Equity v gender

Chapter 5 of Martha Nussbaum’s Sex and Social Justice is titled “American Women” and it’s basically about the idea that there is sane normal sensible feminism and then there is crazy extremist radical feminism, with the first being sensibly in favor of equality before the law, which we now have, so that’s that, and the second being about crazy wild stuff like distorted preferences and asymmetrical power. Nussbaum addresses Christina Hoff Sommers as the clearest source of this notion (and as a fellow philosopher), but she says the idea is widespread.

Nussbaum points out that the feminists Sommers sees as “radical” are the very people who brought about the changes that Sommers applauds.

It is not only women in the academic elite who wish to be able to call the police when battered in the home; who wish to be able to bring a charge of rape without testifying to their prior sexual history; who wish to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace…If Sommers holds that a woman such as Mary J. Carr, who successfully brought charges of harassment against General Motors (GM) after a five-year campaign of threats and obscenities, is not an “equity feminist” but a supporter of a suspect radical agenda, it would appear to be Sommers who has lost touch with what American women want. And yet, the concept of asymmetry of power, which Sommers apparently rejects, was a crucial part of Judge Richard Posner’s reasoning when he decided in favor of Carr and against GM. [p 133]

Posner is a Reagan appointee, by the way.

To be continued.

Comments

  1. crowepps says

    the first being sensibly in favor of equality before the law, which we now have, so that’s that

    When did they pass the Equal Rights Amendment?

    “Even though the court has said for decades that the equal-protection clause protects women (and, for that matter, men) from sex discrimination, the outspoken, controversial Scalia claimed late last week that women’s equality is entirely up to the political branches. “If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex,” he told an audience at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, “you have legislatures.”
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2020667,00.html

  2. hjhornbeck says

    … wait wait wait, the USA doesn’t have any sort of Equal Rights amendment or law? What? I thought those were pretty standard. In Canada, it’s burnt into the Constitution, via the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

    15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
    Marginal note:

    The UK started off with the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, which was eventually rolled into the Equality Act of 2010:

    The following characteristics are protected characteristics— age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.

    Even Australia, land of rampant misogyny, has their Sex Discrimination Act of 1984.

    But in America, the primary home of Second and Third-Wave feminism, there is no explicit protection against sex-based discrimination?!

  3. Stacy says

    The equity feminist/gender feminist distinction is bullshit. Feminists have never confined themselves to just one sphere of concern or the other.

    Sommers is a libertarian and so is motivated to discount or dismiss critiques of economic disparities (who profits from women’s unpaid or underpaid labor?) and power dynamics. Social justice movements in general are suspect to libertarians–the little people banding together in “collectives” and getting uppity? Can’t have that. It undermines faith in the primacy of the heroic individual and the magic of the Free Market.

  4. Brian E says

    I’m confused. I thought this was an anti-MRA blog, but

    it’s basically about the idea that there is sane normal sensible feminism and then there is crazy extremist radical feminism, with the first being sensibly in favor of equality before the law, which we now have, so that’s that, and the second being about crazy wild stuff like distorted preferences and asymmetrical power

    I’m all for sane normal feminism. Like women are as equal as men, but this asymmetrical, distorted preferences, crazy wild stuff, which can only mean that men are less than women (well, we are, but society shouldn’t punish us lessers), seems a bit of too honest. As for asymmetrical power, I’m left-handed, but nearly ambi-dextrous, so it’s really not that asymmetrical…
    Or did I irony fail? :)

  5. says

    One of the many great things about this chapter is that Nussbaum cites libertarians against Sommers. Posner for instance is very libertarian, and N. also quotes Gary Becker extensively.

  6. iknklast says

    wait wait wait, the USA doesn’t have any sort of Equal Rights amendment or law?

    Thanks to the Mormons. It looked close to passing until the Mormon church got involved, bringing out their legions of well-trained women to derail women’s conventions, and throwing their weight around in any state with more than a couple of Mormons to make sure it got voted down.

    They joined with the Catholic hierarchy, who have a lot more adherents in the US but don’t manage to control them as well, and now…well, women technically have rights, but without that little old Constitutional Amendment, we’re at the mercy of the Congress and the Courts (why does that not make me feel all warm and fuzzy?)

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