Philosophy Faculty Publications

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Moral Psychology: Feminist Ethics and Social Theory


Feminists have been especially concerned, of course, with the particular personal and moral perils that may be associated with the sociopolitical situation( s) of women. In particular, as many have observed, the cultural assignment of women to various forms of "caring labor" can be harmful to women, both individually and collectively, by rendering them dangerously vulnerable to exploitation. Women who fail to rein in their "caring" for others may maintain relationships at all costs (including to themselves), avoid legitimate self-assertion in order to keep the peace, devote their energies to others at the expense of seIf-development, and protect even those others whose behavior is abusive or exploitative. In short, there are significant moral and-personal dangers associated with excessive or deformed practices of care for others, especially when these are combined with inadequate regard for oneself. Attention to these dangers may lead us to question whether -- as is commonly assumed -- the path to fully responsible moral agency, and out of oppression, always involves more caring attention to others and less to oneself. The emphasis of the philosophical tradition on avoiding selfishness may gain its surface plausibility, at least in part, from a pervasive male bias.

In this chapter, I build on these and other insights of feminist philosophy in an attempt to describe and recommend a certain state of character -- one that I see as personally vital, morally important, and enormously difficult and vexing for many women.

Inclusive pages




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Rowman & Littlefield

Place of Publication

Lanham, MD