The Author’s Views about Struggling Gender Inequality

By Harli Muin

 Human rights consist of norms and ethics, which are the foundation of the international human rights instrument represented primarily by the United Nations. In this essay, I would like to summarize human rights in terms of both norms and ethics. I will compare and contrast the views of two authors, Nussbaum and Brown, about gender inequality.  This will include their strategies to eradicate or defend inequality; differing opinions among the authors regarding human capability and universalism; an the notion of universalism traveling from west to east.

 Men and women, based on the opinions of Nussbaum and Brown, agree that gender inequality exists in community, and that those inequalities are a social construction.   In her article, titled Development, and Gender Inequality, Nussbaum (2000) stated, “Women need help for fundamental human life’s functions.”  More over, she has shown some examples: “Women are less well nourished than men, less healthy, more vulnerable to physical violence and sexual abuse” (Nussbaum, 2000. p.1). By the same tokens, Brown (1995. 136) acknowledge that gender based inequality begins in the family level, By using   Carole Pateman’s argument, she verified the contrast between women and men. Moreover, marriage relations can occur the subordination of women. Subordinations in the political liberal order may have appearing an affect the social contracts


Abolish of Inequality 

Women and men currently poses unequal rights, despite international law requiring equality and non-discrimination between men and women.  Alleviated unequal rights can be obtained through the political actions, but addressing actions to female’s oppressions can be the skeptical views in eastern culture.( Nussbaum 2000: pg. 5). The political action such as accounted to constitution needs a long process to pursue women rights and freedom. Human dignity principles of the women rights and freedom should be accounted to all nations, so those are the foundation to impalement of respectful the equal rights men and women. (Nussbaum, 2000: pg.5). If the constitution states either directly or indirectly, securing rights and liberties of women are obligated government to implement and to protect its citizen from endanger situation.

 Different Way to End Inequality.

When poverty and gender inequality are associated in the same time, central human capability can have the greater implication of human-well being. For example in a developing country as a whole, Women  are a-60%  than men, and they are adult age (Nussbaum, 2000, Pg.5).  Comparing unbalanced this point,  poverty is more faced by the adult women  than by the men in developing country. Consequently, unbalanced mode production in labor-industrial relation, for example in Karl Marx’s work, is alienated the human value. Mark showed inequalities in the relationship between proletariats and bourgeoisies. Moreover, In Karl Marx idea (as cited in Brow 1995, pg 12), “ the diffusion of domination through production processes is inhered not only extraction in surplus but in the discourses of commodities, fetishisms, reifications, ideologies of free and equal exchanges. 

Ended inequality, based on Marx’s opinion, is to balance a relation between the employer and the worker. Because bourgeoisies are profit seeking and they do not give up balanced relation to proletariat, therefore, labor should struggle to pursue their equal rights through revolution.  In my opinion, revolution way to pursue justice in labor relation can be presented, and has many efforts to do.  Sacrifice not only deals with the material, time, but also deals not material aspect.   Moreover, Marx  (as cited in Brown 1995) did believe basic human capability approach, but he said the key to end inequality when the problem of freedom is foregrounded as a problem of social and economic power.

In liberal perspectives to end this inequality, human capability encourages for a social basic minimum what people chose actually able to do or be. (Nussbaum 2000). I think this point that Nussbaum tries to simplified problem. Western culture and eastern culture are a different conception about ethic. More specifically, people in western culture, living in liberal environment, are different conception about good to people living in eastern culture in mostly dominated with communal culture. I believe that capability’s principles based on Nussbaum’s idea can only be applied in the western culture.  Capability in rational terms is the autonomous agency, and those terms in social goal should be understood in terms of getting citizens above this capability threshold (Nussbaum 2000, pg.6).

 Marx disagreed to Nussbaum thought about “principle of human autonomous”. Mark considered that the collective decision in laborer-industrial relationship are more valuable than the individual choice, an expression and individual property.(1995, Pg.13). In addition, he believed to make human be able to fulfill their social need   that it can only be obtained from the class struggle.

From the West to the East

The origin idea of human right is emerging from liberal culture, and individual perception is dominated peoples’ ideas in their daily life. When the human rights are promoted to eastern culture, those may have several obstacles and barriers. , Easterner tradition, of course in the mostly pacific region, is dominated by collectivism. For example, Dayak tribal people, living in Kalimantan, Indonesia, Tribal people that are living West Papua are still following their traditions living in a collective way.  Then, human right as norms might be having obstacle if it is applied in easterner tradition.

 In this context, what Nussbaum (2000) argues that human right has a legitimate concern for diversity, pluralism, and personal freedom may be an incompatible idea recognized with the eastern culture, and will reject as the universal norm.  I feel, however, universal norms are actually required if they are protecting diversities, pluralisms and freedoms I agree the universal norms as a set of capability that should be defended.  Therefore, universalism must be acknowledged in order to promote and protect human rights. Group rights, right of different right of cultural minority should be acknowledge as a political consciousness






Martha Nussbaum. 2000. In defense of universal values in her women and human development. Cambridge University Press. United Kingdom

Nancy Fraser. 2009. Mapping the feminist imagination from redistribution to representation. Cambridge University Press. United Kingdom

Wendy Brown. 1995. States of Injury:
 Power and freedom in late modernity. Princeton University Press. USA





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