Philosophy and Feminism: final exam

Prepared for Professor Marvin Glass' course 32.236. Written by: critical (on #1a) A fetus which forms within a woman's womb is not necessarily something which we should consider a human being merely because it is alive and it emanates from a human woman. We would not want to consider a severely deformed and mentally retarded fetus to be a human being merely because it has the two above qualities. Something which is a human being requires something much more, than merely the combination of two related qualities like living and comes from a human woman. One cannot merely add the two highlighted vectors, as if they were

vectors of force in physics, and come up with the result -- human being. The human fetus in the woman's womb is a human fetus and it is alive this method attempts to play a game of terminology which is philosophically bankrupt. The

human fetus is merely a living human fetus not a human being. That which is a human being requires many more distinct criteria to achieve certainty that it is indeed a human being, such as a capacity to reason. #1b) If this argument defines rape or an abnormal child as its criteria as "something equally serious" to the threat of the mother's life then it has some

major philosophical drawbacks. It does not seem likely that the argument could be referring to anything else other than rape or abnormality of the child so I will take this as given. The important question to ask at this point is exactly why rape and abnormality are as important as the life of the mother. The fact of conception through rape has no moral impact on the child, true it would cause a great deal of discomfort to the mother but nothing as morally justifiable as death in childbirth. Abnormality of the child seems even less morally justifiable to abort a fetus as rape. This leaves us with the question of implication that this argument will have on our lives. This argument taken to its reasonable conclusions could result in

justifying race purification. The conclusion is not one we find morally acceptable and therefore this argument must be seen as morally unjustifiable. Why is it justifiable for the woman's right to life to supersede the fetus's right to life? If we must accept that the fetus may be human the method of adjudicating a situation where the mother's risk of death morally outweighs the fetus's right to life is not justified. It would seem just as reasonable to accept that the woman should forfeit her life because the fetus's right to life outweighs the woman's right to life. The argument says nothing as to why it favours the woman's right to life in this situation and without justification we cannot merely automatically agree with the argument. The argument is of little use in the

abortion debate as it provides no method of adjudicating between the right to life of the woman and that of the fetus. Some women (or men) might want to deny the argument that we cannot be certain that the fetus is not human, as this is a premise that requires more justification than given by the argument.

#1c) I favour the position of a limited decriminalization of prostitution. Limited decriminalization would be an elimination of laws that prohibit prostitutes from soliciting, while instituting laws that penalize the pimps who live of the avails of prostitutes. Anti-solicitation laws are counter-productive as a means of controlling prostitution since a prostitute who is fined for soliciting will without a doubt have to 'turn a trick' just to pay the fine and then she will need to 'turn a trick' again to feed herself. In this way laws that prohibit soliciting by means of a fine merely encourage soliciting once the prostitute is released. Solicitation laws also have the effect of forcing prostitutes to work in 'underground' leaving them more vulnerable to pimps and abusive 'johns'. Fining or incarcerating the 'johns' or customers of prostitutes would merely place an initial hardship on prostitutes while encouraging pimps to become the

middle-men between johns and prostitutes -- it would not eliminate prostitution itself. Fining or incarcerating the pimps would hopefully have the effect of

lessening the abusive situations women as prostitutes must undergo. Unfortunately this position of making pimping or 'living of the avails' illegal appears an unpopular one among prostitutes as it makes finding a husband or partner difficult or it causes unnecessary hardship to the loved ones of prostitutes. However, it does not seem possible to protect prostitutes from pimps in any other way. The purveyor of a position against decriminalizing prostitution would have to deal with many unjustifiably hazards it places prostitutes in and an equally unjustifiably difficult lifestyle for prostitutes. To be against decriminalization is to say that punishing women and women alone in the market place of prostitution is justifiable. To penalize the 'johns' alone would as mentioned above have the

effect of worsening an already hazardous situation for prostitutes by forcing them to become more dependent on pimps. Anti-decriminalization tells prostitutes as women that they cannot expect society to protect them as human beings. Keeping prostitution in its current status as illegal serves no purpose, not even the long fabled purpose of prevention. The conditions of our society allow for the existence of prostitution because of the ghettoization of women. In a society where there is 100 percent employment and equal opportunity for both men and

women prostitution might become extinct, women would no longer have the need to enter this profession as a means for sustenance. Without the conditions of

