Rehabilitating Self-Sacrifice: Care Ethics and the Politics of Resistance

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26 (3):456-477 (2018)
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How should feminists view acts of self-sacrifice performed by women? According to a long-standing critique of care ethics such acts ought to be viewed with scepticism. Care ethics, it is claimed, celebrates acts of self-sacrifice on the part of carers and in doing so encourages women to choose caring for others over their own self-development. In doing so, care ethics frustrates attempts to liberate women from the oppression of patriarchy. Care ethicists have responded to this critique by noting limits on the level, form, or scope of self-sacrifice that work to restrict its role in their theories. While we do not here take issue with the initial feminist critiques of self-sacrifice, we suspect that the strategies offered by Care ethicists in response are importantly flawed. Specifically, these responses undervalue the positive roles that self-sacrifice can play in fighting patriarchal oppression. As a result, in attempting to restrict an oppressive norm, these responses risk foreclosing on valuable means of resistance. Our aim is to explore these positive roles for self-sacrifice and thereby rehabilitate its standing with feminists.



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Amanda Cawston
Tilburg University
Alfred Archer
Tilburg University

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