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Justice, gender norms and state neutrality

Wed
11
Dec
Time Wednesday 11 December, 2019 at 13:15 - 15:00
Place HD108

The Research Seminar Series in Philosophy invites you to a open lecture with Anca Gheaus, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, who will give a lecture with the title "Justice, gender norms and state neutrality".

Abstract

Women (still) specialise in domestic care-giving, which undermines their competitiveness on the labour market, and are over-represented in caring professions which tend to be under-paid and have little status and power. Men (still) specialise in breadwinning, and tend to be over-represented in positions of economic and social advantage. In other words, the division of labour is (still) gendered, both within the family and within society at large, and the pay-offs attached to “feminine” roles – in terms of money, status and power – are generally disadvantageous. Feminists have long identified the gendered division of labour as a cornerstone of gender injustice. This is partly because of the ways in which the gendered division of labour is bad for women. But essential to feminists’ complaint is also the fact that gender norms provide people with incentives to take on different social and economic roles, according to their sex; even if gender roles were equally rewarded, the function of gender norms in preference-formation would remain problematic. For many decades now, feminists have sought to dismantle the gendered division of labour and advocated various policies meant to achieve this goal. And yet, there is an ongoing, unresolved debate about the kinds of justification that can support such state policies. Liberal states are supposed to refrain from justifying their policies by appeal to controversial (even if reasonable) conceptions of how individuals should lead their private lives; call this “the neutrality constraint”. Gender norms in general, and norms mandating a gendered division of labour in particular, are part of conceptions of the good life held by numerous individuals. Some claim that, to the extent to which individuals endorse gender norms, unequal outcomes between women and men are not unjust. Faced with this challenge, feminists can appeal to several reasons why even endorsed gender norms are objectionable at the bar of justice: First, because gender norms undermine women’s fair equality of opportunity. Second, because they undermine women’s exercise of citizenship. And third, because they require women to bear the costs of having been socialised, without their consent, into gender norms. In this talk, I formulate a version of each of these arguments that respects the neutrality constraint. I defend the following conclusion: Political liberals may be right that states ought not to try and dissuade adults from leading lives that are informed by gender norms. Yet, they must acknowledge two aims of justice concerning gender norms. The first aim is forward-looking and requires that children be protected from undue influence in the formation of their ambitions and values; in particular, children have a right to be free from adults’ attempts to foist gender norms on them. The second aim is backward-looking and requires that individuals who have been wronged by a failure to implement the first aim are owed reparation; in particular, policies which offset the disadvantage that certain women (or men) incur as a result of gender norms are legitimate even if the women (or men) in question have internalised, and thereby endorse, gender norms.

All interested are welcome to this lecture.

Seminar

Anca Gheaus, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Contact
Pär Sundström
Read about Pär Sundström