Style of feminism
promoted by Carol Gilligan
in her book "In a Different Voice", whose thesis was that women's moral choices were not "inferior" to those of men (as Freud
would have it), but "different": more holistic, nurturing, intuitive, sensitive, cooperative rather than competetive, accepting of difference (though more outwardly conformist), etc. By reviewing statistics from three separate studies about abortion
issues, she was able to deduce that there was indeed, a strong moral consensus among both men and women, though the women's consensus
was not necessarily what she'd been taught was "mature
" by her Freudian mentors.
In short, all the stereotypes of female thought are true, not that there's anything wrong with that. As a matter of fact, goes this line of reasoning, women's "ways of knowing" are better than men's, if only because they're less likely to lead to such evils as war and technology, and because they're closer to the stated ideals of intellectual progressivism rather than the processes by which patriarchal concerns such as businesses and governments are run. That most people would rather see science based on logic, government based on laws, and an economy based on markets is merely the effect of the cumulative silencing of this different voice, which can and should be made audible in public discourse.
It was an appealing line of reasoning, if only because it let a great many women off the hook: while technically, feminists had an obligation to object to Barbie's famous assertion that "math is hard", few of them were ready or qualified to assert that they, personally, found it easy, and loved nothing more than to curl up with a warm beverage and a yellow-backed volume from Springer-Verlag. Instead, they could counter that mathematics itself is a corrupt enterprise, since it's based on male, oppressive, "ways of knowing", at least until something better comes along, and so, it's actually to women's credit that few of them have won a Fields Medal, or been great military strategists, or business tycoons, since that merely proves that they don't think in an oppressive manner. Instead, they're much, much better off being healers, teachers, social workers, or even housewives -- professions that have, in the modern world, especially in Amerikkka, been unjustly ousted from their true status.
One indirect problem with this is that it forces feminism from an egalitarian basis into a categorical hatred and fear of men. If indeed, women are implicitly the way 50's stereotypes would have them, the only avenue for change left for feminists is to rage against male modes of thought, and to demand, unilaterally, that they be changed. Another is that there's not much to differentiate "women's ways of knowing" from the modus operendi of most other weak and disempowered groups: in short, it's hard to distinguish whether these qualities are discredited in our culture, or simply that they don't work at all.
The last problem with this is that none of this may even be true. Carol Gilligan has refused to release data from the surveys quoted, claiming that they're "too sensitive" to be put into public view, and keeps changing her story as to why. Considering that this means either that she's a) employing bad inteviewing or sampling techniques, or that b) she simply made the studies up, there's little reason to defend her on these grounds.
Further research is needed...