The Case of ‘Taking Care’
Schreuder (1999) has undertaken a policy analysis of the introduction into the curriculum for secondary education in the Netherlands of the subject ‘taking care’. This subject has been introduced because it is assumed in the Netherlands that everyone from the age of 18 years of age has to be self-supporting.
That is: everyone should either have a job, try to find a job or go to school of some kind. One of the main consequences of this policy is that neither parents, nor girls nor women can say that they (girls and women) do not
really need an education because they will get married and have children, (ibid.: 200)
Another consequence is that ‘boys too need to be prepared for a future in which gender roles are no longer what they used to be’ (ibid.). A central question of Schreuder’s research is whether or not the introduction of ‘taking care’ will contribute to greater gender equality.
Schreuder’s analysis illustrates some significant changes to the educational aims of ‘taking care’ from its first introduction in 1993 to its revision in 1996. In 1993 the aims were primarily focused on domestic care. This received a lot of criticism both in schools and in the media because ‘A very common opinion is that ‘‘taking care’’ is not a ‘‘real’’ school subject because pupils learn how to clean the bathroom and how to cook eggs. In other words, valuable time in school is wasted upon the trivial and unnecessary’ (ibid.: 201). Schreuder notes that the revisions, enacted in 1996, ‘show a different concept of care and care-taking, as well as different educational ideas’ (ibid.). In particular, care is conceptualized as including the public as well as the private sphere. This has meant that there is a shift in emphasis away from ‘practical skills and correct behaviour toward a notion of ‘‘care’’ in which knowledge, judgement and action are treated in coherence’ (ibid.: 202). Overall, this has meant that ‘Not only are pupils taught what to do, they are now also encouraged… to make reasonable and responsible decisions related to questions of care’ (ibid.). For example:
Pupils have to learn to think about different aspects and different faces of care, in order to make them more conscious of the importance of care (in a broad sense) for their own lives now and in the future. . . The apolitical casualness of care in the domestic sphere is now made into a subject for conversation, discussion and critical reflection. Care and care-taking are no longer part of the private domain only, but are made an integral part of the cognitive, rational, public and political domain. (ibid.)
Schreuder argues that these features of ‘taking care’ do suggest that it could contribute to greater gender equality. In particular, the inclusion of so-called masculine values of reasoned argument and the incorporation of the public sphere have led to a serious acknowledgement of care and care-taking as an important area of learning for all pupils. Thus, while Schreuder is cautious in claiming that such a course that is a small part of the overall curriculum will make an enormous difference to gendered responsibilities for care, she does argue that this course has made care a visible public policy issue.
Care as an Ethic
Relationality is the key element of the American approach to the psychology of women. It distinguishes a uniquely female connectedness that contrasts with male individuality and separateness.
(Kaplan, 1992: 198)
The foundational bases of conceptualizations of an ethics of care can be found in psychology and philosophy. In particular, the conceptualization of care as an ethical position draws on Gilligan’s (1982) work on women’s moral development. In this respect Paechter (2000: 17) comments that Gilligan’s work is ‘an important example of the way the gendering of power/knowledge relations relates to the androcentric nature of Western thought’. Gilligan’s research was focused on the reasoning women undertook when making decisions about abortion. In particular, Gilligan was concerned to demonstrate that the philosophical and psychological literature on moral development was systematically biased. Gilligan argued that not only were men the primary producers of these systems of thought but also theories of moral development were based on research into men’s lives. This masculine predominance meant that women who failed to live out these normative theories were perceived to be morally under-developed. Brabeck (1993: 34) summarizes the common theme of these theories as suggesting that ‘Men develop a rational moral attitude based on an understanding of alternative conceptions and a commitment to a universal abstraction. Women develop less of a concern for these abstractions, are more embedded in particular concerns about individuals, more feeling than thinking, less committed, and thus, more morally labile.’
Specifically, Gilligan drew on the work of her former teacher, Kohlberg. Gilligan argued that the moral development evidenced in the work of Kohlberg rested in a rights model that sought universal solutions to ethical dilemmas. In such a model these dilemmas would be resolved through recourse to a set of rules or practices that could be logically deduced. Such an ethical system can be seen in the work of Rawls whom Sevenhuijsen (1998: 51) describes as ‘the most important spokesman of the paradigm of distributive justice and rational choice’ (see Figure 5.3).
Placed within psychoanalytic theories of separation and attachment, Gilligan argued that women’s processes of decision-making in relation to moral issues such as abortion differed from that of the masculine
Figure 5.3 A rights-based ethical system
rights-based model. Her research findings indicated that a sense of connection is fundamental to understanding how responsibility to others is integral to women’s identity. It is this issue of relationality that Kaplan (1992) remarks is central to psychological perspectives of womanhood in North America and is summarized by Josselson (1996: 1) as a ‘web of connection to others [whereby] [l]ife unfolds as a kaleidoscope of relationships’.
