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Carol Gilligan (1982)
Over the past ten years, I have been listening to people talking about morality and about
themselves. Halfway through that time, I began to hear a distinction in these voices, two ways of
speaking about moral problems, two modes of describing the relationship between other and self.
Differences represented in the psychological literature as steps in a developmental progression
suddenly appeared instead as a contrapuntal theme, woven into the cycle of life and recurring in
varying forms in people's judgments, fantasies, and thoughts. The occasion for this observation
was the selection of a sample of women for a study of the relation between judgment and action
in a situation of moral conflict and choice. Against the background of the psychological
descriptions of identity and moral development which I had read and taught for a number of
years, the women's voices sounded distinct. It was then that I began to notice the recurrent
problems in interpreting women's development and to connect these problems to the repeated
exclusion of women from the critical theory-building studies of psychology research. .
The different voice I describe is characterized not by gender but theme. Its association with
woman is an empirical observation, and it is primarily through women's voices that I trace its
development. But this association is not absolute, and contrasts between male and female voices
are presented here to highlight a distinction between two modes of thought and to focus a
problem of interpretation rather than to represent a generalization about either sex. .
The penchant of developmental theorists to project a masculine image, and one that appears
frightening to women, goes back at least to Freud (1905), who built his theory of psychosexual
development around the experiences of the male child that culminate in the Oedipus complex. In
the 1920s, Freud struggled to resolve the contradictions posed for his theory by the differences in
female anatomy and the different configuration of the young girl's early family relationships.
After trying to fit women into his masculine conception, seeing them as envying that which they
missed, he came instead to acknowledge, in the strength and persistence of women's pre-Oedipal
attachments to their mothers, a developmental difference. He considered this difference in
women's development to be responsible for what he saw as women's developmental failure.
Having tied the formation of the superego or conscience to castration anxiety, Freud considered
women to be deprived by nature of the impetus for a clear-cut Oedipal resolution. Consequently,
women's superego - the heir to the Oedipus complex - was compromised: it was never "so
inexorable, so impersonal, so independent of its emotional origins as we require it to be in men.
From this observation of difference, that "for women the level of what is ethically normal is