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Sexual Equality

  1. Samantha Brennan

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee623

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Brennan, S. 2013. Sexual Equality. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Inequalities between men and women are of concern for moral and political philosophers, especially feminist philosophers, inasmuch as the ideal of equality (see Equality) has shaped much of the history of ethics, and inasmuch as the inequalities between men and women remain so striking. Some political theorists, such as Will Kymlicka (1990), think of equality as the shared value at the core of a wide range of theories from Kantian deontology to utilitarianism and from Rawlsian liberalism (see Rawls, John) to libertarianism. While sexual equality as a normative (see Normativity) ideal has proven more controversial than the notion of equality more generally, it too has guided much of our thinking in moral and political philosophy. Getting clarity on just what the ideal of sexual equality demands has been a matter of controversy among both advocates and critics of equality between the sexes. Some theorists opt for a very abstract notion of equality, such as equal moral worth or equal respect, while other theorists argue for a more robust, substantive account of equality which includes equality of treatment and/or equality of outcomes. Just as with the value of equality more generally, we see versions of sexual equality that are consequentialist (see Consequentialism) in nature, where we evaluate states of affairs on the basis of inequality, and versions which are closer to deontological principles (see Deontology), where sexual equality is seen as equal treatment and respect.


  • feminist philosophy;
  • normative ethics;
  • practical (applied) ethics