Assistant Professor of Political Science
Book: “Is Multiculturalism Bad For Women?” (1999) Susan Moller Okin
Until college, reading had been a passion without direction for me beyond the pleasure of getting lost in a story or in ideas. Then I took a class where we read Susan Moeller Okin’s essay, “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?”
Her book represented a way of turning my passion for reading and ideas into something that mattered beyond me. Okin asks: “How should we understand a commitment to equality in a world of multiple human differences, grim hierarchies of power, and cruel divisions of life circumstances?”
As a political science major, I found this to be a relevant political question but, at the same time, not one that could be solved with purely political means. One could propose particular policies, but that required first figuring out what policies ought one support. It is that moral or ethical question I found fascinating. Okin had opened my eyes to the power and purpose of political theory.
There were, I learned, people writing on questions that were relevant to me and to domestic and international politics. I ended up writing a senior thesis on the place of religion in multicultural political theory. My research is no longer in theories of multiculturalism but it grapples with how to balance equality and diversity.
At Stonehill I participate in discussions about how to support diversity and people ask: what do we mean by diversity? Does religious difference count as diversity, what about socio-economic difference, what about different talents like music or athletic ability?
Just because the discussions are difficult does not mean we should give up. In fact, Okin tells us to turn to younger generations as we explore these questions. On women’s rights, she writes: “Unless women—and, more specifically, young women (since older women often are co-opted into reinforcing gender inequality)—are fully represented in negotiations about group rights, their interests may be harmed rather than promoted by granting such rights.”
Reading words like this inspired me to become a political theorist. The fact that the words were written by one of the few women political philosophers made it all the more meaningful to me.
My love of reading and ideas had been transformed into something more than a hobby: it is a career, a way to grapple with the difficult political questions of our world, which I do with students and in my scholarly writing.