Thea Hassan’s “An Ethic of Care Critique” Response
In Thea Hassan’s “An Ethic of Care Critique” Hassan aims to show how Nel Nodding’s proposed “An Ethic of Caring”, while it is beneficial to most general ethic guidelines, is not an appropriate ethical theory for feminism. In her article, Hassan claims that Nel Nodding’s example of ethics of care encourages traditional gender roles of women, ignores other important virtues besides care, and inhibits a person from becoming autonomous, a term defined as “state of existing or acting separately from others. With feminisms goal of equality; aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women, to be on the same playing field, if you will, with men, Hassan has a strong argument to show how Nodding’s proposed ethics is inadequate for feminism. A huge factor in the feminist movement is the idea of equal roles.
Hassan claims that care ethics actually reinforces the ideas of those traditional roles of women as the homemakers and caretakers. Hassan states that reinforcing such roles “the woman is caught in the role of a subservient person, caring for others but not herself”, giving them an obligation to care while forgetting one’s own needs. This prevents women from being equal with men, by making them more dependent of men as their provider, a role that is huge and encouraged for women to take up in feminism. Hassan claims that ethics of care not only prevent women from following their own, independent, morals, but how it ignores other virtues besides care.
Three examples were used to make this point clear. The first was the wife who, in accordance with ethics of care, supported her K.K.K. husband. This act, which ethics of care would support, displaces the woman’s own values by supporting his, becoming evil herself. The other example was of a woman torn between her black friend and her racist family. According the ethics of care, the woman would have to side with her family, although it is wrong to treat another wrong because of the race. An equivalent example was if a woman’s husband is a homophobe and asks her to vote against same-sex marriage, under the theory of ethics of care, she is expected to do as he says in order to not break a caring relationship.
These examples show how care should not be the only virtue of importance. Hassan refers to Jean Keller, who suggests that care ethics is undermining to women’s autonomy, does support her argument that Nodding’s ethic of care is not suitable for feminism. Hassan explains how care actually interrupts autonomy by interrupting a woman’s development of being able to think on her own. This claim was much easier to prove. Nodding’s stated in her essay that one is expected to behave like the person they have experienced who cares the most. This completely prevents them from becoming their own person. Therefore, Nodding’s rejected the idea of autonomy. I have to say I do agree with Hassan.
Yes, the ethic of care can be improved by additions of virtues like justice, and the idea of autonomy, however, in its current state; it is indeed unfit for feminism. My reason behind this is mainly because I see feminism being incredibly strong towards the idea that women should be autonomous and independent. The traditional gender roles Nodding’s suggested is one of the reason the feminist movement began. I can see where one could say that some women want it that way, and this is true. Like it has been discussed many times, there is not “Golden Rule” in ethics, at least not one we have discovered. Every person has separate views from other people, and from a hedonist standpoint, if some people prefer the “old days” then they should be able to live that way if it makes them happy and doesn’t hurt another human’s well-being.
On terms of how it affects my thinking now, I must say I’m not entirely sure what to think of ethics of care anymore. When I first learned of it from our text book, I thought this was perhaps the greatest “theory” we have looked into to finding a universal code for morals, however, this paper opened my eyes to the little things, the flaws, of this approach toward females, and feminism. I am huge on the idea of equality, between men and woman. I believe that a woman role in a marriage is to support her husband, however I believe the same should be expected from the man in the relationship. I don’t see our world in its present moral code as a list of do’s and don’ts to come to a solution now. We live in the world of compromise; I can see that way more clearly now after seeing Hassan’s harsh support for her claims to preventing a woman’s autonomy.