Feminist Ethics, Mothering, and Caring

Kinesis 22 (2):2-16 (1995)
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The relationship between feminist theory and traditionally feminine activities like mothering and caring is complex, especially because of the current diversity of feminist scholarship. There are many different kinds of feminist theory, and each approaches the issue of women's oppression from its own angle. The statement, "feminist ethics is about mothering and caring," can be critically evaluated by outlining specific feminist approaches to ethics and showing what role mothering and caring play in each particular view. In this paper, feminine and feminist perspectives are delineated, and the four classic feminist approaches (liberal, Marxist, radical, and socialist) are summarized. I argue that to some extent all of the examples of feminist ethics are "about" mothering and caring. In some cases this is because the particular view describes mothering and caring as features of the roots of women's oppression, or as a positive force in changing the prevailing social order to do away with oppression. I include a discussion of an additional role mothering might play in the socialist feminist framework.
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