FEMINIST ETHICS AT THIRTY: A RETROSPECTIVE
Michael E. ALLSOPP,
Presentation College, Aberdeen, SD 57401
Feminist ethics is the most powerful movement in contemporary Christian ethics. Powered by a set of beliefs and goals that have already re-shaped some of the basic assumptions and principles of the discipline, feminist ethics now has its own language, and literary style; its own methodological and epistemological rules. It possesses its own clear agenda. Sharing some of the features we find in situation ethics, casuistry, and liberation ethics, Christian feminism embraces a distinctive approach to moral issues--as well as a unique set of normative principles and operative rules.
Feminist Ethics: An Overview of Its Major Themes
Thirty years after Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique (1963), Kate Millett's Sexual Politics (1970), Mary Daly's Radical Feminism (1973), and Rosemary Radford Ruether's New Woman/New Earth (1975), there is obvious pluralism within feminist ethics. "Feminists have understandable reasons both to reject and to promote belief in a common or universal morality, Margaret Farley says. Black feminist liberation ethics has its own distinctive emphases. However, there are some generally shared methodological principles, common goals, and characteristic emphases within the movement. The two original streams, one focused on caring, the other on justice, have been brought together by recent feminist writers e.g. Peta Bowden, Rita C. Manning. The initial insights into human knowledge and decision making have been developed and strengthened; feminists have actively applied their analyses to areas of life vital to women. Looking at this model of Christian ethics, examining its roots, and assessing its strengths for the future will be the aim of this study.
From the start, feminists have been critical of mainstream moral theories because of a number of observed flaws in their methods. In Susan Sherwin's judgments, both feminist ethics and medical ethics share a sense of frustration about the level of abstraction and generalization that one finds in mainstream work in bioethics. To correct this, womanists have been committed to including contextual details in their analyses, and for making space for personal aspects of relationships in their moral decision making (21-22). "A feminine consciousness regards the gender traits that have been traditionally associated with women--in particular, nurturance, compassion, caring--as positive human traits," Rosemarie Tong explains. Feminist philosophers have stressed the particularity and embodiment of all visions; they have supported the conviction that human knowledge is personal and drawn from situated perspectives; and, consequently, they have affirmed the belief that all knowledge is essentially partial. The focus on connectedness and context--the central insight in situation ethics--makes evident other conclusions: the nature of specific relationships is an important element of ethical analysis; an ethics of actions is incomplete when evaluation is done in abstraction from the relationships that exist between the participants and those affected; objective and accurate knowledge result from a patchwork of inherently incomplete perspectives. Further, "Within feminist ethics, there is widespread criticism of the assumption that the role of ethics is to clarify obligations among individuals who are viewed as paradigmatically equal, independent, rational, and autonomous," Sherwin writes (21).
Besides this twin-emphasis on knowledge's contextuality, and the moral significance of specific, unequal relationships, feminist writers have enlarged the discussion of morality in other important ways. From the start, they have broadened the scope of ethics; they have focused attention on "house-keeping" issues, on wildlife and pets, the environment--subjects on the margins of mainstream ethics. Ecofeminists have proposed new images of creation, and reformulations of the relationships between God, humans, and the non-human world. Feminsts have been influential in biomedical ethics. Feminists have looked at how women deal with death and dying, and found that mothers, spouses, daughters and companions deal with these events in ways that are quite different from men of both dominant and nondominant cultures. They have developed theories of disability; they have re-examined the moral significance of birth, sex selection, surrogacy, and ectogenesis. Feminists have challenged liberal societies to reshape their social structures in ways that deal more justly with the family.
The body plays a significant role in a number of feminist analyses--but one finds little support for classic "natural law" morality. Feminists have been critical of theories that equate ethics with decision making. Further, they have argued that ethics should be concerned not only with actions and relationships, but also with questions of character and the development of attitudes of trust within relationships, a theme that has special significance for Annette Baier. Feminists have rejected the view of human persons as "self-isolating," and insisted on the need for "a corrective to a liberal philosophy that fails to understand persons as embodied subjects, with essential capacity and need for union with other persons," Margaret Farley states. Rather than a focus on rational self-interest (Ayn Rand), or on the patterns and potentialities inherent in human nature (Grisez), feminists have set their sights on developing a social ethics whose final goal is the liberation of oppressed groups from structural injustice.