Gilligan’s research illustrated how women see conflicting responsibilities as a moral dilemma. At the centre of this dilemma is the question of responsibility to oneself. The ideal goal is to meet obligations and responsibilities to others without sacrificing our own needs. However, achieving this resolution is particularly difficult as, according to Gilligan, women adopt a conventional interpretation of responsibility. This is one of being responsive to others. This interpretation, Gilligan indicates, has two effects. One is that it impedes women’s sense of themselves as autonomous or independent subjects. The other is that it renders responsibility to oneself as an act of selfishness.
Despite criticisms of essentialism, ethics of care feminists have been unwilling to rescind their view that an ethic of care is preferable to the predominant ethical systems based on rights models (see, for example, Gilligan, 1993). This is in part because care is conceptualized as a higher order trait as Witherall and Noddings make clear in respect of the place of care in school teaching:
The notion of caring is especially useful in education because it emphasizes the relational nature of human interaction and of all moral life. The word can be used to describe a virtue or constellation of virtues – as in, ‘She is a caring person’ – but it is more powerfully used to characterize a
Table 5.2 A comparison of Gilligan’s morality of care with Kohlberg’s morality of justice
Source-. Adapted from Brabeck, 1993: 37
special kind of relation. The one-caring, or carer, comes with a certain attitude, and the cared-for recognizes and responds to this attitude. The relation provides a foundation of trust for teaching and counseling alike. (1991: 3)
Similarly, Sevenhuijsen (1998: 70) defines an ethics of care as a focus on values such as ‘attentiveness to the need for care, willingness to accept responsibility for others as well as for the results of actions, and responsiveness’. This concern to present an ethics of care as a counterdiscourse to an ethics of rights has led to feminists in this field taking up a more deconstructive approach to the binary oppositions that give rise to essentialist assumptions. Contemporary ethics of care feminists have, therefore, been concerned to both expose, and overcome, the binary oppositions that were implicit within Gilligan’s thesis. These binary oppositions are set out in Table 5.2.
The concern to deconstruct the binaries between care and justice ethical models has led Gilligan (1998) to distinguish between a feminine ethic of care and a feminist ethic of care. A feminine ethic of care accepts the patriarchal social order as it is. This includes an acceptance that the ideal psychological developmental state is that of autonomy and masculine rationality. A feminist ethic of care seeks to expose the problematic nature of such an idealization as evidence of patriarchal relations and as creating a false conception of the human world:
Care as a feminine ethic is an ethic of special obligations and interpersonal relationships. Selflessness or self-sacrifice is built into the very definition of care when caring is premised on an opposition between relationships and self-development. A feminine ethic of care is an ethic of the relational world as that world appears within a patriarchal social order: that is, as a world apart, separated politically and psychologically from a realm of individual autonomy and freedom which is the realm of justice and contractual obligation. A feminist ethic of care begins with connection, theorized as primary and seen as fundamental in human life. People live in connection with one another; human lives are interwoven in a myriad of subtle and not so subtle ways. A feminist ethic of care reveals the disconnections in a feminine ethic of care as problems of relationships. From this standpoint, the conception of a separate self appears intrinsically problematic, conjuring up the image of rational man, acting out a relationship with the inner and outer world. Such autonomy, rather than being the bedrock for solving psychological and moral problems itself becomes the problem, signifying a disconnection from emotions and a blindness to relationships which set the stage for psychological and political trouble. This reframing of psychology in terms of connection changes the conception of the human world; in doing so, it establishes the ground for a different philosophy, a different political theory, a change in ethics and legal theory. (Gilligan, 1998: 342)
Tronto (1995) notes how distinguishing between a feminine and a feminist ethic of care is not a simple exercise. Indeed, they may overlap. Broadly, however, Tronto suggests that feminine analyses of caring assume that the traditional script about caring is correct. A feminist analysis would call for a revision of the political contexts within which caring is situated. In this respect Friedman (1993) draws attention to how the distinctive moralization of the two genders implied by these binaries creates a division of moral labour. Nevertheless, in practice there is considerable overlap between the two positions in that ‘morally adequate care involves considerations of justice’ (ibid.: 259). Overall, Friedman argues for a de-moralization of the genders that will no longer disassociate justice from care. This, she argues, will enlarge ‘the symbolic access of each gender to all available conceptual and social resources for the sustenance and enrichment of our collective moral life’ (ibid.: 271). In a similar vein, Young (1990: 121) argues that ‘justice cannot stand opposed to personal need, feeling, and desire, but names the institutional conditions that enable people to meet their needs and express their desires’.
