, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 117-132

What Feminism Can Do for Bioethics

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Abstract

Feminist criticism of health care and ofbioethics has become increasingly rich andsophisticated in the last years of thetwentieth century. Nonetheless, this body ofwork remains quite marginalized. I believe thatthere are (at least) two reasons for this.First, many people are still confused aboutfeminism. Second, many people are unconvincedthat significant sexism still exists and aretherefore unreceptive to arguments that itshould be remedied if there is no largerbenefit. In this essay I argue for a thin,``core'' conception of feminism that is easy tounderstand and difficult to reject. Corefeminism would render debate within feminismmore fruitful, clear the way for appropriaterecognition of differences among women andtheir circumstances, provide intellectuallycompelling reasons for current non-feminists toadopt a feminist outlook, and facilitatemutually beneficial cooperation betweenfeminism and other progressive socialmovements. This conception of feminism alsomakes it clear that feminism is part of alarger egalitarian moral and political agenda,and adopting it would help bioethics focus onthe most urgent moral priorities. In addition,integrating core feminism into bioethics wouldopen a gateway to the more speculative parts offeminist work where a wealth of creativethinking is occurring. Engaging with thisfeminist work would challenge and strengthenmainstream approaches; it should also motivatemainstream bioethicists to explore othercurrently marginalized parts of bioethics.