Chapter

“MISTRESSES OF THEIR OWN DESTINY”: GROUP RIGHTS, GENDER, AND REALISTIC RIGHTS OF EXIT

Susan Moller Okin

in Citizenship and Education in Liberal-Democratic Societies

Published in print August 2003 | ISBN: 9780199253661
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601972 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199253668.003.0013
“MISTRESSES OF THEIR OWN DESTINY”: GROUP RIGHTS, GENDER, AND REALISTIC RIGHTS OF EXIT

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The essays in Part III of the book, on liberal constraints and traditionalist education, argue for a more regulatory conception of liberal education and emphasize the need for some controls over cultural and religious educational authority. Susan Okin, in her essay on group rights, gender, and realistic rights of exit, is mostly concerned, not with the oppression of traditional groups by the liberal state, but with the oppression of individuals, and especially of girls and women, by the traditional community. She is critical of those liberal theorists who argue that a right of exit is sufficient to qualify a cultural or religious group for special recognition in liberal societies, and to counter these views, she notes that the unequal treatment of girls and women can mean that even though they may have a formal right to exit a group, their actual opportunities for doing so are far less adequate than those of their male counterparts. She holds, then, that the right of exit is not sufficient and that the liberal state should have a higher requirement, namely, that girls and women should be treated fairly within the group and thus should be able to take advantage of any formal right of exit. The chapter is arranged in three sections: Section 12.1, Gender and Other Forms of Inequality in Group Rights Theories, shows, by looking at three examples of liberal defenders (as exemplified by Joseph Raz, William Galston, and Chandran Kukathas) of group rights, that they tend not to take gender inequality seriously when considering group rights and limitations; Section 12.2, Cultural Factors Affecting Women’s Realistic Rights of Exit, specifies and discusses a number of reasons that contribute to women being significantly less able than men, in many cultural contexts, to chart their own courses of life outside their community of origin; and Section 12.3. Rights of Exit and Realistic Rights of Exit for Women, concludes that the theories examined contain several problematic elements concerning rights of exit for women.

Keywords: Chandran Kukathas; cultural authority; cultural groups; educational authority; formal rights to exit; gender inequality; gender rights; girls; group rights; inequality; Joseph Raz; liberal education; liberalism; realistic rights of exit; religious authority; religious groups; rights to exit; traditionalist education; William Galston; women

Chapter.  12013 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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