Feminism and Christian Tradition: An Annotated Bibliography and Critical Introduction to the Literature

By Mary-Paula Walsh | Go to book overview

12
Feminist Theological Ethics

The "praxis" assumptions of feminist theology are nowhere more evident than in the literature of feminist ethics, where the themes of egalitarian ism, inclusivity, relationality and the authority of women's experience as interpretive frameworks are everywhere discussed. This section evidences the presence of those themes in literatures which present definitions of feminist ethics, discussions of feminist ethical method, and discussions of key issues.

At the level of definition, the literature ranges from feminist critiques of "agape," (e.g., Andolsen "467") to the relationship between feminist anthropology and feminist ethics (e.g., Farley "472"), and as a consequence, the relationship of feminist ethics to feminist spirituality and feminist political action. (For examples here, see the entries in Andolsen et al. "468" and Daly "470"; and in other portions of the bibliography, see Harrison "207", Heyward "555", and Ruether "545".)

Apropos methodological issues, the literature ranges widely, but overall, three main concerns are clear: first, an early articulation of feminist hermeneutical principles by which to ground feminist ethical discussion (e.g., Farley "471", Haney "473", and Hunt "479"); second, a lingering debate over gender differences in moral reasoning (as generated by Gilligan's work "476"); and third, the need for clear political theory for combining praxis and reflection (e.g., Robb "482", Schllssler Fiorenza "483", and Legge "487").

Last, by way of topics and specific ethical issues, the literature yet identifies the dominant culture's continued devaluation of women, women's work, women's sexuality, and women's rights to reproductive freedom as biases still to be overcome. Further, it identifies the varying and combined effects of several social statuses (race/ethnicity, sex, gender or gender role, age, social class and sexual orientation) as interactions negative for women, in that women experience "dual," "triple" or "multiple" oppressions, and in ways that the majority of American males characteristically do not These multiple oppressions are typically described in the literature as the experience of "interstructured oppression," and they entail the combined effects of "race, gender and class," or more recently, "race, gender, class and sexual orientation." These effects, it is important to note, are interactive, not additive. Thus even though the idiom of "dual," "triple" and "multiple" oppressions suggests a sequence of injustices, it must be remembered that these oppressions are analytically distinct only, and that at the existential level, they are combined in impact. (Again, cf. Robb "482" and Legge "487".)

A final note. As one might expect, the literatures on sexual harassment and violence against women could also be included here. These literatures are, however, reserved for Chapter 22.


A. Definitions of Feminist Ethics

"467" Andolsen, Barbara Hilkert. "Agape in Feminist Ethics." Journal of Religious Ethics 9 (1981): 69-83.

In this essay Andolsen describes two "groundings" of agape as an expression of Christian love. The first is its grounding in Christology such that agape becomes total self-sacrifice on behalf of the

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