Enn W asked in Social ScienceGender Studies · 1 decade ago

How do we reconcile feminism and cultural relativism?

They are both two different moral theories and in many cases contradict each other. How can we justify using one over the other?

For example, feminists, under their moral theories, would state that it is immoral to, for example, perform female genital mutilation or force women to cover themselves, since this is against their theory and is taking away womens' rights. Cultural relativists would say that each moral theory depends on a certain culture, so it would be ethical to, in this case, perform female genital mutilation or make women cover themselves, because in these respective cultures it is morally right or allowed to do so.

What are your views on this?


7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    In the US in the ante-bellum South, it was culturally acceptable to own another human being, ie. slavery. Cultural relativity would argue that therefore slavery is fine, because the culture, and, in fact the religion supported it.

    There are universal wrongs. Owning another human being, or mutilating the body of another human being is wrong. Genital mutilation is not even done in a medical setting. Human rights treaties have existed since WWII, when it was culturally acceptable in Nazi Germany to exterminate Jews.

    Cultural relativity was never propounded to protect anyone abusing other humans in the past, and as a theory it should be dispensed with.

  • Cultural relativism is Not the same as moral relativism. Cultural relativism is the basic principle that you have to understand beliefs and values and practises in the context of the culture they are formed in.

    So the short answer to your question is that there is no conflict between feminism and cultural relativism. By the definitions of both terms.

    And yes, saying that women are equal human beings with human rights and freedoms Does conflict with values and practises of many cultures. It conflicted with European and American Western cultural values and practises not very long ago.

    You can't reconcile a basic belief that women are equal human beings with a belief that a culture's values and practises that violate that basic belief are legitimate. If women are exploited and oppressed by a culture, than who benefits from it? Clearly not 1/2 the population in that culture!

  • 1 decade ago

    Human rights abuses are human rights abuses. It really isn't debatable that genitle mutilation is anything other than, well, mutilation. Aside from the pain at the time, it makes a woman unable to enjoy sex. As far as I'm concerned, violence is violence, and every culture is, in general, against it, even if almost every culture (including ours) has blind spots. Just as we try to reveal our own blind spots concerning lapses in human rights and violence, it's right to call out those in others, even if we can't bring about change there.

    As for covering themselves, I wouldn't want to live that way, but it isn't physical maiming, so I don't think it belongs in the same category.

    But it's important to note that both these practices are controversial even in their own environments. Many people who belong to those cultures dont' accept them, so they aren't considered "right" by everyone.

  • SC
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Anyone who has studied philosophy can tell you that cultural relativism is a sham. Seriously, it's an insane position to hold, and fundementally self-contradictory.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    I think most feminists would agree that basic human rights override cultural standards. Freedom from torture is one of those rights.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    My view is that whatever happens it must be the person's own choice, not forced upon them by convention. If they choose to follow the convention of their own free will, fine. If not, no one should be able to force it upon them.

  • 1 decade ago

    Everything is immoral for feminists!

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.