New Philosophy

Feminist Philosophy

Are all philosophical feminists women?

By no means. A number of male philosophers have endeavored to both learn and support feminism and include feminist subjects in their own more traditional work. These men have published such books as Rethinking Masculinity: Philosophical Explorations in Light of Feminism (1992), edited by Larry May and Robert Strikwerda; Men Doing Feminism (1998), edited by Tom Digby; and Michael A. Slote’s The Ethics of Care and Empathy (2007).

There were women’s separatist social movements in the 1970s, but this has never been a viable option in academia. The radical feminist philosopher of religion Mary Daly (1936–), who taught at Boston College for 33 years, was forced to retire in 1999 for barring men from some of her classes. Daly was always on thin ice at this Jesuit institution, especially after the publication of her first book, The Church and the Second Sex (1968). Daly’s work is about how men have appropriated the roles and power of women in religion, particularly in Catholic ritual.

Philosophical feminism has evinced strong support for lesbian feminism on the grounds that lesbians have been oppressed in society and that lesbians may recognize the personhood of women more easily than men. Nevertheless, freedom of sexual preference entails that heterosexuality remains a respected preference, just as freedom of choice in abortion has not led feminists to invalidate, on moral or political grounds, pregnancy and childbirth. On motherhood, for example, Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace (1990) shows how childcare develops distinctive ways of thinking, although childbirth and rearing is not limited to heterosexual women. Much of French feminist writing assumes strong male-female sexual differences.


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