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New Left Review I/143, January-February 1984

Frigga Haug

Morals Also Have Two Genders

In a talk entitled ‘Women – Victims or Culprits?’, at the first West Berlin People’s University in 1980, I attempted to construct a theory of the process of women’s socialization. My chief concerns were to show the role played by women themselves in reproducing their own oppression, and to argue that self-sacrifice is a form of activity. From the outset the opinions outlined in this brief lecture, and subsequently developed in my book Frauenformen, [1] Frauenformen. Alltagsgeschichten und Entwurf einer Theorie weiblicher Sozialisation, Argument-Sonderband 45, Berlin 1981. (The present article is a slightly shortened translation of: Die Moral ist zweigeschlechtlich wie der Mensch: Zur Theorie weiblicher Vergesellschaftung, which appeared in Das Argument, No.141, 1983.) became the subject of heated political debate, because of their implicit postulate that women too would have to change themselves. One point of conflict was the question of guilt. Doesn’t simply raising the possibility of the complicity of women in their own subjugation mean holding them responsible for the social conditions which oppress them? Such a stricture is moral in nature and so I stood accused of being moralistic. Of course, the words ‘victim’ and ‘culprit’ themselves shift uneasily between the realms of ethics and law.

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