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Feminist Ethics: History and Concepts


Feminist ethics describe approaches of various feminists towards ethics. Feminist ethics dates back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and amongst its pioneers include feminists such as Mill, Beecher, Stanton, Gilman, and Wollstonecraft. Their aim was to correct male biases towards women subordination as characterized by conventional ethics. According to traditional ethics, men regarded as being more superior to women. Widerker argues that feminist ethics started due to feminists’ knowledge that women should be treated the same way as men do. That is, women should not be subordinated and their morals should be respected just like those of their male counterparts (Widerker, p. 5).

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Feminist ethics were established to address the issues or factors that lead to women’s subordination. In addition, feminist ethics were also aimed at upholding practices that would help to reduce women subordination. The other goal of feminist ethics was to predict morally acceptable ways or practices that can liberate women from subordination. However, feminists should look forward to raising the standards of women along with those of children and other vulnerable groups. This is because traditional ethics neglected them and placed more emphasis on men’s moral values. On the other hand, feminist ethics seem to be gender -sensitive and hence some people criticize them as being biased. The essay shall examine the various forms of feminism such as equity, classical, difference and radical, and describe how they view the issue of women in professions such as the military and law enforcement.

Classical feminism

Classical feminism is a phase that had great impact on the freedom of women. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, classical feminism was the way women fought to attain equality and freedom. In the west, most issues concerning equity were solved through classical feminism (Widerker, p. 7). During this time, classical feminism involved two schools of thoughts; egalitarian feminism, and conservative feminism (Williams & Tong para. 3). Conservative feminism regarded women as homemakers and child bearers and therefore only strengthened traditional roles. On the other hand, egalitarian feminism was aimed at liberating women through universal rights that would protect them (Baehr para. 3). Additionally, women were considered to be important people just like men.

Historically, egalitarian feminism was founded by Mary Wollstonecraft who was a free thinker and lived between 1759 and 1797. She urged that all rational beings’ morals should be treated with respect and equally. Therefore, according to her, women should be treated with the same measure of respect and dignity as that accorded to men (Williams & Tong para. 4).

Difference feminism

This is a type of feminism that opposes the equality feminism because it argues that men and women are different. This difference is due to women’s emotional and biological diversity, such as child birth. Therefore, due to these differences, women should be treated differently from men in some professions (Baehr para. 3). For example after child birth, they have to take a leave and hence their positions are left vacant or filled by a different person.

Equity feminism

Equity feminists argue that the state should have laws that do not oppress women. The law should give women liberty to do what they are capable of doing. Equity feminism tries to promote laws that grant women privileges (Baehr para. 3). Therefore, according to equity feminists, any law that hinders women from becoming what or whom they are capable of in the career ladder is considered oppressive (Williams & Tong para. 6). However, sometimes women may personally choose to be behind men and this cannot be considered as oppression. Women also have liberty to be caretakers as well as develop their careers.

Radical feminism

Radical feminism aims was to get to the root cause of oppression of women in the society. Radical feminists opposed the patriarchal system because it gave privileges to men and oppressed women even though they should both be treated equally (Baehr para. 5). Therefore, radical feminists aim at getting those traditional or cultural factors that lead to men dominance over women (Williams & Tong para. 5). They advocate for women’s freedom on reproduction as well as dismantling gender roles that have thus far been upheld by the society. Other women issues that were addressed include equal pay and access to credit.

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Views of each type of feminism to the issue of women joining military or enhancing law

  1. Equity feminism: According to the equity feminism, women have liberty to do what they are capable of doing. Therefore, they can join military or Other law enhancing force in the society (Baehr para. 6).
  2. Difference feminism: Different feminists argue that women and men are different. Therefore, some sensitive professionals cannot be left entirely in the hands of women. Women cannot join or perform well in the military or law.
  3. Classical feminism: Wollstonecraft argues that women are rational beings and therefore their morals should be treated with respect. Women and men should be treated equally (Williams & Tong para. 5). Therefore, if men can join the military or become law administrators, the same case is also applicable to women.
  4. Radical feminism: Women were traditionally oppressed while men given privileges. Radical feminists fight for women’s freedom on various issues. If women are given freedom, they can join the army or become administrators (Baehr para. 6).


Women should be given freedom and also they should have liberty to own property or join any profession. The government should enhance laws that do not hinder women from anything and they should be treated equally with men. Society should respect women morals and they should also be regarded as important as men. Classical feminism was highly regarded and this enabled it to achieve the goal of ensuring political equality. The question of gender balance and fighting for women rights has gained recognition on various matters including politics, corporate economy and family, each of which should be assessed and criticized according to its merits and demerits. Feminism movement is currently linked to radical male bashing group of women who consider themselves more elite women. They hence demand more than what other women would consider acceptable and sensible. This is the reason why most women do not regard themselves ardent feminists.

Works Cited

Baehr, Amy. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Liberal Feminism. 2007.

Widerker, David. Feminist ethics, 1987. Web.

Williams, Nancy and Tong, Rosemary. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Feminist Ethics. 1998.

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