Social Ethics: Sociology and the Future of Society

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Michael R. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
THE POSITION OF WOMEN AS
INFLUENCING ETHICS

IF ETHICS is as simple a science as here stated; if we, as social creatures, tend to develop a natural instinct for the ethics necessary to our best growth, as do other social creatures; and if, again, we have an unquestioned supremacy in intelligence and in will power; it seems remarkable indeed that our behavior is so blindly evil.

To understand it we need to bear in mind that our superior intelligence has never been turned upon ethics as a science, and has been, on the contrary, definitely employed in maintaining most unethical ideas and habits.

Moreover, in the steadily increasing complexity of our social life, we have a conflicting pressure of influences, with results spreading far beyond our perception.

The reason that an early social group lives up to what ethical standards it has is not due merely to their simplicity, or the ease of fulfillment; but to the fact that no other influences are at work in the tribal activities to offset and contradict them.

The only broad differences in ethics in savage life is between men’s conduct and women’s; these are enforced to this day by deep-seated hereditary instincts that what is right for the one must be wrong for the other. This we show plainly by urging different conduct upon little boys and little girls.

The relation of a child of either sex to the family or to the community is precisely the same. There can be no sex ethics at that age. Yet we,

-67-

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