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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
Gender equality has been one of the hottest topics of discussion throughout humanity’s entire history. It has been argued in the literature, politics, philosophy, mass media, etc. It is one of those topics where literally everyone has something to say – with or without necessary expertise. Today, gender equality is unanimously considered an integral element of a developed democratic society. It should be observed in all spheres of life, and when it is not observed, we see it as a problem.
The principle of gender equality stems from several ethical theories. To comprehend this principle fully and to know why it is necessary and how to practice it, one should be at least briefly familiar with those principles. These theories are utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and feminine theory. They all view the issue from different perspectives. This diversity is what can enable us to handle gender equality most efficiently.
Thesis statement: Feminine theory gives the most comprehensive answers to questions related to gender equality. These responses represent the most consistent and practical solutions to all the possible issues that may arise in regard to gender equality. The feminine theory is also the most moral and ethical in its approach to gender equality, comparing to other theories that tackle this issue.
Whenever we start talking about equality between different groups of people, it always poses a great ethical challenge, and finding an appropriate solution requires expertise that can only come from thorough research and investigation. Gender equality is no exception. It is closely tied to general human values and their cultivation within our society. One of the most illustrative instances is the fact that the gender equality movement in Western countries had an undoubted influence on all sorts of other emancipation movements within other minorities, guiding and inspiring them.
Arguably the most notable theoretical pieces on gender equality are works of the 19th-century suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Specifically, her lecture “Subjection of Women” defines a list of concrete social reforms that can ensure gender equality and complete emancipation of women within a society. Stanton insists that the main focus for all women should be their independence in all decisions about their lives’ aspects, including their relationships with the opposite sex, and whatever form these may take. These ideas have proved quite topical since most feminist activists still list Stanton as one of their prime influences even up to this day.
When it comes to bringing gender equality principles to life, it is one of the most crucial responsibilities for the political authorities. American philosopher Marilyn Friedman focuses primarily on this aspect. In her book Autonomy, Gender, Politics, for instance, she describes numerous examples when governmental rulings have marginalized women into a cultural minority within the society, thus, violating their rights by rendering them unequal to the rest of community. She claims that such democratic principles as equality and justice, liberty, and rights are open to interpretation by the politicians. This is why, she argues, it is up to them to ensure a kind of interpretation that provides for gender equality, alongside the equality of other minorities that may be subject to discrimination.
However, enforcing gender equality is not the task for political authorities alone. There are plenty everyday situations where specific gender stereotypes are present. The video Gender Stereotypes in Media highlights a number of such instances, where women get different treatment than men in a variety of everyday life situations as pictured by the media. Media has the power to shape people’s attitude to all sorts of issues, including gender equality. So, one can argue that all the possible instances of gender inequality are sanctioned or advocated by our own media. This includes enforcing gender roles and suggesting solutions to all sorts of everyday life issues in accordance with these roles. Through media, stereotypes about gender roles find their way to working places, schools, homes, etc. There are even figures of speech that simultaneously dwell upon and further enforce gender stereotypes – phrases like “I can’t expect you to think straight, you’re a woman,” “Your job is to do what you are told, little girl,” etc., – anyone can name at least a few of such examples. The situation has improved drastically over the past few decades, but we can still observe these stereotypes in the media and see how they promote gender inequality, mainly in advertising, cinema, and television. Disney is one of the companies whose media products get the most criticism for their angle on gender stereotypes. For examples, their celebrated feature film Beauty and the Beast transparently teaches girls that they have to accept and endure the man’s domination in a relationship, even when it becomes violent, and they will be rewarded for it handsomely.
There are various ethical theories that tackle gender equality issue. The most wholesome and comprehensive ones are utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and feminine ethics. They all approach equality issue differently, and this diversity of strategies makes it evident how grave an issue gender equality is, and how drastically it needs comprehensive solutions to the related problems that may arise.
Utilitarianism puts forward forecast consequences of given issues and, thus, determines its rightness or wrongness. One can also state that utilitarianism is less concerned about the morality of each issue, instead focusing on its purely practical value alone. If we apply this principle to gender equality, then we need to assess possible results of constant gender inequality. As far as a woman is concerned, gender inequality will always have negative outcomes for her, because it imposes unnecessary limitations on her rights, independence, and life in general.
