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By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Aaron Olivares. Reprinted with permission of Princeton University Press. Copyright Q by the University of Chicago Press, reprinted with permission. Bibliography: p. Includes index. ISBN X 1.

Women's rights—United States. Sex role—United States. T h e Family: Beyond Justice? Whose Traditions? Which Understandings? Libertarianism: Matriarchy, Slavery, and Dystopia 74 5. Justice as Fairness: For W h o m? A perva- sive social problem, it is inflicting increasingly serious damage on children as well as women, and it is also destroying the family's potential to be the crucial first school where children develop a sense of fairness.

This book is about that injustice and its detrimental repercussions. A number of concurrent factors spurred me into writing the book, and writing it the way I did.


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While academic feminism is alive and well, and some of it is thoroughly and usefully engaged with issues important to most women, some feminist theory—especially in recent years—has fallen into the academic trap of becoming too arcane to be understood even by most , educated people. At the same time, in the political climate of the United States in the s, the impetus toward greater equality for women has not only become stalled but is, in some respects, being reversed. I, like many others who came to feminism in the s and s, have worried about what our primary focus should be and which directions we should now be taking.

At the same time, my own life experiences have impressed on me the importance of taking up again the task I embarked on in Women in Western Political Thought, published ten years ago. My direct experience of the difficulties of being a fully participating parent while being a member of the workplace as currently structured has reinforced the conclusion I reached then: considerable reforms are essential if women are to be treated justly and to have anywhere near their fair share of influence on politics and society. And my continuing work as a political theorist has made me increas- ingly aware that major contemporary theorists of justice are not doing much better at confronting the issues of justice and gender than did the theorists of the past, whose ideas I critiqued in my first book.

I am grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation, whose Changing Gender Roles Fellowship enabled me to devote the academic year to this project.

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What I began during that year could not have been completed with- out the support, encouragement, and valuable criticism of a number of friends and colleagues. Cass Sunstein, who read a related paper, made very useful sug- gestions on how to organize my arguments about the public and domestic spheres. Discus- sions with Jeffrey Abramson have helped me to see more clearly some of the implications of my proposals.

I am especially grateful to Bob Keohane and Nancy Rosenblum. They read and commented incisively on the entire manuscript—most of it more than once—and they offered constant friend- ship and true collegiality throughout the course of the project. Indeed, with- out Bob Keohane's help in developing the theoretical framework for chapter 7,1 would probably still be buried under a mass of data. Leigh Peake was an excellent research assistant for chapter 7, Linda Carbone copyedited with sensitivity and intelligence, Michael Wilde saw the book safely through pro- duction, and Steven Fraser at Basic Books not only offered many very good suggestions but also exerted precisely the right amount of editorial pressure to help me complete the book on time.

With both the justice they practice and the deep love they give, my hus- band, Bob, and our children, Laura and Justin, mean more than words can express. To them, with love, I dedicate this book. We don't believe people should be constrained by innate differences from being able to achieve desired positions of influence or to improve their well-being; equality of opportunity is our professed aim.

The Preamble to our Constitution stresses the importance of justice, as well as the general welfare and the bless- ings of liberty. The Pledge of Allegiance asserts that our republic preserves "liberty and justice for all.

JUSTICE, GENDER, AND THE FAMILY - OKIN,SM - Semantic Scholar

In economic terms, full-time working women after some very recent improve- ment earn on average 71 percent of the earnings of full-time working men. One-half of poor and three-fifths of chronically poor households with depen- dent children are maintained by a single female parent. The poverty rate for elderly women is nearly twice that for elderly men.

An equal sharing between the sexes of family responsibilities, especially child care, is "the great revolution that has not happened-"2 Women, includ- ing mothers of young children, are, of course, working outside the household far more than their mothers did. And the small proportion of women who reach high-level positions in politics, business, and the professions command a vastly disproportionate amount of space in the media, compared with the millions of women who work at low-paying, dead-end jobs, the millions who do part-time work with its lack of benefits, and the millions of others who stay home performing for no pay what is frequently not even acknowledged as work.

Certainly, the fact that women are doing more paid work does not imply that they are more equal. It is often said that we are living in a postfeminist era. This claim, due in part to the distorted emphasis on women who have "made it," is false, no matter which of its meanings is intended. It is certainly not true that feminism has been vanquished, and equally untrue that it is no longer needed because its aims have been fulfilled. Until there is justice within the family, women will not be able to gain equality in politics, at work, or in any other sphere.

As I argue in detail in chapter 7, the typical current practices of family life, structured to a large extent by gender, are not just. Both the expectation and the experience of the division of labor by sex make women vulnerable. As I shall show, a cycle of power relations and decisions pervades both family and workplace, each reinforcing the inequalities between the sexes that already exist within the other.

Not only women, but children of both sexes, too, are often made vulnerable by gender-structured marriage. Contrary to common perceptions—in which the situation of never-married mothers looms largest—65 percent of single-parent families are a result of marital separation or divorce. A central source of injustice for women these days is that the law, most no- ticeably in the event of divorce, treats more or less as equals those whom cus- workplace discrimination, and the still conventional division of labor within thefamilyhave made very unequal.

The old assumption of the workplace, still implicit, is that workers have wives at home.

