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I Had to Do It Again

In preparing for this weeks blog post, I decided to dig back in our archives to a post from one of our first weeks of the semester. Instead of researching a particular ethical theory we covered, I choose to look back at the prompt that asked us to find a fun and or interesting fact about one of our big thinkers. In my post, John Stuart Mils & Feminism, I discuss that although we usually associate JS Mills with his concept of utilitarianism, he actually was one of the earliest proponents of feminism and women’s rights. In his 1869 essay, The Subjection of Women, Mills stresses that the union between a man and a woman should be equal and that parity should be recognized within the home and in social settings. Mill’s support of women’s rights ultimately correlated with his ideas of utilitarianism, which preach that, “the best actions and policies are defined as those that promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” (ABC-CLIO, 2012).

Despite the fact that I believe I wrote a pretty solid description of his points, I failed to really include those critics of his ideas. Although I do present how some of his ideas did not complement his general assertion of equality, I wanted to explore this point further. Therefore, I turned to Google Scholar to help me gain a better understanding of how other reacted to his writings.

In my search, I found an article entitled Martial Slavery and Friendship by Mary Lyndon Shanley. Unfortunately, I could not get access to the entire essay (I would have had to have paid nineteen dollars for it), but the preview provided me with a brief but straightforward synopsis of her intentions. When I initially researched Mills and feminism, most historians and scholars praised the philosopher for his belief in equality because for the time, they were radical statements. To support a woman’s progress within society, her desire to break from the shackles of domesticity and have equal opportunity in the public and private spheres was atypical for the era. When Shanley first presents is that, “Some contemporary feminist have denigrated the work, questioning the efficacy of merely striking down legal barriers against women as the way to establish equality between the sexes.” These critics go further to say that Mills does not extend his critique of inequality to within the home itself, that being the division of labor in the private sphere and how most women should choose marriage as a career.

What Shanley argues, which I did not initially conclude from my original research, is that The Subjection of Women was not just about asserting equality between men and women. Rather, it was about the corruption of the male-female relationship and the intent of creating a solid friendship through marriage. Furthermore, this friendship created through marriage was the essential tool to the progression of human society.

Often times, when I research or analyze feminist ideals, I often am blinded and rarely see the other side. Reading the article above allowed me to realize that when I’m doing research, I need to include all sides of the material. My blog posts would have been well rounded if I had included the other side to the point I was presenting. Using a cited reference search enabled me to come to this realization, as well as find materials I could use in my future endeavors.


About Dana Silverstein

I am a Senior Management and History major at Bucknell University. I currently live in Westchester, New York and am hoping to start a career in advertising upon graduation.


7 thoughts on “I Had to Do It Again

  1. Dana I cannot say I am surprised to see you pursuing this subject, but it is great to see an individual such as yourself who has taken numerous classes on feminism and other topics pursue areas of differing opinions. I know the feeling associated with writing about a subject you know a lot on, and one of the most difficult feelings for me was to look outside my current knowledge and pursue differing opinions to present myself with the opposing thought process. Talking in class, it is more than apparent that you have done your fair share of investigation into this subject, yet I think you deserve to be commended for pursuing more articles that are not only novel, but also challenge your beliefs. We may all completely disagree with their viewpoint, but just the recognition of this argument will most likely make your paper an all around better work.

    Posted by Derek | March 27, 2012, 8:58 am
  2. I agree with you Derek. I think it is especially prevalent that I explored an article that is contrary to my beliefs considering for our final white paper, we need to present a comprehensive overview of the policy we are analyzing. With argument papers, we are always taught to present both sides; however, I feel like I only include a paragraph presenting opposing material. I think a lot of it has to do with page restrictions; but, I think as students, we often don’t dive deep enough into the other side.