Utopian society described above some women will always find the need to become prostitutes just to survive. Making the activity of prostitution illegal will not remedy the situation, as we have seen within our own society it merely pushes the prostitute and her business underground. On the other hand, fully decriminalizing prostitution would be

societies tacit approval that women should prostitute themselves while making the state her pimp (assuming taxation and licensing as part of full decriminalization). The position that I have proposed (limited decriminalization) looks upon prostitution as a necessary evil that we cannot eliminate through legislation, nor should we condone it as practice that women should want to participate in or that the state should profit from. Women in an ideal society might even want to

become prostitutes but given the societal inequalities of our current society we cannot say that a woman truly freely chooses to become a prostitute. Given the fact that women are ghettoized into low income low satisfaction jobs there will always be a certain percentage who choose prostitution as a means that is preferable to filling matchboxes. Certain radical feminist approaches that were discussed in class like

eliminating the demand for prostitutes by penalizing the john and the pimp alone are I believe impractical. The result of such a radical approach would be to merely either send prostitution underground or completely eliminate the business of the prostitute. In a way the latter possibility appears very beneficial but the results would merely force prostitutes to either find employment that they may find just as degrading or cause them to seek out a man to marry -- possibly just prostituting herself for life to her husband. The former result, that of sending prostitution

underground, is committing the prostitute to a hazardous lifestyle not liberating her from her conditions. If on the other hand the radical approach took place in a society were women are equals to men then the results would not be especially damaging to women. #1d) Although professors at universities should have freedom to speak their minds women should also have the freedom to the absence of sexual harassment. The University of New Brunswich does not appear to have a tension between these two freedoms in this case since Martin Yaqzan is a mathematics professor. Professor Yaqzan should have the academic freedom to say what he believes with regards to mathematics but since his specialty is not in an Arts faculty he should not be given free rein in matters of social interaction. The Vice-President of

U.N.B should have no qualms about giving the professor a warning and then if his sexual harassment persists he should be suspended or fired. #2) The Burstyn anthology on censorship describes a position against censorship that is hard to refute. Feminists of the past who have allied themselves with

conservative groups to improve the conditions of women and society are bound to lose ultimate control of the reform that actually occurs. Examples of exactly how reforms can go contrary to feminist ideals is described by Burstyn in her introductory essay (pg 15). Burstyn makes a convincing analogy between the

modern issue of censorship and the historical issue of the repeal of Contagious Diseases Acts, the latter issue went very wrong for women because they lost control of its ultimate societal implementation and so also will the former issue -- the issue of censorship of pornography. The state and its institutions are not empty vessels that feminists or any other group may fill with their "content and meaning" (pg 15). The state is a structure based on

patriarchy which we can not merely reform from within, through the use of the state apparatus of legal proceedings for example, it is an organism that exists in and perpetrates the status quo. We cannot eliminate the beast of patriarchy,

which we personify in pornography, through the institutions of a patriarchal system

without losing fundamental control of the process and perhaps causing ourselves more harm than good. Censorship of pornography could very well cause more harm than good to women and feminism through a myriad of ways. An implementation of censorship of pornography would confer upon the state the power to dictate a single sexual norm upon our society as a whole. This sexual norm dictated by the state through

censorship of pornography may not necessarily be a violently pornographic norm but it would undoubtedly be a violently patriarchal norm. In the apparatus of

censorship the cure, the enforcement of patriarchal sexual norms, would undoubtedly be worse than the disease, the patriarchal pornography which offends our sensibilities. The enforcement of a single patriarchal norm of sexuality that would be the end result of a successful campaign to censor pornography would do more harm than good to the women of our society. Undoubtedly the sexual norm referred to above that would arise would be that of a male-centred, heterosexually. Undoubtedly the sexuality of the homosexual (lesbians and gays) would bear the brunt of this new sexual norm -- thus placing gays and lesbians in an even worse more persecutive environment than before mass censorship. Censorship, leading to an enforced sexual norm, could also drastically hamper the ability of women to seek

out their own perhaps distinct forms of sexual expression as a means of liberating themselves from present male-centred sexuality. To seek out state enforced

censorship of pornography would be to open Pandora's Box; Let's not create new constraining ideas of what women's behaviour should be, ideas that would rob us of our right to explore our desires on our own terms. We need to examine our feelings of lust, our desire for power, our objectification of others, how anger can be expressed within and through sexuality, our attraction to particular aspects of others' identities and images, and more, and not demand that our or others' fantasies conform to an abstract idea of politically correct sex (pg 54-50). We do not know what direction women's sexuality would take in a society in which she is equal to men, censorship of pornography could very well inhibit the growth of this sexuality rather than provide a safe area for it to grow uninhibited. The tool that some feminists propose will make our society a more comfortable place for women is the tool of censorship of pornography. The

