Second Wave Of Feminism - Ethics In A Feminist Context



The definitions and relationships between words such as justice, the good, autonomy, rights, duty, moral actor, and responsibility have been the focus of traditional ethics. 

However, keep in mind that these ideas mostly apply to people acting as moral agents on their own. 

Feminist ethicists examine these and related ideas, frequently altering them to include feminist understanding, but they also include problems about ethical agent interactions as well as gender-based societal duties and expectations. 


Normative moral theory, whether conventional, feminist, or non-feminist, is tasked with dictating conduct. 

  • The goal of a moral theory is to offer action-guiding principles to the moral actor or agent that encompass both positive and negative obligations, i.e., what should be done and what should not be done. 
  • The extra necessity of including women's experience is accepted by feminist normative moral theory. 


Feminism offers a fresh perspective on the human person as an ethical agent, a new method to engage in or conduct human activities, and a new way to think about what is the topic of ethical discourse, all while trying to achieve justice for women. 


  • In order to be more inclusive of some of the elements that define women's lives, a feminist ethics would likely question or alter how we interpret "autonomy" or "justice." 
  • When we think of autonomy as an isolated person making choices exclusively for himself or herself, we miss out on how connections influence decision-making. 
  • Autonomy may be modified to incorporate that relational element, or it could be replaced with a more flexible, shared notion. 
  • Similarly, in reaction to the awareness of human linkages – particularly among the most vulnerable among us, such as children – justice may be converted from abstract fairness to tangible social justice. In feminist moral theories, community plays an important role. 


The awareness of the link between what occurs on the local level and what happens on the global level is essential in a feminist perspective. 

As a result, defining what constitutes community becomes a meta-ethical issue. 


  • To begin with, community serves as a forum for identity development and is an essential component of complete self-determination. 
    • Individuals engage in a number of communities, creating or defining them in the process, and these communities, in turn, contribute to the individual's identity. 
    • As a result, a moral theory must account for both the person and the social groups/communities to which they belong. 


  • Community boundaries denote the kind of connection and consequent duty that many feminist moral theories employ to guide behavior. 
    • Community may be defined by people's closeness, geography, common interests, or even physical characteristics. 
    • For feminist ethics, there is no one moral actor or isolated person. In two ways, feminist moral theory prioritizes experience. T
    • he first is that moral theory and moral problems emerge as a result of particular men and women's circumstances. 


Some feminist ethicists focus on women's experiences, while others highlight all those who have been marginalized by conventional moral theory or otherwise excluded from the "norm." 

  • Others argue that, in order to properly address experienced reality, conventional moral theory should utilize actual rather than hypothetical experience. 
  • The point is that theory is guided by real-life experience rather than attempting to define what constitutes acceptable moral speech. 

Feminist ethics acknowledges that philosophy is rooted in a specific socio-historical setting. 

  • Recognizing this allows us to face our prejudices and objectively examine the consequences of a certain hypothesis. 
  • As a result, as time passes, our moral theory may need to evolve. 
  • It also has a connection to the following meta-ethical topic, identity and difference, in that cultural differences have a significant influence in both moral theory and practical ethics. 


Traditional ethics has most blatantly failed women by neglecting to recognize or account for women's concerns. 

  • Women's issues were not regarded to be intellectually interesting or deserving of further consideration. 
  • Women's moral action was limited to the home and controlled by nature or instinct, according to most conventional or canonical interpretations of ethics. 


Public opinion, taste, and the pursuit of beauty were sometimes acknowledged as factors in women's decision-making, but they were conspicuously missing from the praiseworthy kinds of moral decision-making described in canonical writings. 

Furthermore, some feminists have criticized conventional moral philosophy for being too focused on a rationality that ignores emotion. 

The labor women perform and the responsibilities they assume in society should be taken into consideration in philosophical formulations of ethics, regardless of whether these issues are socially created based on gender roles or biologically established. 


The main goal of man, according to some of the most famous classical moral thinkers like Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is to become more perfect as a citizen, whereas the principle aim of woman is to become more perfect as a wife. 


  • She was not seen as a moral actor in her own right, but rather as the moral agent of her husband or father. 
  • It's not surprising that the first significant efforts to define a feminist ethics in the Western liberal tradition centered on affirming a woman's complete personality and the development of universal virtue rather than a male or female virtue. 
  • Moral virtue was not gender specific, according to Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, and Harriet Taylor Mill. 
  • Women have been assigned to a certain social function (wife and mother), but their ethical responsibilities should be established in the same way that men's are.

 A somewhat different approach is used by second wave feminist ethics. 

  • Rather than accepting the masculine as the norm and arguing that women are capable of fulfilling it, second-wave feminists looked for new ethical sources that were inclusive of women and their concerns. 
  • Traditional ethics and politics, for example, placed a greater emphasis on the capacity to take life in battle than on the ability to give life via birth. 
  • Recognizing the one-of-a-kind ability to give birth alters how values are valued and decisions are made. 


Of course, there is a distinction to be made between a feminine and a feminist ethic. 

  • A feminine ethic is one that is based on the unique "feminine" qualities that women are believed to have. 
  • These traits or attributes are usually regarded as a product of nature - part of the essence of being female – and may be used to support an argument that women are ‘more moral' than males, according to feminine ethics. 
  • For example, a feminine ethics may claim that women are naturally more tranquil since they give birth to children. 
  • This may lead to a slew of related conclusions regarding the social and political roles that women can and should play. 
  • Similarly, it's possible that being able to give birth makes women more caring. 
  • Rather than or in addition to fairness or justice, an ethics based on women's nurturing ability would stress loving connections. 

This approach is classified as a "ethics of care," although few care theorists believe that there is anything inherent in women that causes them to be more compassionate. 

Depending on how the theorist explains the origins of the caring disposition, the ethics of care may be either feminine or feminist. 



Feminists must create ethics based on the belief that women's subordination is morally wrong and that women's moral experiences are deserving of respect. 

Feminist ethics is uniquely positioned to connect theory and practice, thinking and action. 

  • A feminist ethics would not only provide advice in moral circumstances, but would also be guided by them. 
  • The technique and substance of a feminist moral theory are both feminist. 
  • Though a theory may concentrate on one or the other, they are neither distinct or separable.


~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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