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Hypatia 17.4 (2002) 233-235

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Book Review

On Feminist Ethics & Politics

On Feminist Ethics & Politics. Edited by Claudia Card. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

Claudia Card situates feminist ethics and politics in what she calls, following Primo Levi, gray zones. The gray zone that interests Card is the moral ambiguity that accompanies actions, moral judgments, and theorizing under the twin conditions of privilege and oppression, and to a greater or lesser extent all the essays in this anthology have this particular gray zone as their backdrop. The book is divided into four sections: moral character, the ethics of feminist politics, harm and violence, and love and respect.

The first section focuses on moral character in a political context. Sandra Lee Bartky analyzes moral guilt under conditions of privilege. She argues that moral guilt is appropriate for the privileged whether or not they are responsible for or aware of the social arrangements that provide their relative privilege. Marcia Homiak argues that even in gray zones, moral change is possible. She understands changing one's moral character in Aristotelean terms as involving two capacities—the capacity for enjoying one's complex abilities and the capacity for friendship. Still, under the economic and political arrangements of the United States, moral change is slow and difficult. Cheshire Calhoun offers an insightful account of the two moral ideals that often conflict under conditions of oppression and privilege. The first is the ideal of getting it right—making and acting on choices that we can justify as the morally correct ones. The second is the ideal of participation in a shared scheme of social cooperation.

Three of the essays in part two focus on the challenges and opportunities of diversity within feminist circles. Iris Marion Young defends a model of deliberative democracy with inclusion as a necessary condition. She notes that this condition was strikingly absent from debate about welfare reform in the United States. Poor single mothers were seen as the object of the debate, as a problem to be solved rather than as participants in the debate. Amber Katherine embraces the spirit of Audre Lorde's criticism of Mary Daly—that a Eurocentric view excludes and disparages non-European women—while arguing that a rereading of Daly gives us a way to listen more deeply to all the voices of women. Jacqueline Anderson describes the danger of divide and conquer tactics, especially as these tactics impact lesbians and women of color. She endorses Joyce Treblicott's dyke methods as a counter strategy. Anna Stubblefield addresses another concern when she looks at the debate between assimilationism and cultural pluralism. She argues that a fuller account of gender as found in German feminist Frigga Haug will show that the distinction itself is no longer viable. [End Page 233]

Part three includes two accounts of violence and two discussions of harmful speech. Robin May Schott discusses rape during wartime and argues that a full analysis of it must include an account of embodiedness, a description of how a widespread breakdown in taboos against rape occurs during wartime, and finally, a diagnosis of the evil involved in the breakdown. She concludes by suggesting that this example is instructive for ethical theory, which, in her view, ought to be nonhegemonic, multi-disciplinary, and aware of the inevitable particularity of vision. Susan Brison offers a first- person narrative of a particularly brutal rape and argues that such narratives are essential in coming to understand and recover from the trauma and victimization of such attacks. Lynne Tirrell and Joan Callahan offer cogent analyses of the wrongness of some speech, and both focus on the social and political context for such speech in understanding its wrongness. Tirrell focuses on the subordinate role of women that is reinforced by pornography while Callahan describes the violence that is legitimized by homophobic speech.

Part four includes an interesting collection of essays on a variety of topics, but each essay sheds light on some of the most fundamental issues in feminist ethics. Chris Cuomo asks whether justice and joy are compatible in feminist ethics and argues that although feminist...


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pp. 233-235
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Archived 2009
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