Is Feminism Harmful? Essay, Research Paper
PART B- IS FEMINISM A HARMFUL IDEOLOGY?
Describe two central moral issues.
In Issue 4, “Is Feminism a Harmful Ideology?” I believe that the two central moral issues to this debate are as follows :
(1) Is it immoral to infringe upon individual liberty (even if some other good can come of it)?
(2) Is it immoral to discriminate based on sex (even if there are innate differences, which are relevant to the situation)?
What makes these distinctly moral issues, as opposed to legal, religious, or socio-political issues?
These are distinctly moral issues for a few reasons. First, answers to these questions require normative statements (yes it is immoral, or no it isn’t immoral to infringe?) which express value judgements. These statements can not be supported by empirical evidence. In other words, they are not subject to verification by running experiments, or through observation. Second, these answers define standards of human conduct, which apply equally to everyone (as opposed to, for example, men under the age of 21 who live in Tanzania). Lastly, these judgements for the most part are, as the course guide vaguely puts it, “not laid down by authoritative bodies” (pg.1-3) .
What is the “liberal” position concerning the enforcement of morality? The liberal position concerning the enforcement of morals holds freedom as the most important value in cases of victimless crime. The liberal believes that it is cruel and unjust for authoritative bodies to enforce community moral standards for victimless crime because of the necessary restraint it puts on individual civil liberties.
Normative ethics is a branch of ethics which attempts to illuminate how humans should live their lives, and more specifically how to make moral decisions concerning oneself and others, according to certain sets of values. The following moral theories are components of normative ethics.
Application of moral theories to “Feminism and Freedom”
Act utilitarianism judges the morality of an act according to how much utility it produces. In this case, utility refers to an end or consequence. A morally sound act has utility, meaning that its end is a positive one. The act that produces the most happiness is considered the morally right one.
An act utilitarian who believes that feminism is a harmful ideology might argue that yielding to feminist’s beliefs would produce less happiness than rejecting them. S/he may argue that forcing “equality” by, for example, requiring fire departments to establish less demanding physical examinations for women, or requiring corporations to exercise gender quotas may cause more unhappiness. Taken another step, if a fire-fighter’s effectiveness rests to a certain extent on his physical strength, then would it be so far-fetched to suggest that inevitably lives will be lost because of the inability of certain fire-women to carry an unconscious person up from the basement of a burning house? According to this reason, an act utilitarian may view feminism as a harmful ideology.
A rule utilitarian seeks underlying moral rules of particular acts, and judges their morality by finding which rules produce the most utility. In the issue of whether feminism is a harmful ideology or not, a rule utilitarian would find the underlying moral rules on each side of the debate. S/he may feel that the underlying moral rules in Michael Levin’s “Feminism and Freedom” are:
-One should not infringe upon individual liberty
-One should not discriminate based on sex
The rule utilitarian may feel that there is more utility to be gained by following the first rule. This is a value judgement that may not be held by all rule utilitarians, but in this particular utilitarian’s view, it is the rule that produces the most happiness.
The Kantian theory of ethics maintains that there is a universal moral principle of duty. The moral duty performed is what is judged, not the consequence of carrying out the duty. For example, a Kantian theorist may believe that stealing is wrong. For him/her, this is a categorical imperative to be followed at all times by everyone; even if what is being stolen is a piece of bread to feed a starving child.
Kantian theory applied to the question of feminism may produce the view that securing individual freedom is the most important value, and since feminism infringes upon freedom, it is the Kantian’s duty to stand up for individual freedom by rejecting feminism. It would be irrelevant to a Kantian that everyone would be happier if feminism was universally adapted.
On the other hand, a Kantian may believe that it is one’s moral duty to treat everyone as an equal. Additionally, s/he may believe that supporting feminism is standing up for women’s freedom. It all depends on how feminism is interpreted.
Natural law theorists believe that morally right acts are ones that are in accordance with nature. The theorist who believes that feminism is a movement to force compliance with the notion that males and females are the same, may feel that there is an implication to ignore innate sex differences. S/he may, therefore, find that the feminist movement is immoral. In other words, s/he may believe that there are innate sex differences, and that by enacting laws to “level the playing field”, feminists are not acting in accordance with nature. (Of course, another natural law theorist may feel that feminism is in accord with nature as far as social advancement goes.)
The theory of natural rights holds liberty as the most important moral value. It maintains that every human has an equal right to life, liberty, and justly acquired property, and that infringements upon those rights are immoral. Consequently, a natural law theorist may take the position that laws created to help women gain entry into “male” occupations are infringing upon individual liberty by creating quotas, and are discriminating against men by requiring more challenging examinations as in the example of the New York City Fire Dept.
