Essay on Carol Gilligan

An ethicist and psychologist Carol Gilligan was born in 1936. After getting a Ph.D. in social psychology at Harvard, she started her teaching career. To date, Carol Gilligan works at New York University and is a visiting professor at Cambridge. C. Gilligan is best known for her work on ethical community and relationships, as well as her feminism-inspired book “In a Different Voice”, first published in 1982. This work has acquired a reputation of the most insightful book about women, men and differences between them, being one of the most notable books in the Western ethics and psychology, which was actively disputed among experts and finally affected broad social circles.

At that time, feminist movement entered a new intensive stage. The “second wave” of feminism refers to a period of feminist activity from the early 1960s till the late 1980s, and it was a continuation of the previous phase of feminism, including the suffragettes in the UK and the USA. Researchers comparing the first and second “waves” of feminism say that the “first wave” was focused on issues like suffrage, while the “second wave” mainly concerned the other equality issues – such as the elimination of discrimination. The second phase claimed radically different ideas and launched a struggle not so much in the legal or socio-economic sphere, but in the spiritual sphere, promoting the revolution in consciousness and a radical revision of the existing views on the positions of sexes in the society, their functions and relationships. The new women’s movement was the women’s protest against the patriarchal society (the society dominated by men) (Nicholson 34-38).

The goal that Gilligan set for herself in her main book “In a Different Voice” lies in clarifying the mysterious – from the point of view of most psychological theories ”“ way of development of women, recognizing the value of its uniqueness, ability “to speak one’s own voice” without embarrassment.

Gilligan sees the cause of difficulties in establishing the direction and criteria for women’s moral growth in psychologists’ preferred orientation to masculine development model, identified with a model of human development in general. Masculinity is characterized by the realization of one’s own autonomy, which manifests in the independence of judgments, in their impartiality, invulnerability to feelings, circumstances of specific situations, in subordination to universal principles of human existence (Gilligan 93-111).

On the contrary, the flow of the spiritual life of women is determined by entirely different signs: reluctance to make judgments about the actions of others, relativity of judgments in their situational and emotional conditioning. Deviation of the feminine development from the masculine model is considered a deviation from the norm, so the inability of women to meet it is assessed as the women’s inability to develop. Gilligan sees in this disparity not the problem of women’s ability to develop, but the problem of unlawfulness to set the masculine model as the absolute norm. From her point of view, the process of moral development is an entwinement of two different ways, conditioned by male and female types of development, which have their own unique criteria, value systems, and ways of resolving moral problems (Gilligan 115-19).

The signs of this uniqueness, according to Gilligan, are the peculiarities of the languages in which people talk about their lives, individual ideas about the one’s own worlds, manifestation of personal activity. It is only possible to detect all these features while listening to the voices of people, analyzing the answers to questions about morality and the self, the experience of moral conflict resolution, life choices, and views on moral issues. Therefore, Gilligan is building her concept on the basis of the data obtained through interviews with different people. In addition, basing her hypothesis, Gilligan refers to the works of experts in developmental psychology ”“ E. H. Erikson, N. Chodorow, J. Lever, J. Piaget, L. Kohlberg, Z. Freud, G. H. Mead and others – and to literary texts.

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