Professor Janet Radcliffe-Richards gives (OUC Distinguished Research Fellow) gives the first of three lectures on feminism for the Uehiro Practical Ethics lecture series.
After a hundred and fifty years of feminism, we are still struggling to achieve a satisfactory legal and social framework for managing the relations of the sexes. This is partly, of course, because so many men have been unwilling to give up their traditional privileges, and the original feminist project is still far from finished. But more fundamentally than that, we have no clear conception of what a fair arrangement would be. You can regard some kinds of inequality as definitely unjust while being in considerable doubt about others. And even if we ever thought we had reached an ideal solution, the endlessly shifting landscape of technological change would soon throw things into turmoil. Reproductive technology alone has already taken us far out of our moral depth. Even if there could be no such thing as a definitive solution, however, a good deal can be said about particular aims and attitudes. There is still a great deal of confusion in public debate, in which many arguments depend on fallacies of equivocation or dubious, unrecognized presuppositions. By drawing on some elements of the original nineteenth-century debate, I hope to show how various present-day ideas and arguments can be rescued from some of this confusion, and cast light on such contested areas as sex equality, the natures of women and men, ideology, political correctness and the appropriate aims of feminism.