Paper delivered at the Moral Evil in Practical Ethics Conference, Oxford 2012.
This essay explores ways in which John Rawls's ideas regarding combat by relatively well-ordered societies with outlaw societies might be a resource for women in responding to the great evils of global and local misogyny. Unlike so much feminist work on gender-related evils (including my own), this essay does not make the family a centerpiece of concern. Domestic violence is one of my concerns. But the family is not, on the whole, and has not been, the stage for many of the worst evils that target females: forcible and violent rape, kidnap for sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and witch-burning, to name a few. Victims are often women who have not had children, women who have had careers (not necessarily as care-givers) and economic independence, and women who have intimate relationships with women. The vulnerability of women to such evils is found in both what Rawls called outlaw societies and societies he considered (in his late work) relatively well-ordered. Even relatively well-ordered societies have pockets that are not well-ordered, areas where good laws are poorly and arbitrarily enforced when enforced at all, and fields where we who are women enter at our peril. What is often called a "war between the sexes" is better recognized as a "war on women" (or "wars on women"). Women have mostly not fought back very aggressively. War between the sexes would be progress. In The Law of Peoples Rawls takes up some of the thorny issues of justice in what have come to be called, euphemistically, "non-ideal" conditions, including the conditions of wars of self-defense. "Non-ideal" conditions are daily life for most of the world's women. How might women's self-defense and mutual defense against the evils of global and local misogyny embody values embedded in rules of war that seem intended to prevent many of the worst injustices in that extremely "non-ideal" context? The task I have set myself is to address that kind of question, considering some examples of women's responses both as individuals and in non-state groups.