In an attempt to provide some of the criticism to Carol Gilligan’s claims about female moral development, I found this exchange from the Atlantic online between Gilligan and “former philosophy professor” Christina Hoff Sommers, who had written an article called “The War Against Boys” in 2000, which blamed Gilligan for establishing a false picture of “America’s teenage girls as silenced, tortured, and otherwise personally diminished” in the school system. Re. In a Different Voice, she refers to “108 studies of sex differences in solving moral problems… [that lead to the conclusion] that ‘sex differences in moral reasoning in late adolescence and youth are rare.'” She also says there that Gilligan gave a later, equally unfounded analysis of boys, with a “darker, coercive side” that if taken seriously by educators would “cause them much misery.”
Gilligan responds point by point, pointing out the literature where her methodology is described in detail, defending the assumptions motivating her study (i.e. that women were excluded from studies like Kohlberg’s) as uncontroversial, and criticizing Sommers’s take on her conclusions as much oversimplified. Sommers responds to that, trying to show that the evidence is missing to support Gilligan’s claims, Gilligan responds that Sommers has ignored the major findings of her study and points out some specific details (e.g. gender gaps in tests), some third party education folks jump in to defend (and one to concur on the attack against) Gilligan, Sommers replies to try to undercut these third parties, and the thing goes on long enough that you will likely not want to read it, and as with most political battles, neither side convinces the other and the readers will go with the view they already favored before reading. Oy.
I’ve not read/seen quite enough of Christina Hoff Sommers to dismiss her as a conservative hack, but some keywords jump out at me in this video that make me suspect this: e.g. feminism fails because it doesn’t have the conceptual apparatus to right communism and terrorism (sharia law!) (see 4 minutes in).
If you readers have reliable sources to share that can shed some light on this disagreement, or critical appraisals of Gilligan that don’t reek of pure politics, please post them.