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Care, gender inequality and resistance : a Foucauldian reading of Carol Gilligan’s ethic of care Levesque, Gabrielle


Through a Foucauldian reading of Carol Gilligan’s ethic of care, this essay answers the following question: How can we explain the persistence of gender inequality in Western ‘post-sexist’ countries where formal equality has been achieved, and what should be done in order to eradicate these inequalities? A Foucauldian reading of Gilligan’s work can enhance our understanding of the mechanisms of power that continue to oppress women in ‘post-sexist’ countries, and the ‘tools’ in later Foucault’s work can be used in order to develop a project of resistance against gender inequalities. In the first part, I join to Gilligan’s work the key concepts of the Foucauldian genealogy of the subject in order to demonstrate how these concepts can help to explain the constitution of the ‘female gendered self’ under capitalist patriarchy and to highlight the mechanisms of power that reproduce gender inequalities. I demonstrate that a key factor that explains these inequalities is the discrepancy between this ‘female gendered self’ and the values that are rewarded by patriarchy. In the second part, I use the tools present in Foucault’s later works about ethic and the care of the self, especially the concepts of ‘techniques of the self’ and ‘practices of freedom’, to explain how these mechanisms of power could be changed so that gender relations would become more equal. I argue that women have to change their current normalizing techniques of the self related to care into practices of freedom, for example through consciousness-raising, in order to develop a political project against gender inequalities.

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