A number of features are characteristic of feminist ethical theories of decision making in the 1990's. First, in place of a Kantian conception of rationality (seen as a now-discredited device for claiming mastery and control, as well as for refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of differing perspectives and different relations to life and nature), womanists advocate holism in the process of moral discernment. Second, there is "a firm methodological commitment to maintaining a focus on the experience of women as the primary source for feminist ethics" (Farley, 230). As well, women have opted in the process for the familiar rather than the distanced, for building upon the insights of Virginia Woolf, Maria Montessori, and research into women's ways of death, speech, work, and management. Women writers have chosen to articulate ethics in distinctly feminist ways; they have developed their own voices, vocabulary, and distinctive styles of rhetoric in which irony and shock are prized. For feminists e.g. Gilligan, Manning, Welch, how one speaks matters as much as what one speaks--a stand that male writers in mainstream ethics (with a few exceptions e.g. Augustine, Milton, Newman) seem to have taken.
All of these features are visible in two recent important works in ethics: Sidney Callahan's In Good Conscience: Reason and Emotion in Moral Decision Making (1991), and Rita C. Manning's Speaking from the Heart: A Feminist Perspective on Ethics (1992). In the first, Callahan offers an optimistic analysis of the heart's contributions to morality. Her eight untechnical chapters provide a clear picture of a complex phenomenon, one that takes into account new psychological understandings of the self, emotion, reason, intuition, developmental change and problem solving. Central to Callahan's case for realism in making moral decisions is her conviction that complete detachment and objectivity are not only impossible, they are undesirable, since the stronger our convictions and the more we appreciate something, the deeper our affections. Callahan argues that emotion, reason, and intuition should be fully integrated and engaged in our depictions of decision making, that we "need to make decisions in a wholistic way that does justice to all our moral resources" (113). She reminds us that "Huck Finn is not the only character in the world who chose correctly following his heart" (139).
Rita Manning recalls that her experiences as a teacher of moral theories taught her the importance of her own moral intuitions; to see that she was misguided about her own commitments in moral philosophy--to the centrality of theory, to the exclusion of all but Kantian and consequentialist accounts, to a strong version of moral realism (xi-xvi). In place of the ethics one finds in college philosophy and religion texts, Manning argues in favor of a moral theory in which the self is connected rather than isolated; a model of reasoning that is contextual rather than abstract; where the normative principles are rules of thumb grounded in experience rather than broad principles grounded in abstract reasoning (28). Manning affirms, as well, an understanding of moral beliefs based upon experience and guidance about practical life, where there are no dichotomies between reason and emotion, mind and body, culture and nature (28). Her's is an ethics that gives a lot of attention to concrete moral cases, and to stories, to poetry, diaries, journals--literary forms rarely found in traditional ("scientific") ethics. Finally, Manning proposes an ethics that flows from groups rather than individuals, from conversations rather than debates. Her ethics involves "just caring"--for self, children, peers, animals whether domestic or wild.
In both of these books, as in womanist literature in general, one sees other features of feminst theorists: support for the democratization of ethics--for opening it up to non-specialists; and for respecting all human experience. Feminists welcome diversity; they encourage interdependence. Ethics, in their view, is distinctive and inclusive--not exclusive. Like jazz musicians, they see growth in active collaboration, strength in mutual support--feminists know that sisterhood builds solidarity. Christians and Marxists, gays and married women have collaborated and influenced each other. In part, these beliefs flow from a Post-modern rather than a classic understanding of knowledge and human nature; the sense that what an ethicist writes or says possesses the same features as those who create in music, painting, or poetry; that moral philosophy involves imagination, sensitivity, creativity. Some of the "unscholastic" and "unscientific" literary devices one finds in feminist studies are the result of widely-held beliefs about ethics: that it is a human expression of thought and feeling; that each author is a voice in a choir of voices that collectively approach Truth.
Feminists, those influenced by Post-modern philosophers, are at home with the conviction that there is no objective, universally valid knowledge, because humans are irrevocably individual historical agents, creatures located in time, place, and culture. This compositional rather than analytical model of knowledge, a view that belongs to history more than to chemistry, depicts moral truth as a crystal that is many-faceted and multi-dimensional; it considers individual knowledge as always limited by perspective, position, point-of-view. It accepts the trend currently strong in narrative philosophy that looks not to neo-Kantian reason (autonomous, objective, universal), but to communities and traditions, to narratives and fundamental metaphors, as the sources of ethical knowledge. In taking this approach feminists ethics shows its willingness to actively learn from contemporary science; it is forward not backward looking.
