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Which Rights Should Be Universal?$
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William Talbott

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195173475

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195173473.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 January 2021

THE DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN'S RIGHTS AS A MICROCOSM OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

THE DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN'S RIGHTS AS A MICROCOSM OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

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(p.87) 5 THE DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN'S RIGHTS AS A MICROCOSM OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
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Which Rights Should Be Universal?
Author(s):

William Talbott (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0195173473.003.0005

In this chapter, Talbott explains the development of women’s rights as a response to the (near) cultural universal of paternalistically justified patriarchal norms that severely limit opportunities for women. Talbott uses evolutionary psychology to explain why norms that severely limit opportunities for women are (near) cultural universals and to show how it is possible to question even culturally universal justifications from the moral standpoint. Talbott uses the evidence of violence against women (e.g., “honor” crimes) and the examples of footbinding and female genital cutting to explain how social enforcement can make oppressive norms stable and can even motivate voluntary compliance with them. Talbott also explains how certain kinds of paternalist justifications for patriarchal norms can be self-reinforcing. Talbott explains how the development of women’s rights fits the model of the extension of rights to white, male property owners, then to white male non-property-owners, then to males in other racial and ethnic groups. In each case, the extension of rights is a guarantee of a sphere of autonomy, in a sense to be explained in the next chapter. Talbott gives the example of the Senegalese organization Tostan as a model of how to advocate universal human rights, and thus autonomy, without being a moral imperialist. Talbott concludes with an explanation of why cultural relativism about internal norms is too wishy-washy.

Keywords:   self-reinforcing paternalism, patriarchal norms, Amartya Sen, Tostan, women’s rights

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