Burstyn anthology rightly condemns this approach as an attack on the symptoms of inequality rather than a wholehearted attempt to eliminate the source of societal inequalities -- the entire patriarchal system itself. The fact that women are still second-class citizens in our society is not the result of pornography it is the result of a male-centred society. The fact that women are forced to work as prostitutes or pornographic models is not the result of pornography as a force in our society, it is the result of a male-centred society that does not allow for the equality of

treatment of women. Pay equity and universal daycare these are the things that have the power to provide equality for women, the power to eliminate violence against women, censorship of pornography will do none of these things. What

censorship of pornography will do is give us a false sense of security that something is being done, it will divert important financial resources from solutions that can rectify the inequality of women in our society (ie. pay equity, universal daycare, etc.). In summary there are two primary reasons that censorship of pornography is a bad idea: Censorship will confer on the state a control of our sexuality that places a single norm of sexuality as the only permissible form of sexuality. Censorship is a solution that attempts to fix relatively minor symptoms of our society without accessing the root causes of the inequality of women, in the process it diverts important societal resources toward a goal which is very unlikely to succeed in promoting feminist values. Susan Cole's book on pornography takes a decidedly more favourable position on censorship than the Burstyn anthology. Cole attempts to demonstrate that

pornography does very real harm to women, in and of itself, by citing statistics that link pornographic consumption with rape in the United States. According to her data the states with the highest rate of rape are also apparently the states

with the highest rate of pornographic material consumption (pg 46).


substantiate the link of causality claimed above Cole attempts to describe the message of pornography and how men internalize it. Pornography tells men that women are objects to be desired and used. Pornography tells men that women are "naturally lubricious and enjoy rape, he may not believe it. But if he is told again and again -- especially if the information comes from more than one source -- the chances of him believing it will be greatly increased" (pg 49). Cole continues her line of argument by debunking the libertarian view that freedom of speech should always overcome the powers of censorship that even "obnoxious" speech should be tolerated in a free and democratic society (pg 59). Women do not have an equal opportunity to free speech as men and the prevalence of pornography is cited as a proof of this condition of our society. Women have less access to money, training and resources than men and this is evidence that women are not equal to men in our society -- thus rendering our society undemocratic and un-free therefore the above freedom of speech argument does not apply. In a society where women have less freedom of speech than men, basically dictated by women's lesser material conditions, women should be protected from the unequal situation by state censorship of male-centred forms of expression like

pornography. The obvious result of Cole's line of argument is a program of state control over pornography in the form of laws and legislation that enable women to seek compensation from the pornographer that they can demonstrate took part in rendering them harm. I prefer the argument laid out in the Burstyn anthology against censorship of pornography. The Burstyn anthology argument has a weakness in not seeing or expressing the importance of the direct harm that pornography can cause to women. However, the anthology is correct in assessing censorship as more harmful than good to women's condition in our society. To give the state the ability to enforce a social norm of sexuality is truly an opening of Pandora's Box, the results of which would be cursed by feminists and lesbians for many generations to come. The anthology rightfully places the burden of women's condition in our society on the same root causes of society that also generate pornography -- this is the primary strength of its argument. To attack pornography itself without a clear understanding of the possible negative outcomes of censorship on women as described by the anthology is something Cole should have been at pains to express. In Cole's book little if any possibility of a miscarriage of feminist values are considered possible when using the state apparatus for control of pornography.

