The ” public ” logic and political space for gender justice
Song, Jianli (2016). 'The " public " logic and political space for gender justice' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
Feminist philosophy is a field full of debate. To some degree, the diversity of feminist theory results from the complexity of women’s sociological role. In a sociological sense, women's gender identity is deeply intertwined with women’s origin, race, social class and so on, so it is difficult to group all women into a unified social role. But when such differentiated groups of women enter the public political sphere with their respective unique identity, how should women present themselves? In other words, for women, the question arises whether the ontological position of self identity about "who we are" will directly affect how women should present themselves in political practice .
In this process, women seem to always struggle with gender essentialism. Theoretically and strategically, as a group, women definitely need a unified "gender identity" they can make use of to express and claim their collective right. Practically speaking however, the continuous strengthening of "gender identity" has gradually undermined women’s internal unity to the point where some women’s groups have retreated from the political field altogether and consoled themselves by indulging in their own unique "body" experience.
In order to circumvent this predicament, feminists must clarify a normative question on the theoretical level, that is, as citizens of a democratic society, when they participate in the public domain and deal with public issues, how should they proceed in order to generate positive public will? How can feminists ensure that the reasons to which they resort in order to justify their claims will be accepted by other heterogeneous groups? How to thoroughly dispatch the notion of gender antithesis and construct a positive women’s citizenship identity on the basis of common gender experience? In short, how do we assert our rightful claims as "female citizens" and not just as "females".
In Political Liberalism, John Rawls puts forward a kind of moral obligation in what he called the ‘duty of civility’, by which he outlined the normative requirements to which all citizens in a free democratic society must respect and obey when they participate in public forums and debate with other citizens on public issues. Endorsing the non-legal moral duty of civility not only helps create a more just political and cultural background, but also cultivates women’s awareness of active citizenship and promotes women’s capacity as citizens. These boosts will ultimately be beneficial for women to win equal respect and equal status as "people" not just as "female".
The point of this paper is not to discuss the various disputes between feminism and Rawls, nor to reveal the overall significance of Rawls’s political liberalism to feminism. Instead, the paper will examine how feminists should think about this duty of civility, what arguments could they make in public and what arguments should they not make. For the above purpose, I will focus on Rawls’ concept of duty of civility and three kinds of feminist approaches which can be viewed as comprehensive feminist doctrines. The first part of this article will briefly clarify Rawls' duty of civility and its meaning. The second part will analyze three kinds of feminist approaches. The third part will focus on identifying the rationality and limits of different paths of feminism. In the conclusion, I will briefly argue for an approach to feminist citizenship politics directed by a "publicity" logic.