Women have traditionally been viewed as carers and nurturers. Is this fair today? Is the reality slightly different to that? Do women have a distinctive moral perspective at all? Is o, what does it amount too? Questions such as these will be answered in this essay.
The concept of morality has long been one of intense interest and debate for many disciplines, from ancient philosophy to contemporary psychology. However, it could be questioned the extent to which we have developed in terms of understanding such an abstract entity. Carol Gilligan follows the cognitive developmental models of Piaget and Kohlberg in her argument concerning female morality, yet can her perspective be supported, or does her theoretical model raise broader issues surrounding the explanation of moral thought and behavior? According to Gilligan, the model of a distinct female moral development is in response to the lack of attention paid to women in previous models of moral development, namely Kohlberg, and a lesser extent, Piaget.
[...] This therefore undermines the universalistic principle of Gilligan's claim, but also that men in other cultures adopt the ‘feminine morality' in moral dilemmas, suggesting that Gilligan may not be entirely justified in her claim of women's distinctive moral voice, since it appears to be shared with Indian men. Methodologically her study has been criticized, as although she was challenging Kohlberg's model, she simply created a reflection of his model, yet maintaining the same weaknesses, such as the use of all female participants gender bias she remarked was a flaw of earlier cognitive developmental models). [...]
[...] Conclusion In conclusion, I feel that Gilligan's claims that women have a distinctive moral voice cannot be fully justified. Perhaps in the situation specific of American women in the early eighties undergoing an abortion it is justified, but it seems her findings cannot be generalized to the extent the universalistic approach would desire. Men and women across various cultures appear to have the capacity to adopt either the justice or care driven approach to moral dilemmas, yet there does not appear to be a fixed pattern or system of thought. [...]
[...] Yet, it seems that if it was indeed a part of the social conventional domain, there is the possibility that gender can be changed. However, gender stereotypes are ingrained into a culture that it is almost wrong to transgress out of one's allocated gender role (in line with the moral domain). This suggests that there is the potential for change of gender, supporting my view that women are less subservient to their gender roles in terms of power and social position, yet it also lends support to Gilligan's argument that women are in conflict with themselves between their own interests and their role expectations. [...]
[...] I feel that Gilligan is providing reinforcement for the perpetuating cycle of gender stereotypes, which I feel has severe implications, such as the ability for men and powerful institutions (Conservative government?) to manipulate Gilligan's argument in order to keep women in gender stereotype roles and employment, classing them us unable to hold positions of highly moral connotations, such as high court judge, subjugating women to menial roles and housewifery. Similarly, Gilligan argues that during adolescence is the period when individuals define their gender, and girls, according to Gilligan, see the disparity between powers and care, and so give up on power. [...]
[...] is well known in cognitive science that what one thinks about can be decisive for how one thinks' (Wason & Johnson; 1972) Apparently, since Gilligan's model is basically the same as Kohlberg's except the differing gender focus, one would assume that it is, like Kohlberg's, a universalistic model. By this, I refer to the line of thought that adopts the approach that intellectual diversity is more apparent than real, that exotic idea systems are actually very much like our own than they initially appear (Shewder; 1991, 114). [...]
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