Thomas (1993) suggests that care is an empirical rather than a theoretical concept. Certainly the empirical aspects of care have been well documented in feminist research. This has overwhelmingly illustrated that care is women’s work. This chapter has explored these features of care by illustrating how the frameworks for the sociological analysis of care have built on conceptualizations of care as paid work. This has drawn attention to the inter-relations between the private and the public. In addition I have illustrated how care operates as a cluster concept through its connections to issues of dependency, responsibility and autonomy. I have also drawn attention to the feminist politics of care in respect of issues of citizenship. My final concern has been to focus on the moral conceptualizations of care and how feminist care ethicists have sought to counterpose care to the individualism of rights – based discourses.
Held, V. (1995) Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. This text comprises an anthology of mainly previously published articles concerned with an ethics of care. An excellent overview and introduction to key debates.
There is no single time, only a multitude of times which interpenetrate and permeate our daily lives. Most of these times are implicit, taken for granted, and seldom brought into relation with each other, the times of consciousness, memory and anticipation are rarely discussed with reference to situations dominated by schedules and deadlines. The times expressed through everyday language tend to remain isolated from the various parameters and boundaries through which we live in time. Matters of timing, sequencing and prioritizing stay disconnected from collective time structures, and these in turn from the rhythms, the transience and the recursiveness of daily existence.
(Adam, 1995: 12, emphasis in original)
f we reflect for a moment we will find a myriad of phrases and words that register temporality. I’m late; you’re early; time is running out; I haven’t got enough time; rhythms; changes; what’s the time? clocking – on; retirement; how old are you? development; progress; waiting; parttime; full-time; future; past; contemporary; slow down; doing time; deadline; life’s too short; free time; maturation; life cycle; there’s not enough minutes in the day; annual leave; flexibility; how long have you got? stages; was; is; might; dead time; juggling; synchronize; pay day; life; death; history; memory; educate; learn; facilitate; I didn’t have time; formation; the working week; habits; stability; construct; tell me your life story; my biological clock is ticking; becoming; not in my time; measure; generation; timetable; time off; school years; modern; postmodern; ancient; career; speed; too old; too young; time to go; I must manage my time better; you must manage your time better. . .
Temporality, as Klein (1994) states, is a basic category of our experience and cognition. The very essence of communicating with each other means that our languages contain a rich array of temporal expressions. There is no doubt also that time is commonly drawn upon to analyse or draw conclusions about a range of social phenomena. Indeed, Nowotny (1992) suggests that there are some common patterns
that can be discerned from her analysis of time in empirical studies. These include:
• Time as a problem and as a scarce resource in ‘time-compact’ societies (see, for example, Blaxter and Tight, 1994; Hochschild, 1997).
• Changing patterns of working and leisure time (see, for example, Negrey, 1993).
• Specific areas where time has been central to the analysis include unemployment where the temporal experience is regarded as distinctive; doctor-patient relationships where time is a crucial negotiable variable (see, for example, Graham, 1990); education and organizations as significant institutional sites of temporal experience (see, for example, Blaxter and Tight, 1995) and of the management of time (see, for example, Blyton et al., 1989; Coffey, 1994).
Indeed, Nowotny notes that a further theme that has arisen from her analysis of empirical research is that time in relation to gender has superseded that of time in respect of social class. There is, indeed, plenty of evidence for this attention to time and gender as these following few examples will indicate.
Descriptions and analyses of feminism are littered with time motifs. Revolutions (Brownmiller, 1999) in feminist thought are often described in terms of first, second and third waves. These waves are also fixed at specific time periods. Such significations convey the linearity of calendar time and, often mistakenly, convey a linearity of development in feminist theorizing and politics. The term ‘post’ also indicates linearity and in particular something that comes immediately after something else. And, together with social thought more generally, feminist analyses are littered with the time signifiers of the linguistic and textual ‘turns’.
In terms of more specific attention to feminist perspectives of time Forman (1989) offers a critique of the philosophical relationship between being and time. Time and being have been extensively explored in Heidegger’s work (1977; 1980) to the extent that ‘Being and time nearly coalesce’ (Stambaugh, 1977: xi). Heidegger’s approach illuminates how birth and death are the time frames through which we live. In this regard time is ‘the boundary to life’ (Adam, 1990: 30). Nonetheless, feminist perspectives have been drawn upon to critique the emphasis on mortality in Heidegger’s work. This is because this offers no entry point for women (Forman, 1989) and, while Heidegger might illuminate aspects of living in time, he does not articulate the giving of time. In this respect Forman comments that ‘women do not only live in time (from birth to death), they also give time and that act makes a radical difference to Being-in-the World’ (ibid.: 7).
