The notion that care is innately feminine is not only a claim that is based upon an essentialism, which assigns specific gender roles to women, but is arguably also a limitation of what care itself can accomplish. Namely, there are two presuppositions at stake in this notion, rooted in the same problem. On the one hand, the link of care with the feminine is the product of patriarchal and essentialist discourse, which views the woman as “mother.” This reduction of the female to motherhood spawns the subsequent link of care to femininity. On the other hand, when we reduce care to the “mother” figure, we are only delineating a particular type of care, when our approaches to care could be more radical and diverse, thereby satisfying the diverse situations in which care is administered and the diverse population that requires care. If one takes such an anti-essentialist approach, there is no prior prejudices or preconceptions which define care, and thus care as a concept gains new possibilities.
Carol Gilligan provides one such example with which we can re-think the concept of care. She notes a shift in moral concern from justice, which is above all concerned with equality, to the concept of care, which is concerned with attachment. With the concept of care, we are attempting to nurture and develop relationships with others. In this same sense, the association of the care with the feminine is a presupposition: regardless of socially prescribed gender roles, we all partake in the nurturing and developing of relationships with others, from friends to family. In essence, such an account of care places the formation of relationships between individuals at a point of emphasis: this language does not rely upon patriarchal accounts of gender roles, but instead on the way humans interact with each other.
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