At the same time, a natural rights theorist might argue the opposite. S/he might say that as it is, women are not enjoying the same amount of liberty as men are and, consequently are morally justified in enacting laws to force compliance with equality and freedom. S/he must weigh the two positions according to which infringes on liberty the least.
PART C- SHOULD HOMOSEXUALITY BE ACCEPTED BY SOCIETY?
Describe two central moral issues.
I believe that the two central moral issues raised in the debate over whether homosexuality should be accepted by society are:
(1) Is homosexuality immoral?
(2) Is discrimination against homosexuals immoral?
These are distinctly moral issues because they require value judgements about human conduct (normative statements), they cannot be decided by empirical evidence or by running experiments, they seek to define standards of human conduct (which apply to everyone), and they are not “laid down by authoritative bodies.”
Application of moral theories to “Gay Basics: Some Questions, Facts,
Since the act utilitarian judges morality according to how much utility, or end happiness a particular act produces, s/he might believe that homosexuality should be accepted because more happiness would be achieved in the long run. According to Mohr, a relatively large portion of the population is gay. I think it would seem reasonable to an act utilitarian that not only would these great number of gays be happier if they were allowed the same legal rights as everyone else, but an overall social acceptance would follow shortly behind. A parallel may be drawn to the acceptance of blacks in the U.S. over the past 150 years. In short, the act utilitarian might stand for the acceptance of homosexuality because of his/her conviction that more happiness would be gained from it.
In the issue of homosexuality, the rule utilitarian would first find the underlying moral rules:
(1) It is morally acceptable to discriminate against homosexuals.
(2) It is not morally acceptable to discriminate against homosexuals.
S/he would then carefully consider each of the rules to find which one produced the most utility. If the rule utilitarian decided that gays, if allowed the same legal and social benefits as heterosexuals, would turn into social monsters and wreak havoc upon all of society, or even incite an overall negative feeling in the majority of the population for centuries to come, s/he would decide that discrimination against homosexuals is morally acceptable. I believe, however, that s/he would find that compliance with the rule, “It is not morally acceptable to discriminate against homosexuals” would produce more happiness in the long run.
Kantians could care less about end happiness or utility. Rather, s/he would take a different approach to this issue by attempting to find a universally accepted principle of duty. S/he may try out a possible one: Discriminate based on sexual orientation. S/he must then imagine a world in which everyone discriminates based on sexual orientation. Other ones may include: – Treat all humans equally
-Engage in sexual intercourse solely to procreate
I believe that the Kantian who subscribes to either or both of the above views can support the societal acceptance of homosexuals. The first statement goes without explaining as long as homosexuals are considered to be human. Belief in the second statement does not require the Kantian theorist to discriminate against homosexuals any more than the statement, “Do not over-eat” requires him/her to discriminate against the obese. Additionally, it is a rare heterosexual who engages in sexual intercourse solely to procreate.
A natural law theorist would view homosexuality as immoral, since it is not considered to be in accordance with nature. However, whether or not a natural law theorist would believe that it is morally wrong to discriminate against homosexuals is another question. Under natural law, treating all humans as equal is the morally right thing to do. Additionally, natural law dictates that these moral values must be followed regardless of the consequences. Let’s say, hypothetically, that societal acceptance of homosexuality has the negative side effect of turning a large portion of the world’s population gay, it would be irrelevant under the qualifying principle of double effect. “All humans should be treated as equals” is a natural law. Not accepting homosexuals, or discriminating against them is a situation where others are not treating certain humans as equals. Therefore, under natural law, discriminating against homosexuals is immoral.
The theory of natural rights stresses individual liberty as the foundation of morality. Therefore, it seems fairly straightforward to suggest that not only should society be more accepting of homosexuals under natural rights theory, but the actual practice of homosexuality is morally acceptable as well. Or more accurately, it is morally wrong to infringe upon a person’s freedom in the case of homosexuality.
The five theories are distinguishable from each other on a basic level in one or two ways; what the theory values (freedom, nature, etc.), and whether it is a consequentialist (utilitarianism) or nonconsequentialist (Kantian theory) theory.
In dissecting the two debates, I have found that applying the theories helps identify the values involved. The application also illuminates the complexity of the issues. Utilization of the theories is not nearly enough to come to a conclusion on either debate. Most of the work in finding an answer to these questions lies in carefully examining every minute detail in each issue, postulating, and mentally following the cause and effects of various conditions. The theories merely give one the tools to make this easier.