Rethinking Ruddick and the Ethnocentrism Critique of Maternal Thinking




In the early 1990s, Sara Ruddick's Maternal Thinking was criticized for harboring a latent ethnocentrism. Ruddick responded to these critiques in the 1995 edition of her book, but her response has not yet been addressed in the feminist philosophical literature. This essay addresses this lacuna in the scholarship on Ruddick.
In the last installment of this critique, Alison Bailey and Patrice DiQuinzio suggested that the only way for Ruddick to avoid the ethnocentrism charge would require her near-universalistic claims about mothering to be rejected in favor of “particularized, localized accounts of mothering.” In this essay I'll show that this claim goes too far. After reviewing Lugones's and Bailey's critiques of Ruddick, along with Ruddick's response, I propose a “modified universalism” that addresses the concerns raised by Ruddick's critics while preserving key elements of her theory.