Susan Moller Okin (1944-2004) was professor of political science at Stanford University (USA). She was the author of important works that stand between Gender and the Family, Fort Multiculturalism Bad Women and Women in Western Political Thought.
Okin was always very emphatic when she said that liberalism, as a theory, offered the necessary tools for criticizing the significant difference between women and men. She stated that the inequality between the sexes in matters relating to public and domestic issues, should be addressed legislatively. Her feminist political thought was well-recognized internationally.
What is feminist political thought?
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, feminist political philosophy is an area of philosophy focused on understanding and critiquing the way political philosophy is usually construed, often without any attention to feminist concerns, and to articulating how political theory might be reconstructed in a way that advances feminist concerns. Feminist political philosophy is a branch of both feminist philosophy and political philosophy.
The bases of feminist political thought, according to its public importance are the personal appearance, sexual intercourse, domestic work, childcare and family life.
Okin attributed mainly to the way work is distributed within the family, inequality of opportunity between men and women, stating that the best solution to ensure equality for immigrant women is the abandonment of one's own cultural tradition and able to adapt to the standards that have adopted Western societies.
When talking about abuses against women, the first place we see is almost always the Middle East. We can’t say that gender inequality is a situation that only happens in the Middle East. We can see gender inequality in rich, poor, industrialized and non-industrialized countries. Surprisedly, in many industrialized countries the chances that a woman is in charge of great importance are unexplained low, although these countries each year are promoting gender equality, the reality is very different, as happens in the most "powerful" country in the world, USA, that has never had a woman as a President.
Definitely, women have fewer opportunities than men. In many cases, women are considerable talented, smart, brilliant, buy even under these arguments; they do not reach the basic support to get important positions of political and economic authority and power. For that reason, many people who have influential positions are men who have a very distant relationship with their children due to lack of time, or women who relinquished motherhood altogether in order to pursue their professional work.
It is inconceivable that in the XXI century there are still stereotypes that still promote the "very old tradition" that, only people who come from "very select families", have the potential to assume leadership roles and thus impair the possibilities of all those people, who based on effort, sacrifice, and honesty, have overcome obstacles.
The great discrimination and stereotypes that lead to women have lower wages than men for doing the same job; help to strengthen the traditional male thought that sees domestic work only for women. Women are victims of machismo, sexual violence, abduction, among others. In some countries, violence against women has become a "national sport", without mention that the same laws "guarantee" the superiority of men over women as if it were a divine mandate.
Occurrences generated of gender inequality is just one of many issues, ranging from family life, business environment, to the political arena, where thousands of women have little chance of being selected, and the problem magnifies particularly mothers with small children.
Okin noted that the current system makes that women in most societies, economically dependent on their husbands or simply accept positions that demand simple little time and effort, in order to raise their children. What future generations can learn if they see their parents live a relationship of dependence and subordination, not of love and understanding?
Many children have grown up in a hostile environment, where physical and verbal aggression is characteristic of everyday life. The sense of justice should inculcate children into the family first and not to wait the schools are responsible for carrying out this work to them when that is parents' responsability. If very young human beings see as men abuse women, as the women are helpless for not having laws that support and protect them, and where women who dare to report the physical abuse suffered by their boyfriends or husbands, are brutally murdered by them, then we are simply justifying those conducts, even worse when we do not punish the abuses that those women suffered. Many authorities are idly because there are no laws to punish violence against women or simply, these do not apply.
Physical abuse toward humans, even to animals, should be strictly punished. In this regard, the government is responsible for drafting laws to enforce the rights of us all, without any preference. If we develop a little empathy, which is nothing to learn to take the place of another, surely we would have better results because people somehow feel that many women feel when being just that, women are marginalized in many professional areas.
Personally, I believe that the desire of Okin's work was to contribute to the end of gender inequality and to the creation of a more just society and not, as some academics say, to abolish gender. She, as a liberal theorist, recognizes the importance that privacy has for society and how women and men are essential for society. Okin proposed to prevent women who perform domestic work are financially dependent on their husbands to get their pay they could recognize both spouses the same right to salary and divide it equally.
It is vital to the welfare of families, the work of women and men. Domestic work, mostly done by women, and the work of men in other areas are complementary. If there were someone to do domestic work, many men may not go to work and earn their wages so that one spouse stayed home to raise children, educate them and do the housework and in return, the law could reward all those people who do this work, allowing the family income is divided, making directly or indirectly both, woman and men, are rewarded.
In part, women are responsible for the current gender inequality. Some of them only think of marrying a man who fulfill all their wishes and look for her forever, and thus neglect their profession, their education, their friends and family, and when for some reason or another their husband leave them, comes the desperation to get money because economically always depended on their husbands. Women are the ones who must lay the foundation stone in this fight and not allow the system to dictate what they should do.
During her career, Okin got various awards, including the American Political Science Association's Victoria Schuck Prize for the best book on women and politics in 1989 for Justice, Gender and the Family, and the Allan V. Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research in 2002.
Okin lived with great passion advocating for women's rights, peace and justice, showing that passion in both, her academic work and in her philanthropy.
Okin was considered the best feminist political philosopher in the world. She was 57 when she was found dead at her home in Massachusetts, USA, on March 3, 2004.