• Astrid Munk
4. term, Applied Philosophy, Master (Master Programme)
The subject of this dissertation is gender equality, in the setting of the Danish welfare state. I shall problematize the concept of gender equality in the Danish Equality Act, holding this understanding of equality as representative of the general understanding, in Denmark.
So, the problem definition is as follows: What are the obstacles against achieving actual gender equality? It is my assertion that there exists a gap between formal gender equality (as formulated in the Danish Equality Act) and actual gender equality.
It is the purpose of this thesis to investigate how this gap between formal gender equality and actual gender equality, can be seen and possibly solved. As formal gender equality centers around the concept of ‘equal opportunity for both genders’, my focus is largely on the concept of ‘opportunity’. What does it mean to have equal opportunity, and how do we know when it is achieved?
The problem area is investigated through a variety of perspectives, e.g. historical, sociological, statistical, but mainly philosophical. To identify barriers against achieving actual gender equality, I look to feminist philosophy and how philosophers in this line has worked with the problem. First and foremost, the basis of feminist philosophy is a critical perspective on existing philosophy. Many feminists mean that Western philosophy is problematic, because it is basically androcentric and based on ideals that have no empirical counterpart. Through this critique, I identify a range of problems within the Western philosophy tradition, that in themselves contribute a barrier against achieving actual gender equality. After this, I use the theory of care ethics, as an analytical philosophical tool, to identify existing barriers against achieving actual gender equality. Care ethics contributes to the understanding of the problem, with a range of concepts. In the analysis, I have three foci, in relation to obstacles. They are 1) work life, 2) the division between what is private and what is political and 3) the concept of formal gender equality.
In the concept of gender equality, as seen in the Danish Equality Act, the goal is to create equal opportunity for both genders, while recognizing and acknowledging differences between them. This relies on the assumption that we can reduce individuals to a sort of homogenous core, a universal basis, where differences can be uniformly compensated. In one way it expresses a neutral standpoint, free of value. According to the theory of care ethics, it is problematic to isolate individuals from their social contingencies, as social contingencies (such as dependent relations) can be essential to one’s actual opportunities. In this perspective, it is not practically meaningful to operate with an ideal for gender equality, if it is not situated in real life.
As participation in labor market is essential for the individual’s opportunities in life, it is problematic to operate with a work life ideal, that conflicts with having dependent relations.
Gender equality has largely focused on getting women to participate in labor marked, through incentives and economic compensations. There has not correspondingly been focus on getting men to participate in and commit to caring activities. Women’s roles have developed a lot in the past hundred years. Men’s roles have not equally developed. It seems that creating equal opportunities, is not enough to really change the situation around actual gender equality.
The focus on creating better opportunities for women, to participate in the labor market, illustrates how piercing the masculine ideal is today. To achieve gender equality, it is essential to start valuing all genders and their differences. Including traditionally feminine activities, as these are essential to a functioning welfare society. This must at least start with a more balanced concept of gender equality, where actions are taken to actually acknowledge and value all genders and appreciate differences.
Publication date2 Jun 2020
Number of pages66
ID: 332979806