Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

by Susan Moller Okin
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Polygamy, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, punishing women for being raped, differential access for men and women to health care and education, unequal rights of ownership, assembly, and political participation, unequal vulnerability to violence. These practices and conditions are standard in some parts of the world. Do demands for multiculturalism--and

Overview

Polygamy, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, punishing women for being raped, differential access for men and women to health care and education, unequal rights of ownership, assembly, and political participation, unequal vulnerability to violence. These practices and conditions are standard in some parts of the world. Do demands for multiculturalism--and certain minority group rights in particular--make them more likely to continue and to spread to liberal democracies? Are there fundamental conflicts between our commitment to gender equity and our increasing desire to respect the customs of minority cultures or religions? In this book, the eminent feminist Susan Moller Okin and fifteen of the world's leading thinkers about feminism and multiculturalism explore these unsettling questions in a provocative, passionate, and illuminating debate.

Okin opens by arguing that some group rights can, in fact, endanger women. She points, for example, to the French government's giving thousands of male immigrants special permission to bring multiple wives into the country, despite French laws against polygamy and the wives' own bitter opposition to the practice. Okin argues that if we agree that women should not be disadvantaged because of their sex, we should not accept group rights that permit oppressive practices on the grounds that they are fundamental to minority cultures whose existence may otherwise be threatened.

In reply, some respondents reject Okin's position outright, contending that her views are rooted in a moral universalism that is blind to cultural difference. Others quarrel with Okin's focus on gender, or argue that we should be careful about which group rights we permit, but not reject the category of group rights altogether. Okin concludes with a rebuttal, clarifying, adjusting, and extending her original position. These incisive and accessible essays--expanded from their original publication in Boston Review and including four new contributions--are indispensable reading for anyone interested in one of the most contentious social and political issues today.

The diverse contributors, in addition to Okin, are Azizah al-Hibri, Abdullahi An-Na'im, Homi Bhabha, Sander Gilman, Janet Halley, Bonnie Honig, Will Kymlicka, Martha Nussbaum, Bhikhu Parekh, Katha Pollitt, Robert Post, Joseph Raz, Saskia Sassen, Cass Sunstein, and Yael Tamir.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A buzzword for political correctness, multiculturalism--with its implications of ethnocentrism and group rights--has, inevitably, become a shibboleth. Feminist theorist and Stanford political science professor Okin assesses what adhering to sanctioned cultural practices (such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage and forced illiteracy) can and does mean for women. She argues that women are subjected to derogatory treatment in all cultures--majority and minority--although majority liberal thought often presumes a level of equality and egalitarianism between the sexes that is frequently absent in minority cultures. Proponents of cultural integrity (including in religious practice) ignore this fact, Okin asserts, elevating group rights over individual rights, to the detriment of women. This collection offers succinct, compelling and intelligent arguments on both sides, notably from a diverse group of "respondents" to Okin's views--among them Katha Pollitt, columnist for the Nation; Azizah Y. al-Hibri, professor of law, founder of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights and expert on Islamic jurisprudence; and multicultural theorist and philosophy professor Will Kymlicka. "A Plea for Difficulty," an essay by Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago, sums up the complexity of the issues. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In the opening salvo of this philosophical debate, Stanford University professor Okin questions the effects on a liberal society's commitment to gender equality when it gives legal and political recognition to other cultures that discriminate against or abuse their female members. Of particular concern to Okin are patriarchal cultures with a theocentric structure. In response, 15 academics and writers, including Will Kymlicka, Yael Tamir, and Katha Pollitt, present essays defending the inherent rights of cultures to exist on their own terms. In addition, they accuse Okin of misunderstanding the position of women within these societies. In her concluding rebuttal, Okin restates her initial argument in less combative rhetoric but without compromising its intent. There is an air of pomposity and occasional defensiveness on all sides here. Few of the arguments offer concrete examples or address the diversity of social norms within any culture. This is geared primarily to academics and should be considered by public libraries only if demand warrants.--Rose M. Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"This collection offers succinct, compelling and intelligent arguments on both sides, notably from a diverse group of respondents' to Okin's views."Publisher's Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400840991
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/09/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
152
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

This is a magnificent contribution to the field. It manages the tour de force of combining a striking contribution to political philosophy with an extremely readable text that will engage the general intellectual reader. All the entries are well written, short and to the point, and arranged in a fair, balanced way that never lets the attention sag.
Jane Mansbridge
This is a magnificent contribution to the field. It manages the tour de force of combining a striking contribution to political philosophy with an extremely readable text that will engage the general intellectual reader. All the entries are well written, short and to the point, and arranged in a fair, balanced way that never lets the attention sag.
Jane Mansbridge, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Amy Gutmann
This book brings together impressively varied voices who help to set the terms for discussing the relationship of feminism and multiculturalism. They show in no uncertain terms that feminists have something important to say to multiculturalists, and vice versa.
Amy Gutmann, Princeton University

Meet the Author

Susan Moller Okin is Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. She is the author of "Women in Western Political Thought" (Princeton) and "Justice, Gender, and the Family "(Basic Books). Joshua Cohen is Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is Editor in Chief of "Boston Review". Matthew Howard is an editor and writer living in New York, and a contributing editor to" Boston Review". Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >