Political liberalism and the dismantling of the gendered division of labour

Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Women continue to be in charge of most childrearing; men continue to be responsible for most breadwinning. There is no consensus on whether this state of affairs, and the informal norms that encourage it, are matters of justice to be tackled by state action. Feminists have criticized political liberalism for its alleged inability to embrace a full feminist agenda, inability explained by political liberals’ commitment to the ideal of state neutrality. The debate continues on whether neutral states can accommodate two feminist demands: to enact policies aimed at dismantling the feminization of caregiving, especially childrearing, and to compensate women for some of the disadvantages they incur by being primary care-givers. I contribute to this debate with three arguments in support of policies meant to de-gender care-giving and compensate care-givers. The first appeals to equality of opportunity to positions of advantage and justifies policies that prevent or mitigate statistical discrimination and implicit biases. The second draws attention to a possible causal relationship between the specialization of women in early childcare and misogyny; since the latter is incompatible with political liberal justice, it yields the conclusion that political liberals ought to further investigate the causal hypothesis with the aim of establishing or refuting it. The third argument concludes that legitimate childrearing prohibits adults from socializing children or, at least girls, into gender norms; it justifies duties of justice on the side of parents, educators, and economic agents, and state policies meant to offset foreseeable breaches of some of these duties.

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Anca Gheaus
Central European University


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