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Morality, Justice, Feminism
Equating morality with justice presents some problems, not least of which is the relativity inherent in morality; morals change from generation to generation. Justice is more constant, although more difficult to achieve. Still, when an action is truly just, it is difficult to dissect it; morality, on the other hand, can be dissected relatively easily. A case in point: Is the current war in Iraq immoral? The answer, to a humanist, is yes. To a conservative on the religious right, it is moral; we are, after all, attempting to show the Iraqis a better way, and is that not a moral imperative? The humanist would argue that leaving the Iraqis alone is the only moral thing to do: How can we know what is right for them (and lord knows having their villages, schools and entire way of life reduced to rubble hardly appears right) when we have not, as the Native Americans say, walked a mile in their shoes?
The same rubric might easily be applied to those who would 'invade' the female principle -- whether it is the Taliban, or just the good ol' boy in the United States who feels that he is only a man if the 'little woman' is at home, barefoot and pregnant and waiting on his every whim. He has certainly not walked a mile in her shoes; anything he would propose as moral treatment of a woman equates quite well with our (male) conduct in Iraq. To that man, his behavior is moral; to a humanist who believes in the value and dignity of all people, it is not.
Justice, on the other hand, does not admit of so many different viewpoints. Using a similar analogy to that for morality, one might ask: Is it just to attempt to redress the horrific wrong that was done in the events of September 11, 2001? Most people would say that it is just to do so, that those who masterminded it need to be brought to justice. However, it pays to recall that the justice those people are speaking of is political justice, bestowed by the courts. Courts follow guidelines created by people, the people in power, who in this case (as in virtually all historic cases) are almost unexceptionally men.
Justice per se cannot be bestowed by a court or by a political body of any sort. This is true despite the fact that justice is most often understood, in modern-day America, to mean an eye for an eye, certainly not 'turn the other cheek' despite this being (especially now) nominally a Christian nation and therefore followers of the New Testament and not the Old. In short, Americans equate justice with morality, erroneously. Morality, using more Middle Eastern analogies, is Old Testament, constructed by humans, masculine. Justice, on the other hand, is New Testament, constructed by god (or, if you prefer, the divine nature of man as exhibited by the great teacher, Jesus of Nazareth), and feminine.
Feminism, equated with the loving divine, is both a liberating thought and practice. Its opposite -- masculinism, although anti-female discrimination is rarely called that -- circumscribes both thought and action because it demands that all people follow the desires of only one half of them.
Feminism, morality and justice
All of this has a bearing on both the concept and practice of feminism in the United States in 2005. Many people would ask, 'What feminism?" For the movement has not been vibrant and noisy for a couple of decades. "Feminist organizations have weakened and/or dissolved since the early 1980s. Across the world, a backlash against feminism is being waged by neo-liberal governments, university administrations, bosses, and corporations eroding some of the hard-won gains of feminism" (Ellis 2001 24).
At least, however, it has been spared the depredations of some of the more egregious moralists of late (or at least, until the current neocon government); in the 1970s, a woman named Marabel Morgan attempted to argue that feminism -- equality for women with men -- was immoral and suggested such inane activities as women wrapping themselves in plastic wrap and meeting their husbands at the door, or in other ways submitting "to male desires as the key to improving married life" (Answers.com Web site).
It would be easy to argue that setting up one gender as the receptacle for the erotic fantasies of the other is immoral. Certainly, considering that God created both man and woman (if one wishes to take a Biblical stance) and all men (as an inclusive term) were created equal (a foundational belief in the United States), Morgan was acting in a completely immoral manner.
Feminism is a complete philosophical system, integrating "practice and theory. It is a woman-centered methodology of critically questioning our ideological premises and remaining the world.... Feminism is political, methodological, philosophical, and intent upon social transformation" (Brown 1999 163-169).
The Second Sex
Simone de Beauvoir, the doyenne of feminist philosophers and a founder of existentialism, really needed to no more than to name her book, The Second Sex, to illustrate the constricting nature of masculinism, and its disarticulating effect on human conduct and human philosophies. No one asks which sex de Beauvoir meant; everyone knows she meant women. That being the case, feminism -- by demanding that women be considered equal -- is a priori a liberating thought, taking both sexes out of the boxes they inhabit. It is a way to promote equality and justice. Because there is a 'second sex,' necessarily there is a first sex. That 'first sex' is male. One could posit the reasons males are the 'first sex' ad infinitum. Among those reasons might be; because men are bigger and stronger, because God made man first (if one wants to take the Bible literally, and not read it metaphorically), because testosterone makes them aggressive and on.
However, when God made us (or however mankind arose; this isn't a religious nor anti-religious argument) or we arose from the primordial slime, we got somehow divided into a larger, meaner variety and a smaller, more nurturing variety, both of which have brains that allow them to transcend their biology. Man (literal man, not mankind) transcended his biology the first time he hurled a rock to bring down an animal who could outrun him in order to eat it. That being the case, there then begins a moral imperative for the stronger, smarter animal to avoid using his strength and intelligence against other members of his own species, which is what male chauvinists are, in fact, doing.
The role of morality in feminism, then, may be more universal than first thought. Morality can be traced to the branching of hominids into people and 'other' and the moral imperative for an animal as smart as a human not to foul its own nest nor do harm to its own kind. An animal that smart can take care to keep his 'nest' clean for altruistic purposes, or, if he is as smart as all that, surely he can see that it is simply impractical in the long run to foul his own nest or harm members of his own species. Among the activities that would certainly foul the smart, strong animal's nest would be cruelty to the other smart animal he needs to give him comfort, and, quite frankly, to ensure generational succession. Whether or not one wants to say it is morally wrong to be a masculinist (and morality does change), it is just plain ignorant, and studiously so, which in itself makes it immoral in any climate.
Brown is convinced that the justice and equality in feminism consists in praxis -- acts. He argues that "the masculinist bias of traditional jurisprudence does considerable harm to those who are constructed as 'other': women, people of color, Aboriginal people, lesbians, gay men, and transsexuals" (Brown 1999 163-169). Males have a moral imperative not to abuse these 'others,' but they also have a practical reason for not doing so. If one is attempting to categorize all human activities so that they can be adjudged always good or always bad, Brown contends that such an attempt is the masculinist way, the "traditional 'objective' framework" (1999 163-169). A move away from that, to what he calls an 'engaged' feminist mode of praxis is the only thing that can bring about change. It is also the only thing that can bring about a rejection of morality -- that construct of men, literally -- in favor of justice, that truism of the cosmos in which acts must balance each other to create statis. (This is similar to the laws of physics in which each action has an equal and opposite reaction; unless both occur, imbalance and not stasis will occur.)
By imposing their testosterone-based demands on estrogen-based humans, men are attempting to interfere with the natural balance, preventing statis from being reached. Without stasis -- balance -- there can never be equality, nor can there be justice. The only thing possible in…[continue]
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