Gender and Debate II

Natalie's Debate nkhwdebate
Thu Apr 13 15:42:10 CDT 2000

Though this was directed to Serena, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on

Serena Wrote:
> >I agree with Rachel and Hester, but I would like to add one more thing
> >the historical context behind Kant's argument.  Kant's categorical
> >rests on the idea that rational beings should never be used as a means to
> >end.  What, then, is a rational being?  Philosophy has historically
>created a
> >dichotomy between the rational/irrational (i.e. male/female).  Just look
> >Aristotole's claim that womyn were only half humyn because the were
> >or incomplete men to Rousseau's ideas that womyn should be relegated to
> >private sphere because of the rational/irrational, cognitivite/emotional
> >distinction.

>Sarah wrote:
>WHAT??  Every time a philosopher makes a distinction between rational and
>irrational they're referring to men and women??  I don't think so.  So when
>Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first feminist writers, wrote that men are
>being irrational for assuming women are intellectually inferior, she was
>creating a dichotomy saying MEN are rational and WOMEN are irrational?  IN
>fact she doesn't draw a dichotomy at all about irrationality, she says both
>are being irrational.  You may not have actually meant that, but that's
>sure how it sounds when  you say "between the rational/irrational (i.e.

I think there is a difference in saying "thats an irrational idea" and
essentializing an aspect of a group identity as "irrational."  Historically,
womyn were portrayed as emotional, or irrational and men as logical, or
rational. The argument that some folks make is that guess what,
irrationality is portrayed as a bad thing while rationality is the ideal.
This means that emotions or traditionally "feminized" intellect is demeaned
as not really intellect but just as "over-reacting."  Now, you can argue
that Kant might not have intended this or might not have felt this way, but
it is not only his intent, its how that philosophy functions in the creation
of a moral ideal.  If it upholds the current focus on "rationality" as the
ideal and excludes "non-traditional" forms of intellect such emotions and
narratives, then I think there are some pretty good arguments as to why
thats a bad system.

And because Aristotle was sexist suddenly means that we must
>not use any of his ideas?  We can't still use his reasoning of the need to
>be self-ruled to support democracy?  Or that we can't study his concepts of
>cause and effect?  Or his other scientific theories?  Clearly one flaw in a
>person's theories should not discredit their arguments as a whole.

Sure, study away.  You assume that being sexist is just one aspect of an
identity or philisophical grounding that is separate from the rest of the
self or of the theories.  Sexism can permeate idea and we can always use
theories, etc to support our political causes.  Its also not just as if
Aristotle was "sexist" Aristotle probably wouldn't have supported womyn
debating or doing much of anything more then staying in the home; these are
the ideas that flow through his discussion of ethics.  Its interesting that
you mention the concept of being self-ruled; if you'll remember, Aristotle
argues that MEN should be self ruled and form governments with MEN.  This is
not utilizing man as the generic for all humans, aristotle specifically
references womyn later to talk about their ideal roles and surprise!  its
not in the government or out givng speeches.

>Even as recently as Freud, the notion that womyn are
> >incomplete men because they lack a penis perpetuated the idea that womyn
> >not rational beings.
> >
>yeah, and Freud was very high on drugs and most people discount what he
>personally had to say, nonetheless he did essentially create the study of
>psychology.  People EXPANDED upon what he said and thought to begin to
>study the human psyche, similarly we can take what kant or any given
>philosopher says and expand upon it.  Secondly, granted I'm not the most
>knowledged on Freud, but I  don't think he equates lack of penis =
If the foundation's cracked, wouldn't you want to find the holes and attempt
to repair them before building a huge house upon it?  Frued does argue that
"penis envy" causes womyn to act in the "hysterical" ways they do, to
imagine sexual abuse, and things of that nature.  You argue that psychology
moved beyond that but even years after frued, womyn were told that they had
no ailment but were merely "hysterical."

> >That being said, if Kant's philosphy is grounded on the idea that only
> >rational beings should be treated as an end in and of themselves, this
> >excludes females because of Kant's notion that womyn are irrational.  My
> >argument against Kant is a) the language is gendered, but b) so is the
> >categorical imperative.
> >
>INTERNAL LINK??  Somwhere?  HOW do you get from Kant is sexist to the
>Categorigal Imperative is sexist?

That's above

To say that we must be able to
>universalize anything we do, please tell me how that concept is inherently
>sexist?  You have failed to answer the argument in a previous post that it
>doesn't compete, Kant may have excluded women, but we can interpret his
>ideas to include women; we can expand upon his ideas.  this happens all of
>the time.

This is all above, but your argument sounds suspiciously like "add womyn and
stir"(thanks julia and damien).  It still fosters the idea that "man" is the
norm and that "womyn" can just be added and included under that moniker.
This will still exclude thought other then strictly logical.  Kant presents
a maxim or rule, the "moral" person logically applies this rule to every
situation without regard for their feelings or the feelings of someone
else's.  Note*I am not saying that womyn=emotional, men=logical.  I am
saying that the traditionally masculinist form of thought focuses on the
logical & individualized while the traditionally feminine focuses on things
like narratives, emotion, group decisions, compassion. Some womyn are
immensely logical, some men are intensely emotive, however, the constant
devaluing of feminine roles combined with the social tendancy towards
gender/sex conflation foster the current hierarchy of sex.
Do I think we should throw out years and years of thought?  not really.
however, do we need to question the systems that helped formed those
philosophies and ideas?  yes.  do we need to look to the gendered
implication of enacting those philosophies?  yes.

mtsu debate

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