This chapter discusses gender. Mainstream political theorists have often ignored the issue of gender difference, and so feminists have had to argue for its significance and importance. There are many varieties of feminism, just as there are many varieties of liberalism or egalitarianism. However, it is possible to identify three theses that all feminists support, in one form or another. These theses are the entrenchment of gender; the existence of patriarchy; and the need for change. A key theme of feminist theory has been the idea that it is vital to distinguish the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. According to the distinction, ‘sex’ refers to biological differences and ‘gender’ refers to social differences. Feminists use philosophical and political methods that are common to other theories or campaigns, but there are some distinctively feminist methods, such as the Woman Question and consciousness raising.
This chapter examines various strands of feminist theory, with particular emphasis on three feminist criticisms of the way mainstream political theories attend, or fail to attend, to the interests and concerns of women. The first argument focuses on the ‘gender-neutral’ account of sex discrimination, the second is concerned with the public–private distinction, and the third claims that the very emphasis on justice is itself reflective of a male bias. These arguments represent three of the most sustained points of contact between feminism and mainstream political philosophy. The chapter also considers two different conceptions of the public–private distinction in liberalism: the first deals with the relationship between civil society and the state, or between the social sphere and the political sphere; the second emphasizes the right to privacy. It concludes with an analysis of the ethic of care as opposed to the ‘ethic of justice’.
Catriona McKinnon, Robert Jubb, and Patrick Tomlin
Issues in Political Theory provides an introduction to political theory and how it is applied to address the most important issues confronting the world today. It has a focus on real-world issues and includes case studies. The text examines important and influential areas of political theory. The text includes chapters on liberty, global poverty, sovereignty and borders, and the environment provide readers with fresh insight on important debates in political theory. Case studies in this text look at contemporary issues including same-sex marriage, racial inequality, sweatshop labour, and Brexit.