From the start, feminists working in ethics were critical of some of the controlling assumptions central to the normative principles of mainstream moral theories. For example, both rule-utilitarians and act-utilitarians advocate impartiality, that each person's interests should count equally in moral calculations. Feminists e.g. Susan Sherwin, Marie Giblin, have argued that this demand reflects male thinking; that in reality special concerns and preferences are no less legitimate, and in many cases merited due to our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. Feminists were also wary of theories based upon abstract principles e.g. Kant's Categorical Imperative, because of their limited usefulness and inadequate guidance. Such rules were thought to be problematic for another reason as well: they lack any affective component, and thereby support distanced objectivity rather than concerned emotionality--contradicting the feminist emphasis on love, deeply felt and abiding, as the basis of enduring hope, joy, and knowledge. Deliberately causing "gender trouble" by showing that life exceeds the bounds imposed by rationality is the special political and philosophical importance of lesbians, according to Judith Butler.
Both the ethics of care, and the ethics of justice have exhibited strong commitments to social action. As Sharon Welch says, "Marxists are right--love for individuals is not enough. Structural change is required" (166). From what has been stated about feminist ethics' problems with mainstream moral theories, it should not surprise us that feminists have abandoned Mill's "Greatest Happiness" principle, and distanced themselves from Hobbes' egoism. Denise Lardner Carmody in her best-selling Virtuous Woman: Reflections on Christian Feminist Ethics (1992), argues for a number of changes in the Catholic Church's sexual teaching. Further, the paradigms of nurture and friendship embodied in an ethics of "just caring" support concrete action for the liberation of oppressed minorities, and historically disadvantaged groups. "They require action by the oppressed themselves and by those in positions of advocacy for the oppressed," Haney writes (119). The ethics of justice recognizes the importance of rights, autonomy and equality. Both approaches emphasize women's interests and issues of special concern to women e.g. fairer distribution of federal funds for research on mental health, on the impact of pornography, the links between racism and sexism. "In pursuing feminist ethics, we must continually raise the question, 'What does it mean for women?'," Susan Sherwin states (28).
Honesty and integrity have been major themes in this approach from its beginnings. Caring, both as disposition and as expressed in action, is another important theme. Hope and fidelity-to-being are additional virtues. Annette Baier has employed "appropriate trust" as a concept that effectively bridges an ethics of love and an ethics of duty. Linda A. Bell has advanced an ethics of centering freedom instead of an ethics of care-taking, of playfulness instead of control. Starhawk has argued that the basis of ethics is erotic love for the particular, a belief that one finds in Gerard Manley Hopkins's poetry. Marie J. Giblin calls feminist bioethics a "prophetic lens" with which we are able to see more clearly the injustices in the health care system and the possibilities for more caring and just communities.
As it approaches the third decade in its modern history, Christian feminists view dimensions of Christ's teaching and life as consistent with and enriching to a feminist ethics, according to Haney (123). Christ's teaching on self-sacrifice, however, is a subject of difficulty for some writers, likewise Christ's teaching on the cross, suffering, discipleship, and non-resistance (Farley, 231). "Christianity is prone to an ethics of Christian character, of personal virtue, that is as a-historical and a-political in orientation as an unreconstructed ethic of care," Kathryn Tanner observes (188). Emily Culpepper, Sharon Welch, and Mary Daly have been critical of classical monotheism, and have advocated the creation of multiple images and symbols of the Holy. They have emphasized God's immanence rather than God's transcendence; they have seen divinity within relationships and events. Feminist writers e.g. Denise Lardner Carmody, have been cautious about Bible morality because of its patriarchal bias, its violence, the "dark side of monotheism" to use Regina Schwartz's phrase. Because of the limits seen in the theology and ethics of Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, Elizabeth Fiorenza has put forward a widely-influential reconstruction of Christian beginnings; while Rosemary Ruether has developed a distinctive feminist theology. Clearly, Christian feminist ethics cannot be called either "theo-centric" or "Evangelical."
