The Possibility of Ethics in the Condition of the Oppressed

Author: Nathalie Nya (John Carroll University, PhD.)

Concerned with how other people shape the subjectivity of women and restrict their possibilities to make moral choices, Simone de Beauvoir, in The Ethics of Ambiguity, argues the condition of women is in the state of childhood, which in turn makes women submissive in relation to men. However, in proposing this claim, she limits the moral choices that individual women can make within their social situations, which is based on their experiences with gender and sexual oppression. Given the childlike nature of and the subordination of women in society, Beauvoir debates whether women are capable of making a moral choice. Beauvoir’s analysis suggests that women ought to be self-interested. Only thinking about their own interests as women, can liberate women themselves from their state of childness and gender subordination. To Beauvoir, since women are not self-interested because historically, they have been raised and educated to mostly be subservient to others, women are not necessarily moral subjects.

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