Rethinking Ethics in the Midst of Violence: A Feminist Approach to Freedom

Rethinking Ethics in the Midst of Violence: A Feminist Approach to Freedom

Rethinking Ethics in the Midst of Violence: A Feminist Approach to Freedom

Rethinking Ethics in the Midst of Violence: A Feminist Approach to Freedom

Synopsis

Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1995. Moving beyond the traditional feminist ethics of care, Linda A. Bell places an existentialist conception of liberation at the heart of ethics and argues that only an ethics of freedom sufficiently allows for feminist critique and opposition to a status quo imbued with violence. She offers a critique of Aristotelian, utilitarian, and Kantian ethics, analyzing each approach from feminist perspectives and showing how each fails women and others who resist oppression.

Excerpt

On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine, angry at "fucking feminists," walked into a classroom at the University of Montreal's school of engineering and shot to death fourteen women. What made this murder of women unusual was that it was done publicly and the victims were concentrated in one place. It received more publicity than murders of women usually receive. However, it is not unusual for women to be murdered because they are women. Although statistics indicate that more men than women are murdered annually, few men are murdered because they are men. Law enforcement experts agree that the vast majority of victims of serial murderers are female. Of female murder victims, it is primarily prostitutes and homeless women who are killed by strangers. For women generally, the place where they are most at risk is home "when that home is shared by a man, be he husband, male lover, father, or brother." The War at Home is a documentary film about 1960s campus political unrest in Madison, Wisconsin regarding Vietnam. However, for women, that title is apt to suggest a more intimate scenario of domestic rape, harassment, incest, battering and stalking— much unreported, much reported only to women's crisis centers in confidence, for fear of reprisals.

The law has been far better at protecting men against women's accusations of assault than at protecting women from assault. Women who strike back, even in clear self-defense, commonly receive heavy prison sentences in otherwise similar cases where men defending themselves would be charged with no crime at all. Feminist ethics needs to center such facts and confront the questions: how should women (and men) meet misogynist violence, much of which is socially sanctioned ? how are we to recognize its forms, in others and in ourselves?

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