Both Protestant and Roman Catholic feminists have challenged traditional ecclesiology and spirituality because of their patriarchal structures and images that impact negatively upon women's roles and functions within family, society, and church. In recent years, Rosemary Chinnici has invited women to transcend the traditional boundaries and to discover their self-worth through a process of re-imaging the church; Sandra Schneiders has put together themes intended to develop a new concept of religious life for women's religious orders; Leanne McCall Tigert has told the stories of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the church in order to offer possibilities for healing changes; Kathleen Fischer has presented a new approach to spiritual direction based upon women's experience and their concern for inclusiveness, connectedness, justice and mutuality. The Vatican's position on birth control, abortion, and high-tech fertility, its unwillingness to use inclusive language in the text of a recent catechism for use throughout the Roman Catholic Church, as well as its refusal to make any concessions on women's ordination, have angered--but not deterred--Catholic feminists. Finally, Haney considers grace, not as forgiveness but as being-at-home-in-the-universe--as living gracefully--to be a rich concept (123). Christian feminism has, as we will see, a strong eschatological dimension too (123-24).
A Feminist Ethic for Tomorrow: Lasting Power of Dangerous Memories
Sharon Welch's A Feminist Ethic of Risk, has been called brilliant and provocative, one of the most important books published within the last few years. It is a final example of current feminist thought. Drawing upon women's literature (Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall, Toni Cade Bambara, Mildred Taylor, Maya Angelou, Adrienne Rich), and women's contributions to science (Sandra Harding), psychology (Gilligan), religion (Carol Christ, Mary Daly, Dorothee Soelle, Emily Culpepper), and ethics (Rosemary Radford Ruether, Susan Griffin, Beverly Wildung Harrison), the book contains an ethical theory that embodies some now-familiar feminist methodological themes and emphases, as well as a number of unique and challenging ethical, and religious insights.
As we might expect, Welch begins with a critique. She examines middle-class ethics in America, in particular the ideology that shapes US foreign, military, and nuclear policies. Everywhere she finds an "ethics of control" which is characterized by competition, combat, and the avoidance of risk; an ethic that places absolute value on power (23-47). For Welch, this ethic is flawed and irrational, full of violence and threat--it cannot be called just, and does not promote world peace. "The predilection for violence has led the United States to intervene repeatedly with military force in Latin America, and it has driven and continues to drive the nuclear arms race," she writes (42). In place of this ethic, Welch proposes an "ethic of risk", one characterized by three elements: redefinition of responsible action; grounding in community; strategic risk-taking (20).
Welch's ethic prizes small victories, the gains achieved by women's resistance groups. It values the wisdom she finds in African-American women's writings about the power and hope resident in communities that provide havens of support in struggles and contexts for ongoing struggles (21). Consequently, her's is an ethic of liberation that supports both social change through resistance of evil, and commitment to communal work that brings about lasting, if usually partial solutions. "The model of maturity central to an ethic of risk leads to a particular type of action, a construction of responsible action as the creation of a matrix of further resistance," she writes (74-75). This means that we measure the appropriateness of a response not simply by its immediate results, but by the possibilities it creates. As well, "Responsible action does not mean one individual resolving the problems of others. It is, rather, participation in a communal work, laying the groundwork for the creative response of people in the present and in the future" (75).
In terms of the process of formulating the decisions that flow from normative principles and guiding rules, Welch's ethic moves away from the individualism and autonomy central to mainstream liberal ethics; it advocates broad communication in decision making (123), and has none of the atomism found in Fletcher's ethics. Her theory is grounded in the conviction that interaction between multiple communities with divergent principles, norms, and mores is essential for foundational moral critique; that the moral critique of structural forms of injustice will not emerge within a cohesive community (123-124). Welch's radicalism is seen in her position that we cannot be moral alone (127), since the discernment of norms and strategies requires the active interaction of different communities; and to be effective, this interaction requires an openness to others, their history, and experience. "The collective telling of stories is the foundation for seeing and then challenging patterns of systemic injustice," she writes (128). The goal of communicative ethics is not merely passive consensus but mutual critique leading to more adequate understandings of what is just and how particular forms of justice may be achieved (129).
One goal of Welch's ethics is the building of a "beloved community" (160-161). This community is based on love and respect. From within the matrix of the beloved community, there is a solid basis for social critique and self-criticism: the life-giving love constitutive of solidarity with the oppressed and love of oneself (161). For Welch, this love is far from a spirit of self-sacrifice (161). With Mary Daly, and Audre Lorde, she espouses a love that is joyful, self-restoring, erotic (170-71). Community means to work with others and not to lose oneself; it means interdependence (161). Community implies responsibility and empowerment. "People are empowered to work for justice by their love for others and by the love they receive from others" (165).
