Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An exericse in gender and family justice

Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber outlines a most ingenious exercise designed to help students appreciate the relevance of family life and the division of labor for questions about justice between the genders. I'd be curious to know if anyone out there has done something similar and what your experiences were.


  1. Hi, Michael. Thanks for the post. This reminds me of our discussion a few months ago regarding teaching feminist and race theory. I have done similar exercises in classes in order to attempt to uncover the underlying patterns of social thought that go unnoticed in our social institutions. What I find most fascinating about such exercises is the reluctance of many who encounter such patterns for the first time to accept that such patterns actually exist. The women in my classes invariably see the problems of gender, and the minority race students invariably see the problems of race, but there seems to be genuine difficulty for non-representative students (those not usually on the receiving end of oppression and marginalization) to accept that some sense of injustice is correctly being invoked when applied to social realities such as the division of labor within the family. Consider this line from the Crooked Timber post, "When I present the answers to 5 most of the girls seem convinced that the gendered division of labour might possibly be an issue for their generation and, possibly, for them." I wonder what the men in the group think? That would be interesting to know. My suspicion is that fewer of them acknowledge such a issue. I am fascinated by this phenomenon, and I have been scrutinized for it, but I still think that such a phenomenon of dismissal is more likely proof to the point rather than an indication of faulty ideology.

  2. Speaking of justice within the family seems wrong-headed. Justice is properly invoked when dealing with those who are not one's friends. If you need to think about justice within the family, that's already an indication that there are serious problems.


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