The session has without doubt being the most informative, revealing and helpful of the entire unit. It’s not to say that other classes have not been informative or helpful, only that this particular topic has provided me with some much-needed vocabulary for dealing with some major challenges I face as a teacher almost every day.
The variety of different perspectives provided on the affective aspects of learning teacher-learner relationships range of registers across an emotional spectrum, issues of adequate / appropriate care, or perceptions of the lack thereof, and matters of belonging/alienation/learning communities.
D’Olimpio’s resources challenge traditional moral theories as male centric and offers an alternative contemporary ethics distinct from dominant normative theories as inherited from Kant, Bentham and Mill. Such theories (deontology and utilitarianism) “require the moral agent to be unemotional. Moral decision making is thus expected to be rational and logical, with a focus on universal, objective rules. In contrast, ethics of care defends some emotions, such as care or compassion, as moral.”
On this view, there is not a dichotomy between reason and the emotions – as some emotions may be reasonable and morally appropriate in guiding good decisions or actions. Feminist ethics also recognises that rules must be applied in a context, and real life moral decision making is influenced by the relationships we have with those around us.
Instead of asking the moral decision maker to be unbiased, the caring moral agent will consider that one’s duty may be greater to those they have particular bonds with, or to others who are powerless rather than powerful.“
Such ethics emphasises one’s connection to others and characterises care as “everything we do to help others to meet their basic needs, to develop and sustain basic capabilities and alleviate pain or suffering in an attentive, responsive and respectful manner“. There is also an emphasis upon matters associated with the “private” domain (characteristically, for example, domestic work, care for infants, the elderly and so on). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iaCpAFypq8
The critique of universalist ethical theories based upon male centric conceptions of reason, law and justice are convincingly sustained from a feminist perspective which emphasise forces of responsibility and care and the nourishment of social connections as sites of feminine ethics and moral development (wherein “feminine” qualities of empathy, relatedness and responsiveness are privileged)
As a reply to the invitation to respond to some of the criticisms D’Olimpio outlines in the final section of the piece, it might perhaps be valuable to summarise some consequences for communication ethics in practice as outlined by the associated discourse of care / feminist ethics.
Decision-making should be informed from a perception of, and empathy with, different perspectives to one’s own. (based upon gender, race, nationality, educational background or class)
Self-reflection is necessary – we must be aware that we are prone to biases and errors based upon our own experience of socialisation and positionality to the world at large.
It’s also recommended that we be open to feedback and to accept input from the perspectives of others. Dilemmas and disagreements should be solved through critical conversations, debate and dialogue. The expectation that institution / government/ state will resolve such matters is presented as unrealistic and inappropriate.
In terms of communication research one should be attentive to the views and needs of stakeholders and to progress with activity that has social relevance and benefit. Research findings should be ensured to reach stakeholders and a wider audience preferably while research is being carried out.
One is encouraged to make sure that one’s communications with the world do not denigrate, exclude or damage to others based on stereotyping. Feminist ethics are further not only oriented towards women or to further women’s interests, although this is a vital aim. Decision-making has major impacts on all genders, and previous normative characterisation of “ethical practice” privileged one group above all others – the time for that is the distant past.
Most importantly feminist ethics are about listening attentively!!