Welch celebrates the immanence of the divine in compassion, joy, learning and erotic love--in the daily graces that lift us to a larger self (174). In her eyes, divinity is a quality of relationships, lives, events, and natural processes (177). She is cautious about Protestant theology's emphasis on God's kingship and absolute power (103-122). She finds the god of classical theism irrational and unworthy of worship (175). For Welch, grace is a healing power rather than a saving force (178). Her ethic celebrates a presence that is both healing and fragile, constitutive of life and unambiguously present in the human condition (177). Nowhere does one sense that she considers the Bible to be an infallible or absolute authority in ethics, or that the Church's moral teaching should be shown special respect. Given her emphasis on active listening to large and diverse communities, on the importance of friendship, love, and care, one concludes that Welch's ethic of risk will use the power of "dangerous memories" to transform not simply Society, but the Church's institutions and social teachings, that it calls us to work responsibly to emancipate those in today's Church who are "the widow, the poor, the orphan."
Within her critiques of liberal ethics and mainline religion, Welch provides a blue-print for bringing about ongoing social change, as well as a set of guiding moral principles; her book contains a summary of a process of moral discernment, and an outline of supportive theological doctrines. Throughout the presentation of her celebrational ethic, Welch shows her commitment to contemporary feminist thinking in science, politics, literature, ethics, and religion. Her point of view is captured in her final words about recent resistance movements in Africa, Korea, Nicaragua, the Philippines: "All of these movements are holy; all of them are flawed. Their gains are incomplete: aims for social justice are hindered by exploitive forces within the movements, and hindered by oppression from without. Middle-class people can be empowered by a recognition of the power of divine love and healing at work in our communities of resistance. Our efforts are partial, yet they are divine in their love and courage. They bear witness to the transcendent, healing power of love; they bear witness to the beauty and wonder of life. They are a dangerous memory" (180).
Assessing Feminist Ethics: Weighing the Worth of Women's Experiences
Contemporary feminist theory at its best is "the most ethically challenging and intellectually sophisticated exposure of the full dilemmas of our pluralistic and ambiguous postmodern moment," according to David Tracy. Consequently, it is not yet possible at this time to make anything like a final assessment of feminist ethics, its methodology or epistemology, the soundness of its theological or spiritual insights. Some writers e.g. Tom Beauchamp and James Childress have pointed out some problems in an ethics of care: it falls short in terms of its completeness, explanatory power, and its ability to justify its conclusions; it is undeveloped; it is too contexual and hostile to principles. "Without a broader framework, the ethics of care is too confined to the private sphere of intimate relationships and may serve to reinforce an uncritical adherence to traditional social patterns of assigning caretaker roles to women," they write (91). However, while an ethics of care faces some of the same problems inherent in Joseph Fletcher's ethics--care like love provides neither explicit rules nor certain guidance when we are faced with complex social or personal issues--it is important to note that recent authors e.g. Peta Bowden, Rita Manning, have addressed some of the main criticisms, and strengthened this approach. In her review study, "Feminist Ethics after Modernity: Towards an Appropriate Universalism," Susan Parsons argues that liberalism may not furnish the best way for feminist ethics to develop, and other alternatives need to be explored.
Four groups will have special problems with feminist ethics. First, those who see human knowing as inherently objective and universal, naturally transcending the limits of bodies, genders, contexts, and cultures. Such thinkers must be unsympathetic, indeed hostile, toward the feminist understanding of moral decision making, just as classic Thomists were hostile toward Karl Rahner's theory of personal existentialist knowledge. Second, there are those who are not supportive of a morality based on anything less than rationally sound normative principles. George Sher, for instance, is skeptical about Carol Gilligan's claims to have found male bias in existing moral theories. Sher calls "spurious" the suggestion that women's decisions are "concrete" and "contextual" (595). He does not accept Gilligan's observed opposition between personal relationships and impersonal principles. Rational, self-interested Rawlsian contractors would always adjust their principles to protect important personal relationships, Sher argues (602). "All things considered, Gilligan's findings seem neither to undermine nor decisively to adjudicate among the familiar options of moral theory. They may edge us in certain theoretical directions, but the movement they compel takes us nowhere near the boundaries of the known territories" (604). In Sher's opinion, "The opposition of concrete and abstract, personal and impersonal, duty and care are not recent empirical discoveries. . . . We have always known that an adequate theory must assign each its proper place" (604).
