Different Voices—Women’s Self and Morality

Gilligan is arguing against the common perception that women are morally inferior. Instead she proposes two trajectories for moral development, the typical ‘justice’ track and the ‘care’ track which many women identify with. She presents us with a process of development that has three levels and two stages in each. She argues that you must give equal voice recognition to the “different” voice, the voice of care.

First Gilligan assumes that it is a moral (involving right and wrong) decision of whether or not to abort a child. Second, she makes the assumption that children have a stage of life characterized by innocence, being carefree and selfish. This concept of a childhood of innocence is actually only in recent years and predominantly in the United States.

My first main critique is that while Gilligan explores morality in decision making that the study seemed heavily skewed to religious women. I personally understand a religious woman’s perspective in making such a decision (as to whether or not she should have an abortion) but I do not understand as much the perspective of one who has not been raised with religious beliefs that condemn this action as a sin. I wonder how this would, as a variable, alter the findings of the study. It would have been nice to have a control group and to have singled out religion as a variable in the participants.

Next, I feel like this study was odd because, as discussed in class, it was female only and inherent to its design cannot be reproduced using male subjects. This means that we have no valid means by which to compare the male’s decision making process against the voice of care. In her book “Moral Orientation and Moral Development” she notes that one third of the men studied switched back and forth between the justice and care tracks, but the study she specifically devised and of which we read will never allow us to measure relativity. So, while I agree with the concept of the care track, and that many women gravitate to this track over that of justice, I cannot help but miss the opportunity to ‘globalize’ the findings in the context of both men and women. I believe it would also be interesting to add gay men to the study as well.

Finally, I would have been interested to see how she evaluated women in situation involving justice versus care. We discussed in class the social problem presented to the young boy and girl, of the woman who required medicine for her illness that her and her husband could not afford and whether or not he should steal it. I imagine my critique is a bit unfair because I’m certain she does explore this in her book.

In summary, I have to say I enjoyed reading her essay because it was an accessible reading style, she interspersed anecdotal evidence in the form of quotes from participants in the study. I also agree with her concept that there is a different track other than just that of the ‘justice’ as defined by Kohlberg (which is framed in the male perspective). I just wish that there was a way that the ‘women’s track’ didn’t appear less evolved merely by the means of having fewer stages in the development process (Kohlberg has six, Gilligan has three).