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It is built not only into the structure and expectations of the workplace but into other crucial social institutions, such as schools, which make no attempt to take account, in their scheduled hours or vacations, of the fact that parents are likely to hold jobs. Now, of course, many wage workers do not have wives at home. Often, they are wives and mothers, or single, separated, or divorced mothers of small children. But neither the family nor the workplace has taken much account of this fact. Employed wives still do by far the greatest proportion of unpaid fam- ily work, such as child care and housework.

Women are far more likely to take time out of the workplace or to work part-time because of family responsibili- ties than are their husbands or male partners.

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And they are much more likely to move because of their husbands' employment needs or opportunities than their own. All these tendencies, which are due to a number of factors, includ- ing the sex segregation and discrimination of the workplace itself, tend to be cyclical in their effects: wives advance more slowly than their husbands at work and thus gain less seniority, and the discrepancy between their wages in- creases over time.

Then, because both the power structure of the family and what is regarded as consensual "rational" family decision making reflect the fact that the husband usually earns more, it will become even less likely as time goes on that the unpaid work of the family will be shared between the spouses. Thus the cycle of inequality is perpetuated.


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  8. Often hidden from view within a marriage, it is in the increasingly likely event of marital breakdown that the socially constructed inequality of married women is at its most visible. This is what I mean when I say that gender-structured marriage makes women vulnerable. These are not matters of natural necessity, as some peo- ple would believe. Surely nothing in our natures dictates that men should not be equal participants in the rearing of their children.

    Nothing in the nature o work makes it impossible to adjust it to the fact that people are parents as well as workers. That these things have not happened is part of the historically, so- cially constructed differentiation between the sexes that feminists h a v e come to call gender. We live in a society that has over the years regarded the innate characteristic of sex as one of the clearest legitimizers of different rights an restrictions, both formal and informal.

    The sexual division of labor has not only been a fundamental part of the marriage contract, but so deeply influences us in our formative years that feminists of both sexes who try to reject it can find themselves struggling against it with varying degrees of ambivalence. Based on this linchpin, "gender"—by which I mean the deeply entrenched institutionalization of sexual difference—still permeates our society.

    The Construction of Gender Due to feminism and feminist theory, gender is coming to be recognized as a social factor of major importance. Indeed, the new meaning of the word reflects the fact that so much of what has traditionally been thought of as sex- ual difference is now considered by many to be largely socially produced. At one end of the spectrum are those whose explanations of the subordination of women focus primarily on biological difference as causal in the construction of gender,5 and at the other end are those who argue that biological difference may not even lie at the core of the social construction that is gender6; the views of the vast majority of feminists fall between these extremes.

    The rejection of biological determinism and the corresponding emphasis on gender as a social construction characterize most current femi- nist scholarship. Of particular relevance is work in psychology, where scholars have investigated the importance of female primary parenting in the forma- tion of our gendered identities,7 and in history and anthropology,8 where em- phasis has been placed on the historical and cultural variability of gender. Some feminists have been criticized for developing theories of gender that do not take sufficient account of differences among women, especially race, class, religion, and ethnicity.

    The past and present gendered nature of the family, and the ideology that surrounds it, affects virtually all women, whether or not they live or ever lived in traditional families. Recognizing this is not to deny or de-emphasize the fact that gender may affect different subgroups of women to a different extent and in different ways.

    The potential significance of feminist discoveries and conclusions about gender for issues of social justice cannot be overemphasized. They under- mine centuries of argument that started with the notion that not only the dis- tinct differentiation of women and men but the domination of women by men, being natural, was therefore inevitable and not even to be considered in discussions of justice.


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    As I shall make clear in later chapters, despite the fact that such notions cannot stand up to rational scrutiny, they not only still survive but flourish in influential places. During the same two decades in which feminists have been intensely thinking, researching, analyzing, disagreeing about, and rethinking the sub- ject of gender, our political and legal institutions have been increasingly faced with issues concerning the injustices of gender and their effects.

    These issues are being decided within a fundamentally patriarchal system, founded in a tradition in which "individuals" were assumed to be male heads of house- holds. Not surprisingly, the system has demonstrated a limited capacity for determining what is just, in many cases involving gender. Sex discrimination, sexual harassment, abortion, pregnancy in the workplace, parental leave, child care, and surrogate mothering have all become major and well- publicized issues of public policy, engaging both courts and legislatures. Is- sues of family justice, in particular—from child custody and terms of divorce to physical and sexual abuse of wives and children—have become increas- ingly visible and pressing, and are commanding increasing attention from the police and court systems.

    There is clearly a major "justice crisis" in contemporary society arising from issues of gender. Yet, remarkably, major contemporary theorists of justice have almost without ex- ception ignored the situation 1 have just described. They have displayed little interest in or knowledge of the findings of feminism. They have largely by- passed the fact that the society to which their theories are supposed to pertain is heavily and deeply affected by gender, and faces difficult issues of justice stemming from its gendered past and present assumptions.

    Since theories of justice are centrally concerned with whether, how, and why persons should be treated differently from one another, this neglect seems inexplicable. These theories are about which initial or acquired characteristics or positions in soci- ety legitimize differential treatment of persons by social institutions, laws, and customs. They are about how and whether and to what extent beginnings should affect outcomes.