WRITING YOUR OWN PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE

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Are women's values different from men's values?

 This section is based in large part on a book by Carol Gilligan (1982), who as a research assistant with Lawrence Kohlberg became aware that women responded differently than men to moral dilemmas. She decided to study these differences more closely rather than disregarding women's views because they don't fit the theory, as some theorists (including Kohlberg) have done, or instead of assuming that women are morally inferior, as some males (including Freud) have done. The moral differences between the sexes are real and important but not clearly understood by most people. For example, using Kohlberg's 6-point moral development scale, women frequently score low, often at stage 3 (where there is an emphasis on interpersonal relationships and helping or pleasing others). Yet, women ordinarily consider themselves just as moral as men if not more so. Let's see if we can clarify our own values by understanding exactly how women's values differ from men's.

 According to Kohlberg, the childhood concern of males for "pleasing others" gives way in stage 4 to "living by the rules," in stage 5 a few people "build a better world" and in stage 6 even fewer live by "universal principles of justice." According to Gilligan, females often remain concerned with relationships, progressing as they grow older from pleasing others for personal gain to building close, intimate, selfless, giving relationships in which they do good for others (and get pleasure from doing so). Thus, many women adopt the basic moral principles of the Golden Rule and act on those principles by giving to people in need (which Kohlberg assumes only a few middle-aged men do in stage 6). In short, women's morals seem to develop differently, even though they may end up doing the same things as highly moral men. What are these developmental differences?

 Men become much more involved than women in intellectually figuring out what is fair and what are individual rights, such as in making rules (in religion and the family) and laws (in politics). For men, differences of opinion ought to be worked out via logical arguments and courts of law; for women, differences should be worked out by talking to each other, considering each other's viewpoints, and understanding each other's needs. Men are more concerned with becoming independent, "being their own man," being free to do their own thing, and being as successful as they can be. Women tend to be more concerned with fulfilling their responsibilities to others than with assuring their own rights, more involved with building caring relationships than "breaking away" to make their own way, more into helping others than getting ahead themselves. Thus, one can see why women could become concerned that men's vigilant defense of individual rights and "freedom" might undermine our sense of responsibility for others and lead to indifference to others in need.

Men and women: 90% use both care and justice values; however, 65% focus on one value more than the other, as follows:

Men: 93% have a justice focus; 7% have a care focus; 0% have justice absent; 38% have care absent (62% have some care).

Women: 62% have a care focus; 38% have a justice focus; 23% have justice absent; 8% have care absent (92% have some care).

One conclusion: if all our values are to be accurately represented in Congress and the legislatures, half of our representatives should be women. We need their emphasis on caring.

 Gilligan illustrates how males and females see the world differently, starting at an early age. Consider the moral dilemma mentioned above of the dying patient and the profit-making druggist. She quotes an 11-year-old male, Jake, who reasons that life is more important than profit, so the husband should steal the medicine. However, an 11-year-old female, Amy, sees the problem as the druggist's lack of sensitivity to the dying patient's needs. She doesn't reason, as Jake does, in terms of the businessman's rights or the husband's moral obligation to steal. Amy simply concludes that the husband shouldn't steal "because it's not right" and the wife shouldn't die either, so all three people will have to talk it over and reach an understanding. Jake and Amy obviously think about the dilemma differently. Unfortunately, the male moral development theorists, like Kohlberg, would probably consider Amy's answer inferior to Jake's. Indeed, she almost sidesteps the examiner's question: "Should he steal the drug?" To her, that isn't the issue. Instead, she concentrates on finding better ways via relationships, not power, to get the drug. Gilligan, a female moral development theorist, considers both Jake's and Amy's views valuable. Jake relies on individual action (stealing) to avoid a personal confrontation. He sees the situation as an impersonal conflict of individual rights rather than a conflict of personal needs. Jake uses logic (life above profit) and the law (the judge will understand) to decide who is right. Amy is less concerned than Jake with who is most right but seeks a practical solution that will hurt no one very much. Her solution depends on people relating and caring for each other.

 Keep in mind that boys must gain their masculine identification by separating from mother, while girls attach and take on the characteristics of mother. Thus, for this reason and others, males may tend to see danger in connecting with others--in getting too close or too dependent on someone or in confronting someone. Doing battle in court is more a man's style. Females may see danger in disconnecting with others--in loneliness or successful advancement or rejection. Intimacy is scary to males but a source of security to females. Autonomy is scary to females but a source of pride to males. To males, human relationships are seen as a hierarchy based on power and status; they want to climb to the top and feel afraid if others get too close to them (the sociobiologists point out the similarity of this view to the male struggle for sexual dominance in many species). Most men do not have an intimate relationship with a male nor an intimate non-sexual relationship with a female; achievement takes priority over intimacy until mid-life when suddenly males realize what they have been missing. Males identify themselves and their success by their accomplishments; females identify themselves by their relationships. To females, relationships are (or can be) more like a network of safety and care among equals; they want to be in the center of the network and fear getting too far out on the edge (like being caught outside the camp in hostile territory). Women recognize more openly their interdependence on others and see the powerful person as being able and willing to help and nurture others. Men see power as the ability to control others. To males "being responsible" in a relationship means not doing what you want to do out of consideration of others. To females "being responsible" means doing what others are counting on you to do, regardless of what you want to do. There is a difference.

 Surely the male concern with individual rights and the female concern with caring for others are both important. Each sex has important contributions to make to moral reasoning, certainly neither sex has a monopoly on morals. The concept of rights is based on the notion of fairness and equal opportunities. This kind of justice is vital. The concept of responsibility for helping others is based on a compassionate understanding of human needs. Loving one another is also vital. Perhaps a combination of (1) respecting everyone's rights (including one's own), (2) personal integrity (being true to one's beliefs), and (3) assuming responsibility for helping others may define moral maturity for all of us--men and women. Justice tells us that everyone should be treated the same; personal caring tells us to do more than just not hurt anyone--we must help everyone who needs it. Women, giving us a different moral perspective from males, can help all of us be more caring, more responsible, and less aggressive. Thus, we all need to "learn to think like a woman" as well as like a man (see straight thinking in chapter 14). Think of the changes that might occur if world leaders were committed to justice and to responsible caring, rather than just to defending our rights and possessions with weapons.


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