Cole describes a whole series of women-specific values that our legal system could embrace to deal well with the process of censorship of pornography, but she seems to have little idea of how thoroughly this process could be overcome by either conservative lobbies or the male-centred apparatus of the state itself -- ideas which are well described within the Burstyn anthology. To Cole it would seem the state legal system is an empty vessel to be filled with the ideologies and values of a specific interest group, namely feminism, but this is precisely what the Burstyn anthology says the state is not. My position is decidedly on the side of the anthology though I wish it were possible to find some common ground between this position and the pro-censorship position. I am convinced that the Burstyn's 'all-or-nothing' position is the most responsible one to take in this situation but I do sense a need to deal with the harms which derive directly from pornography itself -- perhaps this could be accomplished by tough restrictions on violent pornography with the fundamental hope that this will open up a decidedly smaller and less damaging Pandora's Box. For although pornography is a symptom of more root societal causes, it too is harming women in definite ways. The above not quite 'all-or-nothing' approach

might help deal with existing pornography-rooted problems while we await the solution promised by the anthology's 'broader social change' for elimination of the

root causes of gender inequality.

#3) The reason affirmative action is required in the present is because hiring is not based on ability. It would be impossible to merely go from our gender

inequalities of the past to a present that is bereft of gender discrimination. According to figures that have been much heard in the media and within our class women currently make approximately 69 cents to every dollar men make. Further it is estimated that it will take 400 years before women and men are making the same amount. This statistic alone should be evidence that gender-neutral hiring practices are not currently in place. Statistics of a varied nature indicate that women are far behind men in placement within well-paid professions. Statistics are also available that indicate that the people who are involved in hiring new candidates are primarily men and that they favour either male qualities or just blatantly favour male candidates when hiring to fill positions. Affirmative action does not discriminate against men in the same way that women have been discriminated against in the past. The most stringent system of affirmative action that has been implemented so far within our society is merely the practice of choosing the woman for a job in a situation where a male candidate

and a female candidate have equal qualifications.

The conditions of past

discrimination that women have been complaining about for 'centuries' have been for employers to not consider female applicants no matter their qualifications -merely by virtue of their gender. The act of not implementing affirmative action in the present would be to victimize the next four centuries of women. #4) Perhaps I would agree that picking our friends based on looks could be considered morally wrong. If I find someone not beautiful and therefore decide that I will not form a friendship with them I am unjustifiably discriminating against them, but perhaps they would be better served not to be my friend if I would judge them on such a shallow basis. The situation of choosing a lover does however appear different than that of choosing friends. In choosing a lover I want a person I can trust, a person who's company I enjoy and someone that I find physically attractive. If I ignore the final criterion of my list then I am doing a disservice to both myself and my potential lover. Why is it a disservice to both of us? My sexual performance with a lover who I find unattractive is bound to be inadequate and this would make the relationship short-lived and perhaps hurt the feelings of my lover.

If the question were to be; is it a moral fault to not choose as a lover someone you do not find fits your ideal aesthetics? My answer would be different in reply to the above rephrased question. I have noticed that many people will say about potential lovers that they are to fat or their legs or bottoms are to heavy. This I believe to be a definite moral fault unless it should negatively effect the sexual appeal to a drastic degree. I personally have found peoples minds a much more important feature for choosing them as a potential lover than their physical appearance. Those who do not share this feeling about peoples minds are shortchanging themselves. If I do not choose a lover of a different race because I do not find them attractive and if that lack of attraction is based on racism then I am exhibiting a 'moral fault'. If I do not find a member of a different 'race' sexually attractive I do not think it is a racist practice as I am not racist in any other element of my lifestyle. If I do not choose a lover on the basis that they are unattractive to me then I must say that it is either morally irrelevant or morally neutral. My criteria of choosing a lover are not wholly rational things they are indeed based on almost pure emotion a person is either physically or mentally attractive and that is final. Morality should have no place in the choosing of my mate because this form of morality is based on a rational idea of right and wrong. My emotional choice to

choose someone as a lover is based on personal emotional preferences.


markedly differs from my choice of employees as in our society our aesthetic value should not dictate how much we can make -- this would interfere with democratic ideals of equality of opportunity. On the personal level it would seem that the only person who actually has trouble finding friends or lovers is a person who is to shy or to abusive for adequate social interaction. It is not morally wrong to choose a lover or even

perhaps a friend on an aesthetic level because it seems that nobody has trouble finding a lover or a friend despite their aesthetic value to me. The situation is not in need of changing or of moral adjudication because as far as I can tell nobody is unfairly deprived of lovers. The reason the situation of choice of lovers by

aesthetics is not a problem is probably due to the transitive nature of aesthetic beauty -- beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Consider that someone who I do not find attractive enough to be my mate could be the most beautiful person in the world to you -- or at least to someone or some group in our society.