- Paperback: 184 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reissue edition (July 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674445449
- ISBN-13: 978-0674445444
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 65 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development Reissue Edition
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Theories of moral development are not mere abstractions. They matter―to the way children are raised, to female and male self-esteem, as ammunition for personal and political attack―and that is why Carol Gilligan's book is important… [It] is consistently provocative and imaginative. (Carol Tavris New York Times Book Review)
Girls in our society learn early on that they are expected to behave in certain ways. In her 1982 book In a Different Voice, Carol Gilligan, a psychologist at Harvard University, wrote about the powerful messages young girls receive from those around them. Girls are expected to be compliant, quiet and introspective. They soon learn that they should suppress any open expression of aggression or even strong non-compliant feelings. They also learn…to value relationships more than rules. (T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. New York Times Syndicate 2000-09-22)
It has the charge of a revelation… [Gilligan] flips old prejudices against women on their ears. She reframes qualities regarded as women's weaknesses and shows them to be human strengths. It is impossible to consider [her] ideas without having your estimation of women rise. (Amy Gross Vogue)
Gilligan's book is feminism at its best… Her thesis is rooted not only in research but in common sense… Theories of human development are never more limited or limiting than when their bias is invisible, and Gilligan's book performs the vital service of illuminating one of the deepest biases of all. (Alfie Kohn Boston Globe)
A profound and profoundly important book. It poses a challenge to psychology… But it may be just what we need to revitalize our field and bring it into a more meaningful alignment with reality. (Elizabeth Douvan Contemporary Psychology)
To those of us searching for a better understanding of the way men and women think and the different values we bring to public problems and to our private lives, [this book] is of enormous importance. (Judy Mann Washington Post)
An important and original contribution to the understanding of human moral development in both men and women. Carol Gilligan writes with literary grace and a real sensitivity to the women she interviewed… Her book has important implications for philosophical as well as psychological theory. (Lawrence Kohlberg)
About the Author
Carol Gilligan is University Professor at the New York University School of Law.
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I can see how this theory would be useful in terms of gender equality some decades ago, because it acknowledges that moral development is different for women than it is for men. There is an association between moral orientation and gender; women focus on care dilemmas and men focus on justice dilemmas. Sensitivity to others leads women to "`include in their judgment other points of view." The psychology of women is described as distinctive in its orientation toward relationships, which implies that women have different priorities than men. Therefore, judging the moral development of women on theories that were developed by observing men, fail to recognize those instances when women prioritize interpersonal connectedness, care, sensitivity, and responsibility to people. When these priorities are stacked up against the male tendency to organize social relationships in a hierarchical order and subscribe to a morality of rights, women are often found lacking, instead of simply different.
However, there are many downsides to this theory in current political environment. Linking women with caring can, and has, promoted the view that women are actually in charge of caring. In certain instances, it has even been linked to the idea that women should care no matter the cost to themselves. It has made an expectancy of the “emotional work” that women do in their homes, communities, and work places. Worse, it has assumed that this “emotional work” is something that comes naturally to women, when it is something that, arguably, needs to be learned, and is not present in all women just by nature of their gender or biology. As much as Gilligan condemns the work of Freud and Erikson by their focus on males instead of humans in general, the participants of her research are limited to mostly white, middle class children and adults. She may take the qualities that have been, in the past, recognized as female weaknesses, and present them as human strengths, but her theory still seems to follows the stereotype of women as nurturing and men as logical. While I found the book fascinating, I still hold that men and women are more similar than different in their personalities, and that the most obvious differences are due to culture, and how each sex is socialized in childhood, rather than any biological propensity for justice, care, or responsibility for other people.
I have used this book over the course of a couple of decades in teaching both social psychology and ethics, for it continues to have a strong dual relevance. Questions regarding the differential psychology of men and women remain unanswered for the most part, often unspoken, as men assume their route to and definition of psychological maturity and health apply equally to women, and women tacitly and too often unconsciously let men speak for them. In ethics, what is here called the "ethic of care" has gradually become more prominent in the writing of feminist ethicists, but it has older roots, including the teaching and writing of H. Richard Niebuhr and, probably, the true ethics behind the Christian gospel. Nevertheless this school of ethics continues to be adumbrated by Aristotelian and Kantian models, both valid in their own spheres, and Gilligan's exposition remains one of the important modern anchors of this alternative perspective.
Too many women today remain subordinated in a culturally male-dominated perspective when it comes to their own self-assessment and self-understanding. Too many men similarly remain captured by their own individualistic, emotionally-suppressed, and justice-oriented (cf. Kohlberg, Gilligan's teacher) stereotypes, all of which inhibit emotional, relational, and ethical potential. And, of course, such culturally-imposed blinders, worn by professionals as well as lay people, have impacts that are social and political in addition to individual.
For all these reasons, and despite previously-published criticism of her psychological research as well as her ethical discussion, men as well as women should continue to read this book and to discuss it among themselves.
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