Virtue ethics focuses on character traits and their role. It claims that any possible laws or other generally accepted rules, as well as some actions with consequences that each given person may have committed, are secondary to a person’s character traits. In particular, it argues that all human actions exist objectively and, as such, cannot be subject to moral judgment – but particular character traits are. In other words, actions and decisions themselves are morally neutral, but character qualities that cause people to act in a specific way are not, so they can be assessed in terms of their morality. In this theory, character traits are agents that can be either good or bad. Same as other ethical theories, we can apply virtue ethics to gender equality principle. As such, we can claim that imposing and promoting gender stereotypes are morally neutral actions caused by a person’s bad character qualities.
Virtue ethics focuses on character traits and their role. It claims that any possible laws or other generally accepted rules, as well as some actions with consequences that each given person may have committed, are secondary to a person’s character traits. In particular, it argues that all human actions exist objectively and, as such, cannot be subject to moral judgment – but particular character traits are. In other words, actions and decisions themselves are morally neutral, but character qualities that cause people to act in a specific way are not, so they can be assessed in terms of their morality. In this theory, character traits are agents that can be either good or bad. Same as other ethical theories, we can apply virtue ethics to gender equality principle. As such, we can claim that imposing and promoting gender stereotypes are morally neutral actions caused by a person’s bad character traits.
Each of these ethical approaches to gender equality that listed above has its advantages and disadvantages. In case we want to choose the most wholesome and comprehensive ethical theory we need to scrutinize each theory’s advantages.
First of all, utilitarianism ethics has two fundamental advantages. The first one is that it is universal, and one can apply it to any issue whatsoever. The second one is that it allows making morality less abstract and more feasible. Both these advantages are due to the fact that utilitarianism focuses on how practical any given action is.
If we talk about virtue ethics, it also has its undeniable advantages. Its fundamental advantage is that it signifies personal integrity. Moreover, it does not suggest any artificial limitations to a person’s decision making. This empowers people whom virtue ethics sees as strong and independent individuals.
Of course, feminine ethics also has advantages of its own. First of all, it stops seeing traits and values that are traditionally related to women as something secondary to men-related ones. Instead, it promotes all sorts of women experiences and applies the principles of independence, liberty, and equality to them.
With all these advantages listed and at hand, it is possible to detect the most wholesome and comprehensive ethical approach to gender equality. Given all the benefits of the three different ethical strategies mentioned above, I can state that feminine theory is the most satisfactory one. It puts forward many practical and physical aspects of the issue by underlining the importance of eliminating gender inequality instances at offices, schools, homes, and other places. Moreover, it inspires other emancipation movements among all sorts of minorities by solidifying the importance of diversity on all levels. Its directness in tackling particular equality problems that women may have is what makes this ethical theory the adequate approach to gender equality problem.
If we want to detect the least adequate ethical theory that addresses gender equality, we have to list all the disadvantages of every ethical theory that we are discussing. The fundamental weakness of utilitarianism is that it presupposes equal access of all people to resources and, as such, equal responsibilities for their use, which is – unfortunately – not the case in real life. The fundamental disadvantage of virtue ethics is that it leaves a person with little to do about negative events that – according to this theory – are objective. What’s more, this approach can even lead to new problems. The fundamental disadvantage of the feminine theory is that it only tackles a very specific set of problems, which are related to the discrimination of women, ignoring possible instances of discrimination towards other people (men, for example). Having listed all the limitations of the ethical theories under our discussion, we can determine the least adequate ethical approach to gender equality.
Virtue ethics is an approach that bases solely on character traits, ignoring the actions. As such, it enables a person to see any particular character quality as either good or bad, regardless of the actions to which this trait may lead. This is possible due to this theory ignoring any set of rules regulating human actions, such as laws, duties, rights, etc. This is why, while virtue ethics can certainly deal with a variety of issues, gender equality is not one of them. It can hardly be applied to gender equality in a satisfactory manner. This theory refuses to give any moral assessment to actions and decisions, qualifying them as neither right nor wrong. As far as human lives and their particular aspects are concerned, virtue ethics is of no use. Gender equality issues are heavily focused on particular actions of specific people, which are outside the scope of this theory.
As we know, one can apply different ethical theories to assess the morality of different aspects of human lives and various issues within these aspects, including gender equality. Being a very specific issue, it demands to tackle through an ethical theory specifically designed for this issue. This is precisely what feminine theory is. It promotes the ideal of complete gender equality by criticizing any instances of women discrimination and inequality and claiming them as unjust and immoral. Moreover, it offers an ethical system which renders such cases impossible. This is why feminine theory offers a much more adequate ethical approach to the issue of gender equality than utilitarianism and virtue ethics do. Love what you’re reading but not sure you can write something like this yourself? No problem – our professional team of writers is always ready to offer you a helping hand. If you lack time to write an essay yourself, we are here for you!