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Gender Construction and the Limits of Liberal Equality
  • Gila Stopler
This article will suggest a possible answer to the puzzling question of why despite the egalitarian principles upon which Western liberal democracies are allegedly predicated sex discrimination in these societies persists and sex discrimination on the basis of religion and culture is most often even countenanced and protected. I argue that the gendered structure of liberal society and of the liberal self, within which we all operate, serve as a framework within which different roles, different obligations and different paths for men and for women, in both liberal and non-liberal societies, seem natural and inevitable and therefore in no need for reform. As a framework for my argument, I introduce the largely unknown story of the creation of Adam and Lilith and contrast it with the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, which is the founding myth of the Western world. My use of Eve and Lilith and their respective stories should be understood as purely symbolic. These two dichotomous cultural symbols represent, on both the conscious and subconscious levels, the do's and don'ts of being a woman in the Judeo-Christian tradition and can therefore serve to highlight the limits of sex equality in Western liberal democracies today. I then present the work of two important feminist psychologists, Carol Gilligan and Nancy Chodorow, to describe the gendered construction of the self that occurs in all liberal societies. I claim that it is this gendered construction of women and men as feminine and masculine that ensures both the persistence and the masking of sex discrimination. Finally, I discuss some implications this analysis might have for Western liberal societies.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Gila Stopler. "Gender Construction and the Limits of Liberal Equality" TEXAS JOURNAL OF WOMEN & LAW Vol. 15 (2005)
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