What’s wrong with rights?

Julia Annas

  • Feminism without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
    North Carolina, 347 pp, $27.45, June 1991, ISBN 0 8078 1940 9

Most of the gains that women have made over the last decades have come about when women have taken a share of positions and opportunities hitherto reserved, by law or by custom, for men. And it is when this happens that we tend to get the most immediate and vivid sense that things have changed for both women and men. (The visibility of women in the US Army produces this sense in me, a Briton living in the US: it makes the British Army now seem peculiar.) These gains for women have generally been won in the name of justice and of rights. It is unjust, it is claimed, for women who are equally qualified to be excluded from a position which men hold, merely because they are women; it violates their rights. Simple and perennial as this argument is, we have yet to find a better.

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