Research into employment has focused on time in a number of ways. For example, feminist research illustrates how the linearity of the masculine career model that assumes full-time, continuous paid work does not fit the reality of women’s lives as they take breaks for child and elder care (Evetts, 1994; Nicolson, 1996). Many women’s lives are, therefore, lived out of time in respect of this predominant model. There is also a considerable body of work that considers women’s patterns of working time in terms of full-time, part-time, flexible, temporary, and so forth. Fagan (2001: 239) indicates that much of the ensuing debate in this field ‘is based upon conjecture or inadequate indicators, often drawing oppositional models of gender differences in preferences which neglect the similarities between the sexes’. And, of course, research in this field has explored the changing balance of time between women’s paid and unpaid work responsibilities (Hewitt, 1993). In the field of higher education Edwards (1993) offers an analysis of the experiences of women ‘returners’ who have to combine study with family responsibilities. Edwards reflects on the limitations of linear analyses that arise from the predominance of clock time. She notes that the multiplicity of tasks that women undertake while combining study with the care of their families means that ‘Neither clock nor task-defined time capture the allocation of psychic or mental time, nor do they address the forms of consciousness required within different allocations of mental time’ (ibid.: 64). In relation to research on the time implications of caring and motherhood, Ribbens (1994) remarks on the relationship between space and time. Her research evidences how ‘Caring for children’ was defined in terms of ‘being there’. ‘Part of the belief about time, then, seemed to centre not just on ‘‘spending time’’ on children, but on ‘‘being there’’, so that mothers are available when their children need them’ (ibid.: 1701). Research into the identity meanings of motherhood also point to the significance of time. While there has been considerable discussion about the implications of linear time in terms of women’s age and the biological clock, feminist research has also highlighted the less recognized classed and ‘raced’ meanings of the ‘right time’ to have a child (Phoenix, 1991; McMahon, 1995).
Indeed, Nowotny (1992: 441) comments: ‘The extremely rich gamut of temporal themes in social science research could be pursued beyond the mere listing I can offer here. . . one can certainly not claim that ‘‘time is neglected’’ in the social sciences.’ Nonetheless, a wider consciousness and integration of the centrality of time to the development of social theorization are surprisingly absent (Adam, 1990; 1995). This may be because ‘social scientists study a social world which they themselves inhabit, it can be a considerable effort to challenge and confront the taken-for-granted aspects of that social world. Few things exemplify this better than the concept of time’ (Bechhofer and Paterson, 2000: 104). The seeming invisibility of time as an important theoretical framing and explanation of social life, Nowotny suggests, is because ‘it is recalcitrantly transdisciplinary and refuses to be placed under the intellectual monopoly of any discipline’ (1992: 441). Nowotny argues that because ‘time’ refuses to be fixed within one discipline it is a highly productive vehicle for the development of interdisciplinary and indeed transdisciplinary perspectives. Given that interdisciplinarity and trans- disciplinarity have been central rationales for the development of women’s studies time would appear as a key concept awaiting significant further development. In this respect Adam (1989: 458) forcefully argues that time offers feminist social theory the opportunity to transcend the ‘pervasive vision of the ‘‘founding fathers’’’. Adam illustrates her point through an analysis of the multitude of times that exist in a single moment. She argues that the recognition of such multiplicity and complexity allows for a firm grounding of the analysis of experience. In addition, a feminist theorization of time would facilitate a move away from dualistic thinking (see also Adam, 1995).
To date, that theorization is still waiting to happen. Broadly, the majority of feminist research that has used time as a key concept has stayed within dualistic framings of what Davies (1990) refers to as ‘male time’ and Knights and Odih (1995) refer to as ‘female time’. This is the counterposing of ‘male’ linear, commodified, clock time with ‘female’ cyclical, reproductive time. And although, as I shall illustrate, there are exceptions analyses that focus on the complexity of time to which Adam (1989) refers are relatively few. In this regard, I would agree with McNay (2000: 111) when she comments:
In feminist work on time, this complexity [that Adam (1989) refers to] is often reduced to a dualism where feminine experience tends to be located in the level of everyday temporality understood as cyclical, reproductive and expressive and which falls in the shadow of a masculine temporality understood as progressive, standardized and instrumental (Ermath, 1989). However, such dualist notions of time do not capture adequately the variable effects of detraditionalization and globalization upon women’s lives.