Third, in spite of the religious features found in Christian feminist theories, this approach will be anathema to Christians who believe that the Bible or the Church contain infallible moral teaching that possesses lasting authority over Law, Science, Conscience, Culture. Both conservative Roman Catholics, as well as Evangelicals will find feminist ethics apostate, because of its insistence that Scripture and Theology can be subject to serious critique and radical change. Finally, there are those who consider feminists naive because they give a special place, indeed a privileged truth-value, to women's moral experiences.
Feminist ethics has been influential in nursing largely due to the influence of Nel Noddings's Caring: A Femine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984). It has found little support, however, in business, trade, military, sports, or political fields where either national or group self-interests dominate. One doubts if feminist thinking will ever come to rule on Wall Street or within the Pentagon, whether an ethics of "just care" will control ownership decisions in major league baseball or professional basketball. Further, the fact that feminists show a preference for the oppressed and minorities--target institutional injustices--means that they have put themselves in conflict with powerful forces that have nothing to gain either from concession or collaboration. Here lies lasting trouble.
On the other hand, feminists' concerns about the obvious inequalities within health care in America and worldwide will find support in some circles. Its prophetic leadership will be welcome, and find a home in communities sensitive toward sexism, racism, educational and economic deprivations. However, it must avoid both the leadership and agenda problems raised by Rene Denfeld in The New Victorians which argues that feminist leaders have become bogged down in extremes, and lost touch with reality, that the feminist movement needs a new agenda. Since feminist ethics does not aspire to becoming a universal moral theory, its humbler and more realistic stance should protect it from competitors with higher ambitions--and probably insure its ability to survive and cross-fertilize. Support for women's studies programs, and for women's health issues, will further protect and strengthen it, again provided feminists can separate themselves from problems surrounding some of these programs, the charge that such programs provide nothing more than opportunities for anti-intellectual male bashing, as Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge argue
From my own research and teaching experience, I have found that white Anglo-Saxon males and females educated in America's elite universities find problems with Sharon Welch's appeals to the ethical insights within African-American women's literature. Corporate leaders feel frustrated by a decision making process like Giblin's and Manning's that goes beyond experts and includes the "subjugated." To be successful in most management circles, any proposal for change must be practical and efficient, cost-effective and inexpensive--and feminist ethics gives little weight to such concerns. Here are other limitations.
In terms of its Christian features, feminist ethics must score highly because of its emphasis on "just care" and its concerns for the oppressed. Modern moral theology is being defined above all by a "turn to the oppressed," and to the "otherness" in all who are oppressed," Anne E. Patrick rightly notes, and this must assist feminist ethics' acceptance. In spite of its rejection of Western theology's standard images of God, and its reservations about mainstream Christology, feminist ethics is theistic and Christ-centered. Grace and the Spirit have important roles in Welch's theory. Catholic feminists, as we have seen, value liturgical celebrations, the church's sacraments and sacramentals, anointings and blessings in particular. However, traditional Christians find feminist ethics' ecclesiology disturbing, its anti-clericalism bitter, its stress on erotic love embarrassing. The fact that feminist ethics is a liberation ethics (with Marxist heritage) poses a separate problem.
Feminist Ethics in the Year 2097: A Still-Flourishing Force for Social Change
In one hundred years, other writers will undertake retrospectives of feminist ethics. I believe that they will see a broad movement that has continued to grow during the century, its influence much wider than it was in 1997. Such studies will see (I expect) some acceptance worldwide of feminist ethics' calls for broader and more representative decision making, and more support of its efforts to overcome oppression within Church and Society. Nurture, caring, hope and joy will be more central virtues within Christian spirituality. Building upon the foundations laid by Mary Daly, Margaret Farley, Lisa Cahill, Christine Gudorf, Anne E. Patrick, Judith Dwyer, and Elizabeth Johnson, Roman Catholic sexual ethics, the church's social morality, its schools and institutions, its pastoral policies and canon law--in application if not in theory--will bear clearer signs of the saving-power of this model of Christian ethics--even if there are still no women bishops in the church. In liberal and mainstream Protestant communities in Europe, North America, the Pacific, Africa, and Latin America, feminist thought will have re-shaped with differing results all other models of theology, life and ministry. Rather than a new and minor alternative to mainstream ethical theories, feminist ethics will have a major place in biomedical ethics; women's voices will be familiar in law, psychology, sociology, political science, and criminology.
Feminist ethics is celebrating its adolescence today; its future is full of life, health, and promise.