Monday, October 04, 2004

The Simple Situational Ethics of Feminists

You do not have to be a moral relativist to embrace the notion of situational ethics, which posits the idea that an action cannot be judged right or wrong independent of the specific circumstance in which it takes place. Killing, for instance, is right or wrong dependent upon the circumstances: if in self-defense, it is justified; otherwise, it is wrong. There are, of course, degrees of right and wrong: the manslaughter committed by a drunk driver is less pernicious then the premeditated murder of an innocent victim by a willful murderer. The situational ethicist differs from the moral relativist in that he does not deny that there is an absolute right or wrong, but simply asserts that the determination of what is right or wrong is complex, and heavily depends upon the situation. Relativism is the simple way out of trying to determine right or wrong by making the concept completely subjective.

Though the political right is often characterized as moral absolutists, and the left as moral relativists, the truth is that they are both, by and large, absolutists, though with a different criteria for judging right from wrong. The left is, paradoxically, quite absolutist about its relativism, insisting that absolute tolerance of other people’s lifestyles, so long as that lifestyle is chosen freely and harms no third party, is morally OK. But if your “lifestyle” does not embrace their ethic, they have very little tolerance for your views, even when expressed in a civil manner.

Given that we are all, left and right, absolutists, some of the more marked differences in our standards can be seen by presenting a situation, including all relevant circumstances, and seeing how the two sides differ. As a conservative, I know the responses from the right to the completely hypothetical situation posed, and I suspect that most of my readers do as well. But to anticipate the response of liberals would be presumptuous on my part, and to avoid that conceit, I have gathered leading liberals from around the country to give me some understanding of the typical liberal response. In most situations posed, I think both sides may agree in regard to whether the behavior detailed is right or wrong, and so I also inquire as to the just punishment for each scenario.

The situation posed was a case in which a male employee of Organization A has groped a female employee in his charge. Conservatives unequivocally regard such behavior as wrong, and recommend a stern rebuke to the male employee, perhaps going so far as to fire that employee if the infraction is deemed serious enough. If Organization A can take reasonably affordable steps to prevent such occurrences, they should do so, but it should not be held legally liable for any damages unless they have fostered an atmosphere in which such behavior is tolerated.

Liberals, being generally much smarter than your average conservative, see a great deal more complexity in the situation, and peppered me with questions meant to provide more detail. The first regarded the type of organization each worked for: was it a corporation, a government agency, or a non-profit organization? Though I couldn’t see the relevance of the question, I indulged them with an answer, saying that it was a private corporation. This led to more questions regarding the type of product they produced, the size of their business, and the demographic breakdown of their corporate executives. The proposed penalties varied greatly according to each of these circumstances. Under all circumstances, liberals claimed that the company should be sued, all male employees should have to undergo sensitivity training by fully certified government sanctioned feminists, the company should increase the percentage of women executives to 50 percent, and the perpetrator should serve jail time that is directly proportional to his salary. If the company produced cigarettes, products that damaged the environment, or products that contributed to the “beauty myth” (they said this assuming that I knew exactly what it means, and I was afraid to ask), then all assets of the company would have to be liquidated, with the proceeds going toward the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Task Force on Providing High Paying Compulsory Consulting Jobs to Feminists for the Purposes of Re-Educating Patriarchal Corporate America.

In addition, each male executive should face potential jail time. The penalties incurred by firms producing non-offensive products were generally only financial in nature, and varied directly with the size of the firm. The severity of penalties also varied inversely with the percentage of female executives.

Having my interest peaked by the complexity of the issue, I changed the situation, saying that Organization A was, in fact, a government agency. The conservative answer remains the same in character, but again, the keener moral sense of liberals required further specification. Was the perpetrator an elected official? Not seeing the relevance, I nonchalantly answered yes. Was the perpetrator a Republican or Democrat? Still not seeing the relevance, I asked them to consider both in turn, but questions still arose in the case where the perpetrator was Republican. Was he moderate or conservative? Pro-life or pro-choice? Was he married? If so, does his wife have a career or is she kept in the slavery of domestic life? The more conservative I made my hypothetical perpetrator, the louder the shrieks that came from the assembled liberals, as they intermittently gnashed their collective teeth between shrill tirades. In the most severe case, a conservative pro-life Republican with a wife who raises their kids, the respondents called for immediate resignation or impeachment, a life sentence without parole, and a non-lethal modern day feminist “stoning”, which consists of the perpetrator being put into a public square weekly to be berated by feminists and lectured about feminist pedagogy.

At the opposite extreme, the liberals expressed disappointment if the perpetrator was a pro-choice Democrat, but went on to say that any formal stricture against the perpetrator was unnecessary, as he undoubtedly was truly penitent. In addition, they questioned whether such a charge against the alleged perpetrator would ever be credible, and instead insisted that it would most likely stem from politically partisan hate-mongers.

Lastly, I switched up the scenario, making Organization A a non-profit organization. Pressed for more questions, suffice it to say that Catholic priests fared far worse than the corporate executives and conservative Republicans.

Did you ever realize this situational ethics business could be so complex?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several other key questions:
1. Did said offender work in the White House? (If yes, go to "It's a private matter" response)
2. Was said offender a married family man who was secretly homosexual and offered to resign his public office in state government in order to avoid lawsuits, be "outed" on his own terms, and manipulate election laws to deny the voice of the people for the benefit of his political party? (If yes, repeate "private matter")

5:26 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

My gut feeling is that if Bill Clinton was pro-life, & liberal on every other issue, the Left & the feminists would never have forgiven him for his sex scandals. I believe this is in accordance with the situational ethics of the Left; the far Left, anyway. Simply put, the abortion issue more than any other issue will determine whether or not the far Left will tolerate you. It's almost as if, 'if you're going to sexually harrass someone, you'd better be pro-choice'. Just my opinion.

This might be slightly off-topic, but I will mention it anyway. I just read an article about Martha Stewart & her preparation for her jail time. Every article I have read--and I mean EVERY ARTICLE, no exception--has been sympathetic to her 'plight'. Has anyone else observed this? Why is this? Is this because she committed a supposedly "victimless" crime? Is it because she is a woman? I don't think I have ever heard her make a political statement, so I don't think it's a Democrat vs. Republican issue. Is her guilt in the public eye a case of situational ethics? What does everyone else think; I am just curious.

7:04 AM  
Blogger pbryon said...

The blog author considers me a liberal. I wasn't polled. I can't believe this story as written.

And from the title, you appear to be equating "liberal" to "feminist," and I'm not so sure that's accurate. But as you know, I'm not real fond of sweeping labels.

7:06 AM  
Blogger the giant said...

Sorry for the late reply. Re:Martha, I think people see her "plight" in a comparative manner. Effectively, she will have spent 5 months in jail and lost her reputation, her position and millions of dollars of value in her company for making about $240,000 in insider trading. I basically think she had terrible legal counsel and was too cocky. If she had admitted to the insider trading she would have had to pay a small fine and give back her profits. Instead, she lied and dragged it out and lost everything.

Her $240,000 "profit" was nothing compared to that of Frank Quattrone and others who bilked millions and will likely spend no time in jail and pay minimal (for them) fines. I think people (including me) see her as a poster child for the greed shown on Wall Street. Is she guilty? Yes. Is she the worst offender? No. If only she could have kept her ego in check she would have been much better off.........

2:16 PM  

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