on moral relativism
December 8, 2011 13 Comments
This is Bibi Aisha, an Afgan woman.
Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains.
Radical feminists know that the way Aisha was treated is wrong.
We don’t need a floating deity in the sky to tell us that this is so. We don’t need to be philosophers to know that this is wrong.
We acknowledge that different cultures have different practices. Some cultures bury their dead, and some cremate them. Some cultures communicate through sign language, and others speak Farsi. Some cultural practices are different from others. However, that doesn’t mean that all cultural practices are equally acceptable. Some cultural practices are wrong.
Femicide and violence against women happens on a worldwide scale. In the United States, 17.6% of all women survive a rape or attempted rape (and that’s only counting the 26%-37% of rapes that are reported). Woman-hating pornography in which violence occurs in over 88% of scenes is so mainstream and accepted that “progressive” Dear Abby-types see nothing wrong with it. There are over 50,000 women and children trafficked in the United States, and worldwide, at least 4 million women and girls are trafficked annually. Despite how oppressed women are, men don’t try and change the oppressive system. In fact, they still think rape jokes are funny. Some of them are in such denial that they claim women are actually the perpetrators. The authorities are no better, since 15 of every 16 rapists will go free.
This system is not just broken; it’s actively evil. By reading the above statistics, you can see that not only is violence normalized in “other cultures”– it’s normalized in our own. If right and wrong were merely determined by cultural consensus, then violence against women would be morally correct in our own culture as well as others. Violence against women is *normal* in our culture. Clearly, then, moral relativism cannot be true.
I am not a relativist. I believe that our patriarchal system must be destroyed, because it is objectively harmful. I don’t need a moral theory to tell me that.
*This essay by James Rachels is a good 101-type document on cultural relativism, if you are interested.