The Backlash! - Backlash Article Archive - Rights and Responsibilities
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Rights and Responsibilities
By Rod Van Mechelen
Girls were reared to expect to engage in feminine mischief that would evolve into Women vs. Women. Boys were reared to be held responsible for behavior, according to standards similar to the ones they would encounter in the world of commerce. -- Tara Roth Madden, Women Vs. Women: The Uncivil Business War
Some rights are responsibilities, and some responsibilities are rights
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - According to Carol Gilligan, male morality (discussed in the chapter on morality) focuses on rights, while female morality focuses on responsibilities. But what she and others miss is that women and men perceive and recognize different things as rights and responsibilities. Thus, what a man understands to be a responsibility, a woman may view as a right.

Most men, for example, do not greatly value the "right" to be cannon fodder for the U.S. military, though many take the responsibility seriously. Yet, during the invasion of Granada and the military operations in Panama and Iraq, pop-feminists were outraged that women were denied the "right" to participate in front line operations.

Conversely, many men are envious of the biological "right" most women have, thanks to the birth control pill, to enjoy sex without having to mess with condoms or anything else that may reduce the pleasure of the experience. Yet, because pop-feminists see the pill not as a right but as a responsibility, they demand that men assume full responsibility for birth control. Ironically, some even assert there is no birth control pill for men because there's a plot to impose second class status on women by withholding such a convenience from men.

An ethic of dependency
Regardless, what men see as a responsibility, women demand as a right. And what women see as a responsibility, men envy as a right (or, in the case of the pill, more like a valuable privilege).

Given this disparity, even the most learned scholars may mistakenly conclude that female morality focuses primarily on responsibilities. The "female ethic of care," however, is an ethic of dependency which the male ethic of rights has evolved to protect.

All rights are property rights
At root, we can define all rights in terms of property rights. Property rights presume self-responsibility. Everyone is fully accountable for their own actions. This stems from the basic assumption of self-ownership, branches out to define all rights within that context, and reconverges in a resulting network of relational rights based on liberty and consent.

This self-ownership necessarily implies autonomy within a connecting framework of social relationships, and requires protected boundaries. Thus, law and custom based on property rights prohibit predation, while laws and customs based on an "ethic of care," and lacking a concept of rights in general, and property rights in particular, allow a variable predation -- "I care about the first person, but not about the second person," can be translated into "I will prey upon the second to sustain the first."

Conversely, property rights afford equal protection to all. This may go contrary to the pop-feminist agenda, but it is as necessary to sustain civilization as it is to justify social and legal sanctions against rape.


Rod Van Mechelen

Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.


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