consideration of the subjective aspects of existence which are essential to feminist theorizing. They argue that philosophy as it is practiced excludes any possibility of addressing important questions of identity. An overly narrow concept of objectivity leads to erasure and marginalization of aspects of experience and this narrowing reflects the privilige of an overwhelmingly white male profession. What are your thoughts on that?

There are two issues here: whether or not philosophy departments are sexist, and whether or not philosophers devalue "subjective" reasoning. You seem to be more concerned about the second issue, so I will address that. It is true that many philosophers (male, female and trans, sexist and non-sexist), especially those of an analytic bent, are devoted to a general and abstract conception of objectivity. Such philosophers are usually willing to acknowledge that experience is particular/subjective, and that different people have different experiences. There is a good deal of room in their positions to acknowledge different social identities.

It is true that some feminist philosophers, such as Sandra Harding, critique general and abstract conceptions of objectivity, claiming that they are supported by an underlying white male middle class partiality. Some non-feminist philosophers (especially in Continental and pragmatic philosophy) also reject general and abstract conceptions of objectivity.

Feminists often oppose "slut shaming" which is when people denigrate women who

Feminists often oppose "slut shaming" which is when people denigrate women who are perceived to engage in sexual behavior excessively. Does this mean that promiscuity or (so called promiscuity rather) should be condoned or celebrated? Is there any reason to be opposed to (so called) promiscuity?

It's important here to separate issues. One issue is whether there is something morally objectionable in a person's having multiple sexual partners. Another issue is whether the answer to that that question partly depends on the gender of the person involved. Feminist opposition to "slut shaming" has entirely to do with the double standard regarding sexual promiscuity that prevails in our culture: a cultural presumption that there is something more shameful about a woman's having multiple sexual partners than about a man's having multiple sexual partners. In many milieus, it accrues to a man's status for him to have multiple "conquests" to his credit, while it decrements a woman's reputation for her to have had sex with an equal number of men. Why should that be? How could promiscuity be morally different for a man than for a woman? The idea that there is such a moral difference is what feminists are objecting to. Doesn't that seem perfectly reasonable?

There are a number of interesting things to consider here -- for example, the idea that women, but not men, are somehow damaged or defiled by sexual intercourse. If it is revolting to consider having sex with a prostitute, who may have had dozens of different partners, why is it not equally revolting to imagine having sex with a male "player" who has "conquered" dozens of different women? Why, in fact, do we even have the word "slut" in our lexicon, but no matching word for a man who indiscriminately has sex with a large number of different women?

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