When dealing with damage, pain or brokenness it is almost always apart of human nature to feel the need to fix or repair what is no longer in its original condition. The methods in which we choose to conduct this reparative work varies often from person to person and usually from men to women as well. It is often executed with consideration of the purpose for the repair and how the outcome should look and/or work. Spelman’s Repair underlines the difference between men’s repairs versus women’s repairs and their relationships to the ethics of justice or the ethics of care.
In discussing the different types of repair work, Spelman makes an important point in saying that there is a distinct difference between the way men make repairs and the way women make repairs. In today’s society, men and women have adopted certain standards and stereotypes that they are expected to follow and if they do not, they are considered outcasts. Men are expected to be strong, do-it-yourself workers and handle the types of repair work that women are seen as “unfit” to do. They are often defined by either their ability to do skilled manual labor or their “domestic masculinity” as described by Steven Gelber. Historically, women have always been expected to be household workers or to repair and mend clothing. This is a precedent that may have been established during slavery when women were expected to care for the home and during the era of industrialization when women would work in textile factories. While enslaved, women would often be assigned to household tasks such as cooking and cleaning which have since carried on to become their stereotypical roles in the household. Katie discusses the household tasks that she learned how to do such as “how to mop the floors, how to pick the strings up after the mop, how to dust so that you don’t break things, how to wash windows and wipe down the blinds, the whole mechanical system of how to clean a house”. Because of this role women adopted, they were soon seen as unfit to do more intense, demanding jobs which were then labeled as jobs that men were meant to do. During the era of industrialization, women were sent to work at textile factories while men handled the more dangerous and/or labor intensive jobs. These factors both played parts in creating the stereotype that still lingers to this day that women are not fit to do the more demanding jobs that men are capable of doing. Women to this day are expected to continue to work around the household and work to repair clothing which has negatively affected their self esteem and confidence. To be reduced to household workers and not expected to succeed beyond that has turned into a challenge for women. In today’s society, although that stereotype still lingers, women have challenged themselves and pushed themselves to become more than just repairers of the house and of clothing. Young women such as Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez have found themselves at the olympics, women are in office, they are successful singers and business women such as Beyonce and the list goes on and on. Society’s standards only restrict human capacity, not enhance it. Women now actively try to rid young girls of this stereotypical role that society encourages them to follow which has pushed many children to dream big and aim for their goals. Disregarding those standards can bring amazing success and highlight just what one is capable of. For women, it has brought them beyond repairers of the house and menders of clothing and has brought many opportunities that may not have presented themselves had they stayed limited to what society has expected of them.
In addition, they are also expected to mend relationships and be “ healers of rifts, menders of hearts” (Spelman 42). In having to uphold these gender-associated stereotypes and expectations of society, men and women have seemed to have adopted certain characteristics that correlate to the way they are expected to act in society and respond to issues. Through these standards, men have more often than not become colder and tougher than their female counterparts. Being emotional and affectionate are seen as weaknesses in men, whereas they are predominantly common attributes in women. Due to this cold, tough persona many men have acquired, they seem to respond to issues and situations that need repair with the same tough and unemotional attitude. Men often use the idea of “ethics of justice” when dealing with conflict which “emphasizes the autonomy of moral agents, their capacity to govern themselves and not be swayed by the people around them or by powerful emotions of the moment” (Spelman 45). This concept repairs keeping laws, principles and rules in mind and does not consider the emotional aspect of the situation. On the other hand, women repair using the idea of “ethics of care” which focuses on the relationships involved, considers the emotions invested in the situation and is “unconcerned with consistency across cases” (Spelman 45). What interested me in Spelman’s discussion of the “ethics of justice” and the “ethics of care” is how similar they are to today’s societal expectations. The “ethics of justice” orientation is most commonly associated with men likely because of the standards and expectations that society has placed on them. Because of the tough, strong image that men are expected to uphold, many men follow the “ethics of justice” orientation due to its lack of connection with emotions and its compliance with laws and principles. The “ethics of care” orientation considers relationships and reflects on the emotions involved in the moment which is more closely connected to women and how they are expected to be caregivers and mend relationships. Women therefore use contextualized knowledge of the situation to determine how to mend it whereas men will disregard its context and repair it in accordance with the law. This highlights how women often seem “softer” than men because for a man being “soft” or emotional is seen as a weakness. However, in Willie’s case it is clear that he takes pride in being able to contextualize and consider every aspect of every situation he is handed and care for it accordingly. He does not repair automobiles in the way society would normally expect. He takes greater care of each car considering the context of the situation and knows exactly what parts will and will not work in order to maintain the car’s previous function. Unlike the orientation of “ethics of justice”, Willie looks at every aspect of a situation and every way in which he is able to repair it. This method of repair seems more reliable and the care he takes in repairing his automobiles seems to be greater than most repairmen. But those qualities do not exactly match up with what today’s society might expect from him. This makes me wonder why men and women have such different societal expectations and ways of repairing when mixing the two could be very beneficial. Willie’s example shows how disregarding the way society or others expect one to function and repair can be beneficial and show one’s own uniqueness.