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | March 27, 2012, 9:38 am
  3. I agree with you Dana that it is important to show both sides of an argument. There has even been a time when I was writing a paper and after writing the opposing view, I actually changed my own opinion. I think that the Rolling Stone article that we had to read for this week does a good job at offering two sides, even though it still may be slightly biased towards anti-fracking. The article explains Aubrey McClendon’s (the founder of Chesapeake Energy) as well as those that oppose fracking. It explains some of the positives as well as many of the negatives. After reading all of the articles, I wished that I had started with the Rolling Stones article instead of the Chesapeake article and the energy facts article. Since I read those first, I only saw the good in fracking without realizing all the bad.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | March 27, 2012, 11:15 am
  4. I’m going to bypass the discussion of feminism (not something I’m well versed in) and talk a little bit more about the difficulty in presenting both sides of an argument. I tend to agree that page restrictions play a big role in how much you can dig into a topic (5 pages are filled in the blink of an eye and often times 15-20 pages isn’t enough) and you really have to be very careful about how much space you devote to discussing the “opposition.” Heck, Google Scholar says that Mills’ work has been cited 1400+ times (over the multiple versions that appear in the search results), can you imagine what percentage of that comes from material that is in direct opposition to his writing? There is a lot of scholarship in the world, remember we live in a time of information-abundance, and paying as much attention to the things you do not agree with is just as important as finding support for your argument.

    Unrelated to the content of your post, I wanted to put on my friendly, neighborhood librarian hat for a second and point out a couple of information literacy/technological competency issues that I noticed with your post. The first is that I wanted to point out that we do indeed have access to Shanley’s full article (via jstor). A quick Google Scholar search led me to Bucknell’s full-text access page. I know that using the databases and finding full-text can often be a difficult process, but please be careful not to limit yourself/where you are looking. We have access to hundreds of millions of items that Google has no idea that we have, but I do!! Being aware of the technology resources (and human resources aka me) that we provide and tools that you’ll need post-Bucknell (Google and Google Scholar aren’t going anywhere!) are important skills to develop. The second point is that you need to be very careful when relying solely on a summary of an article to formulate an idea/opinion. Abstracts and summaries are great but being able to dissect and synthesize an author’s full work is an important information literacy/critical thinking skill to have. Often times the summary isn’t even written by the author, and its entirely possible that this condensed version left out some key components of the original author’s work.

    Posted by Brody Selleck | March 27, 2012, 1:32 pm
  5. Dana I think it’s great that you are incorporating the opposite opinion into your research! I remember in my English classes in HS the teachers would always say to look at critics’ opinions so as to understand the issue a lot better. Plus, I think if you know both sides, it makes is easier to argue for one or the other and make an even better argument. I am planning to use a similar tactic with my paper as well, since I may compare and contrast the proponents and critics of using stem cell research from an ethical perspective!

    Posted by alyssakinell | March 27, 2012, 5:16 pm
  6. I think that it is great that you are looking to incorporate a variety of viewpoints into your research and see how they mesh with your beliefs. Obviously this topic is a sort of obsession for you, so getting all sides of the argument is essential 🙂 I find most interesting the idea of the public and private sphere and how the woman fits into both. It could be interesting for you to further pursue this ideas as I know there is quite a bit of literature out there about it!

    Posted by Catherine Gibbons | March 27, 2012, 9:29 pm
  7. Gee, obsession? Seems a little harsh? IS there difference between a passion and an obsession in how one behaves? Anyway, I didn’t understand who was critical of what. Shanley is critical of Mills? Because he didn’t do enough to imagine how equality could not come solely from erasing legal differences? If so, that seems a pretty weak critique for a contemporary person to make. Given his context, the only way to assess the radicalness of his ideas, it WAS a strong or radical position to take.

    But maybe, I missed the point.

    I don’t know what MIchael Walzer wrote on feminism, but off the top of my head, the idea of MULTIPLE spheres of goods would be interesting. Would that mean the public and private would have different criteria and there is a way to equality that way?

    Posted by Jordi | March 30, 2012, 2:00 pm

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Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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