Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can. Not. Wait.

...to get my hands on this book.

And excerpt from the review by Brittany Shoot at WireTap:

Norlock argues that despite what many philosophers have ignored in the relationship between gender and forgiveness, the act of forgiving is very much a gendered act. Women are overwhelmingly expected to forgive—not necessarily because they are more wronged, though that argument could certainly be made—and often, forgiveness is associated with a particular type of femininity, though Norlock is clear to separate “femininity,” “forgiveness,” and “weakness.” To deal with the blatant sex bias in forgiveness studies, Norlock debunks the historically gender-neutral approach to understanding the moral power, compassionate communication, and radical activism of forgiving.

Now that I think about it, I suspect that forgiving belongs in the same category as yielding your space to men, and apologizing excessively. As subtle markers of hierarchy, this kind of social behavior that is so deeply gendered merits special feminist attention, in my view. And I intend to give the topic of forgiveness some very special attention, just the minute I can get this book into my grubby little hands.


  1. So, do you think women should forgive (apologize, yield their space) less? Or is it context-specific.

  2. I cant wait for you to expound upon this subject.


  3. Micah,

    Yes and no. I think that in some cases women should forgive/apologize/yield their space less often, but when it's appropriate, they should continue to do so, and men should learn to defer more often. If I'm approaching a man on the street and it really is easier for me to alter my path to avoid a collision, then I agree I ought to do it. But when I'm walking down the sidewalk and the men approaching expect me to step off the sidewalk and walk in the wet grass just so they can continue to walk three abreast and not interrupt their conversation, then I believe it's their obligation to yield the space. I don't "own" the sidewalk any less than they do. Similarly, if I've wronged someone or been rude, I should apologize, but so should men. However, if I wasn't responsible for whatever happened (like when my colleagues were late for a meeting due to a fire alarm), then I shouldn't apologize, even though I've been socialized to.

    So I guess it is both context dependent, and also a case where men should be socialized to feel more comfortable taking responsibility when they've messed up, sharing public space, and (perhaps) forgiving.

  4. It does sound particularly delicious, if I didn't already have a giant pile of unread books awaiting my attention.

  5. What about Christianity? New testament wise, there was a lot of forgiveness to be thrown around (unless you are a money changer/lender). I mean, while I am a heathen, I have met some extraordinarily compassionate Christians, male or otherwise.

    ...$55!... I will wait for the soft-bound.

    I personally don't think that 'forgiveness" is gendered in that women are expected to forgive, and not men, but I do think that the different sexes to engage in conflict and forgiveness in different ways, and so when m-f reconciliation is attempted wires get crossed.

    Language barrier issues abound.

  6. Steven,

    I agree that that's probably the ideal of Christianity, but the way it gets applied becomes very cultured. In the church I grew up in it was most definitely the case that scriptural encouragements to be meek and humble and forgiving etc were differentially applied to women. And having a "hard heart" was one of the worst things you could say about a woman, whereas with a man, it would probably be interpreted as rightous anger and manly resolve. So this is clearly a way that texts get interpreted in a way that fits a larger cultural framework.