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Twentieth-Century Philosophies Feminist


Contemporary feminist philosophers have also enriched and arguably transformed the field of ethics. Through their attention to the concerns of women, feminist philosophers have introduced new issues to feminist ethics and social theory, such as affirmative action, sexual harassment, and comparable worth, and have brought new insights to more traditional issues, for example, discussions of abortion, and the institutions of marriage, sexuality, and love.

Some feminists who work in the field of ethics have argued that traditional ethical theories are inadequate in that they ignore the experiences and perspectives of women by over-stressing rights or duties and neglecting issues of care and relationships. Virginia Held argues for an enriched moral theory that is based not on the ideal of the "autonomous man" but rather on the ideal of the "relational woman." Others, such as Sara Ruddick, have argued that traditional Western ethical theories have trivialized those virtues historically associated with women and in so doing have neglected the fact that the typical moral situation is not between two completely autonomous and equal individuals, but rather, more like the relationship between parent and child: that is, between individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. Ruddick claims that maternal practices, with their aims of preservation, growth, and acceptability of children, provide a particularly rich alternative to the "contract model" of liberal social theory.

Feminist philosophers have also argued that attention to gender cannot be done in isolation from other axes of oppression, such as sexuality, race, ability, or class. The work of feminist philosophers such as Linda Martín Alcoff, Claudia Card, Nancy Fraser, Marilyn Frye, Sarah Lucia Hoagland, Eva Kittay, María Lugones, Anita Silvers, Elizabeth Spelman, Iris Marion Young, and Naomi Zack reveal the importance of analyses that identify the structure and consequences of the interaction between different forms of discrimination or subordination.

While ethics and political theory have been a focal point of contemporary feminist philosophers, feminist philosophical work has included all the core areas of philosophy and has made use of all the philosophical traditions. The "difference" of feminist philosophy does not have to do with philosophical traditions or themes—indeed, feminist philosophers work in all the traditions of philosophy including analytic, Continental, and classical American philosophy, and their thematic focus is often influenced by the topics and questions highlighted by these traditions.

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